Duel identity tonight at Fenway

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Duel identity tonight at Fenway

If the weather holds off, we're set for a somewhat surprising pitching duel tonight at Fenway.

Well, there's nothing surprising about the first guy. I've been waiting to see Stephen Strasburg pitch in person for as long as I can remember. Okay, maybe just three years, but between the anticipation that's built since the moment he was drafted, the year off on account of Tommy John surgery and the fact that he's in the National League, there's a special level of excitement surrounding Strasburg's Fenway debut.

He's one of the game best young pitchers, and has lived up to his lofty expectations - save for the surgery - about as well as you could have imagined. He comes into tonight's game with a career record of 12-5 with a 2.46 ERA, a ridiculous 1.01 WHIP, 195 K's and only 36 walks. Aye aye aye.

But it's the emergence of his counterpart in tonight's game that's caught most of us off guard: Felix "The Cat" Doubront. (There's nothing official about that nickname. I just feel like everyone named Felix should naturally be nicknamed "The Cat").

Doubront (who turns 25 in October) is only one year younger than Strasburg, and while he hasn't (and understandably so) reached Stras' level of dominance, the Cat has been so much better so much faster than any Red Sox fan could have imagined.

Coming into tonight, Doubront is tied with Clay Buchholz for the best record on the Sox staff at 6-2. But unlike Clay (excluding last night), Doubront has actually earned his stripes. He's the lone starter with a sub-4.00 ERA (3.75) and leads the team with 66 strikeouts. He's helped soften the affects of Daniel Bard's inconsistency. He's given the Sox an important second lefty arm in the rotation. And if the top three guys can ever consistently get it together, Doubront will become one of the deadliest fourth starters in baseball.

Tonight, he goes toe-to-toe with one of the best pitchers. Period. It should be a lot fun.

Assuming Mother Nature doesn't creep along and snatch it all away.

MLB ump saves woman attempting to jump from Pittsburgh bridge

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MLB ump saves woman attempting to jump from Pittsburgh bridge

PITTSBURGH -- John Tumpane can't explain why he approached the woman as she hopped over the railing of the Roberto Clemente Bridge on Wednesday afternoon.

The woman told Tumpane she just wanted to get a better view of the Allegheny River below. The look on her face and the tone of her voice suggested otherwise to Tumpane, a major league baseball umpire in town to work the series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays.

So the 34-year-old Tumpane reached for the woman even as she urged him to let her go.

"It was just pure instinct," Tumpane said . "You hear kind of stories of this all the time, different scenarios, people aiding and situation where I was lucky enough to be there to help and try to think of everything I could do, hanging on to her. At times she wanted to go the other way. I was like, 'not on my watch, please.' We were just hanging on."

And saving a life.

Tumpane secured one of her arms. A bystander walked up and grabbed the other while another -- Mike Weinman, an employee for the Rays -- clutched her legs and pinned them to the railing while Tumpane mouthed to someone in the crowd to call 911.

What followed were chaotic moments of panic, fear and ultimately, grace.

"I couldn't tell you how long we were waiting for everyone else to get in place," Tumpane said. 'Obviously another power comes into be when you're hanging on and you know what the alternative is of you letting go and not having other people to help you."

Tumpane, Weinman and the third volunteer clung to the unidentified woman until emergency responders arrived. A police boat raced up the river to the iconic yellow bridge named for the Pirates Hall of Famer who died on Dec. 31, 1972, when a plane making humanitarian deliveries to earthquake victims in Nicaragua crashed. Now, 45 years later a crowd thrust together by fate brought a complete stranger back from the brink. Together.

"Once they were able to secure her, we were able to talk her back to help us out and we got her back on this side," Tumpane said. "After that I went up to her, she said, 'You'll just forget me after this' and I said, 'No, I'll never forget you.' This was an unbelievable day and I'm glad to say she can have another day with us and I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time."

Tumpane, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, got into umpiring as a teenager, made his major-league debut in 2012 and received his full-time MLB commission in 2016, stressed he's no hero.

"I just happened to be there," he said. "I think I've been a caring person in my life. I saw somebody in need, and it looked like a situation to obviously insert myself and help out."

The aftermath was a bit surreal. After the woman was taken away, Tumpane called his wife, his arms still shaking.

"Not too many times you call your wife and say you helped save somebody's life," he said. "A really special moment."

One that stayed with him even as he prepared to call balls and strikes behind home plate Wednesday night. During breaks in the action his eyes would drift to the bridge just a few hundred feet behind the center field wall at PNC Park.

"It's also hard when you stand back behind home plate and look and you see the bridge in the distance, In between innings and whatnot, just thinking of how things could have maybe been," he said. "Glad it was this way."

Tumpane has no experience in crisis management or suicide prevention. He's spent 16 years living the nomadic life of an umpire. Asked what was going through his head while he tried to coax the woman back to safety, Tumpane just shrugged his shoulders. How do you explain the unexplainable?

"I happened to be in the right spot at the right time," he said. "Tried to be as comforting as I could and talk her through it. Thankfully that was the outcome."