John Tomase

Red Sox catch fire, Celtics fan flames on electric night at Fenway

Alex Cora called it the best atmosphere at Fenway Park since 2021.

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BOSTON -- Kenley Jansen can't stare at the scoreboard when he's warming up, especially if it's a scramble drill. But he has ears, and they told the story as he hurried to loosen with the Red Sox on the verge of erasing a 6-2 deficit in the eighth inning on Monday night.

The fans sounded turbocharged and he knew why -- the NBA champion Boston Celtics were still in the building, demanding Garden-level energy.

"When I heard the fans yelling, that got me hyped up," Jansen said. "I didn't need to look. I didn't really have enough time to warm up, but that got me locked in."

If Jansen had had time to peek, he would've spied an only-in-Boston scene of competitive commingling. Alex Cora called it the most electric atmosphere since the 2021 playoff chase, and the Celtics played willing hype men.

They had been honored before the game for their record 18th championship, bringing an impressive assemblage of star power: Al Horford, Kristaps Porzingis, Sam Hauser, Brad Stevens, Joe Mazzulla. They saved the best for last, with All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown raising the Larry O'Brien Trophy in tandem to thunderous applause.

Then they got down to the business of baseball, which looked like it would disappoint when the Jays lit up reliever Isaiah Campbell during a five-run seventh. With Boston's bats mostly silent, there was little reason to believe a comeback loomed.

Then the Jays misplayed a popup and David Hamilton ripped a two-run homer. When Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier couldn't catch a sinking liner that would've ended the inning, the Red Sox suddenly had runners on second and third and a chance to tie. Cora summoned pinch hitter Romy Gonzalez. The Jays countered with a pitching change.

And then the energy shifted, to steal a phrase.

While fans belted out the chorus to "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers, Derrick White appeared on the scoreboard wearing a t-shirt that read, "Baseball Isn't Boring." He held the trophy aloft to a swelling ovation. He stepped out of his luxury seats and into the stands, hands raised in victory. The cheers intensified. Then he returned to the trophy and planted a kiss. The park exploded.

"I peeked up a couple of times when the game got close and it started getting crazy," said reliever Brennan Bernardino. "(The Celtics) were into it. I saw them all going, 'Safe! Safe!' because there was a close play. I thought that was so cool, the support."

No sooner did the fans' focus return to the field than Gonzalez served the first pitch he saw into left field to tie the game, unleashing legitimate bedlam.

"The environment was incredible," Cora said. "They were in the locker, in the clubhouse, at 6:15, all the players, all the coaches, families. It was different, but there's only one chance to have the NBA champions in your clubhouse. We're preparing for the game, and all of a sudden, you see elite athletes talking about stuff, signing autographs, pictures with the trophy. It was a lot of people early. And then I think overall they did an amazing job using them to get the fans going.

"Today was loud. They were locked in. They stayed all the way to the end. I think it was a great night at Fenway. I know the boys probably had fun today. I think this is the most (the fans) have been into the game and loudest since '21, to be honest with you. I don't blame them. We've been bad for two years."

All that was left to do was win it, and after Jansen threw a scoreless ninth, the Red Sox knew where to turn for inspiration, giving Mazzulla his turn with the trophy as the ballpark once again erupted. Burgeoning star Jarren Duran sent everyone home ecstatic by finishing a 3-for-5 night with a line single to right as Ceddanne Rafaela flew home to complete the 7-6 victory.

"They were in it to the very end," Duran marveled of the Celtics. "Maybe they hyped us up a little bit before the game and then we could get that walk-off for them. To see them stay the whole game and one of them was wearing a 'Baseball Isn't Boring' shirt, and that was like, 'All right, that means you guys have got to stay the whole time, because it's not boring.' That was super fun to see them stick it out with us and then get the walk-off."

The Red Sox have picked the perfect time to catch fire. They've won 11 of 14 to build some momentum of their own, just one week after the Celtics won it all. No one's suggesting this Red Sox season will end in similar fashion, but after consecutive last-place finishes, it's enough that Fenway showed real signs of life.

"This is how it's supposed to be," Jansen said. "This is what I came here for. I didn't come here to rebuild. I came here to win. That's what I'm looking for, and man, these young guys are playing their butts off. They're learning at a fast pace. This team is going to be really good really soon.

"It was a great atmosphere and this is the city of champions. They deserve that. The city deserves more."

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