BOSTON — Back on Tuesday, May 14th, Scott Oberg lived out his lifetime dream of pitching at Fenway Park for the first time in his professional baseball career.
The following night, his number 45 got called again, pitching another inning on back-to-back nights before a sell-out crowd, including many family and friends from back in Tewksbury and the surrounding towns.
Last Wednesday, Oberg tossed a scoreless inning but it didn’t come easy. After an out, he walked consecutive batters in Mitch Moreland and Xander Bogaerts which out Rafael Devers to the plate. The left-handed hitter jumped on a change-up and the Fenway crowd roared thinking it was a three-run round-tripper but right fielder Charlie Blackmon camped under it on the warning track for the second out. Oberg then got Michael Chavis out on a weak groundball in front of home plate.
Lately, Oberg has been struggling a bit with his walks. He said there’s nothing that has changed, just sometimes he’s not getting the strikes in 1-1, 2-2 counts, like he did a lot during the second half of last year’s season when he dominated National League batters.
“The silver lining right now is when I have put myself into a tough spot, when I absolutely need to make a pitch, I make the pitch,” he said.
Oberg said that he felt good entering this game, even after throwing 25 pitches on Tuesday night.
“I missed a few pitches to Moreland and Bogaerts is dangerous so I wanted to stay away from him as best as I could and I didn’t execute a few pitches there,” said Oberg. “After that, today I got a little bit more lucky than I did yesterday. I left a change-up in the zone to Devers and he got underneath it. He put a pretty good charge on it.”
Did he think it was a goner?
“I wasn’t sure because I had never played here before,” he responded. “In Denver, that’s probably a few rows back. I saw him catch it off the end of the bat, so I wasn’t quite sure and then I was just watching Charlie (Blackmon) settle under the ball because I really couldn’t tell with the depth perception. As soon as he was camping underneath it and (pinch runner Eduardo) Nunez was tagging up (from second), I knew it was going to stay in the yard. Then I made some good pitches to Chavis.”
Oberg was lifted after his one inning of work and for the second straight night the game went into extra innings, but this time the Red Sox pulled it out in the bottom of the 11th on a walk-off RBI single by Chavis, which scored Bogaerts, and the Sox celebrated with the 6-5 win.
“(The two game series) was really enjoyable. It was nice to be able to go out and pitch in both games. Obviously today was a little bit tougher as we got the loss. It’s just one of those experiences that I’ll never forget. I had a really good time out there. There’s a lot of people from back home (here at the game) supporting me, so it was nice to see some faces.”
One of the familiar faces he was able to connect with before Tuesday’s game is Sox reliever Matt Barnes, who was a teammate of Oberg’s back at UConn, a team that featured many current and former MLB starts such as George Springer of the Astros, Nick Ahmed of the Diamondbacks and former Sox minor leaguer Mike Olt.
“I got to see (Barnes) a bit before the game (Last Tuesday) and we got to catch up a little bit. We were good friends in college and we have stayed in touch over the years,” said Oberg.
Both Oberg and batterymate Chris Iannetta, were able to enjoy a rare day off. The Monday before the series, Oberg spent the afternoon watching the TMHS Varsity Baseball team and then was honored by the Youth Baseball League. Iannetta, who grew up in Rhode Island spent the day with his oldest daughter teaching her how to ride a bike without the training wheels on.
“I think that’s always exciting for players,” manager Bud Black said before Wednesday’s series finale. “They look forward to that.”
Both players as well as the entire team had another day off on Thursday and Iannetta told MLB.com, that he planned on staying with his family in Rhode Island.
“It’s awesome,” Iannetta said. “People don’t realize how much you sacrifice and how much time you are away and how much you really have to put into this game in order to be successful or play for a long period of time. Any time you get chances to be with the kids during the season, it’s always fun.”