Vine Line Game Day Preview: Road Trip to Fenway

Fenway Park

(Photo by Elsa/Getty)

Christina Kahrl, who writes for ESPN’s SweetSpot Blog and is a founding partner of Baseball Prospectus, contributed this preview of the Cubs’ visit to Boston for the Vine Line Game Day Edition program, available at Wrigley Field. Grab your official Wrigley Field scorecard for just $2 and catch Christina’s full look at the Cubs’ matchups every month.

If the American League had a preseason favorite for the pennant, it was the Red Sox. After adding former Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez and free-agent leftfielder Carl Crawford to an already star-laden lineup, nothing less would be seen as success.

That was before the Sox got off to a slow start, inducing instant panic in Red Sox Nation. Boston’s extraordinary roster depth is the product of extraordinary expense beyond just the $160 million-plus big-league payroll: The farm system has cranked out MVP candidates Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia in the lineup, power lefty Jon Lester in the rotation, and flame-throwing Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard in the ’pen. This series won’t just be historical—it’s as tough a matchup as you can draw, presenting the Cubs with a major challenge during their one away series in May.

May 2011 Vine Line Game Day EditionA season shy of its centennial as a big-league venue, Fenway Park is the East Coast’s answer to Wrigley Field and the site of the 1918 World Series between the Red Sox and the Cubs. Fourteen years before Babe Ruth’s infamous “Called Shot” that helped cost the Cubs the Series, he was helping the Red Sox beat the Cubs as a pitcher in ’18, getting the win in the first and fourth games.

Like Wrigley, Fenway’s signature features gradually acquired their legendary status: Pesky’s Pole down the rightfield line, the triple-inducing “Triangle” in center, and the 36-foot high Green Monster looming over the pitcher’s shoulder, crowding leftfielders toward the infield. Disputes over the distances down the first and third base lines have raged for years, with some aerial measurements showing there’s less than 300 feet from home plate to the foul poles.

Because of the odd dimensions, all three outfielders confront unique challenges: Rightfield is huge and demands considerable range, center’s nooks and crannies create danger for balls ricocheting at unusual angles, while the Monster forces leftfielders to use what little space they have carefully to play balls hit off it.

The Red Sox have sold out every game since May 15, 2003, so if you’re willing to make the trip, be prepared to pay a premium for this rare rematch. Can the Cubs avenge their 1918 Series loss?

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