There have been an awful lot of games going deep into the night lately. First, there was last week’s 1-0, 16-inning classic between the Rays and Red Sox. Then there was Monday’s Royals-Red Sox game, delayed at the start by rain and then extended to 14 innings, the last few somewhat comical (but painful, for a Sox fan.) But last night’s Braves-Pirates epic took the cake. The Pirates scored twice in the first and once in the second, and Atlanta tied it up at 3-3 in the bottom of the third…and then neither team scored until the 19th, at which point all chaos broke loose. With one out and runners on second and third in the bottom of the nineteenth, Scott Proctor hit a grounder to third which was easily handled and thrown to home plate in plenty of time to nail the runner. Proctor actually fell down exiting the batter’s box, and Pirates pitcher Daniel McCutchen tried to tell his catcher to throw to first for the inning-ending double play (something that should’ve been impossible if not for Proctor tripping)…only to find that the runner from third, Julio Lugo, was called safe. I’m sorry, but there’s no way Lugo was safe. The reaction to this play has been swift and furious all across the internet.
On the flip side, Rangers 20, Twins 6. The Rangers become just the third team to score at least 3 runs in each of the first five innings. Michael Cuddyer pitched the eighth inning for the Twins, loading the bases but not allowing a run. This was truly hilarious to watch unfolding.
Well, we seem to have moved to a new server. So this is WordPress, huh? Unfortunately, there’s not much to talk about at the moment. We’ve had some no-hitters, and we’ve had some weird games, big comebacks…okay, yeah, yesterday was actually one of the most bizarre days in recent memory. We had some huge comebacks–Red Sox trailing 6-0, come back to win 8-7; Rays trailing 5-1, come back to win 6-5–and we had the worst pitching performance ever, 14 ER in just 2.1 innings, courtesy of Kansas City’s Vin Mazzaro. But mostly, we had the 11th inning of the Marlins-Mets game. Burke Badenhop, relief pitcher, 1-for-23 in his career (he used to be a starter), is allowed to hit for himself and drives in the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th, Marlins lead 2-1. The Marlins score no more in the inning, and with two outs and nobody on, the Mets are out of position players and have no choice but to have starting pitcher Jonathon Niese pinch-hit for the pitcher. Niese triples. And then Jose Reyes leaves him stranded at third. What a game.
Jeffrey Maier actually reached over the fence to help guide a Derek Jeter fly ball out of the reach of Orioles right fielder Tony Tarrasco into the stands for a postseason home run, whereas Steve Bartman was neither seated in fair territory nor reaching over the fence when he interfered with Cubs left fielder Moises Alou on a fly ball off the bat of Luis Castillo. 7 years after Bartman and twice as long since Maier, the Reds–which like those 2003 Cubs are managed by Dusty Baker–were victimized by a hybrid of the two. Like Bartman, the fan that prevented centerfielder Drew Stubbs from potentially making what would admittedly be an amazing play did not reach over the fence at Great American Ballpark to do so–and as you might guess from Stubbs’s position, the result was a Chase Utley home run, just like the Maier incident. Granted, this is probably a moot point since the Phillies’ pitching has been outstanding pretty much all series long aside from a rough first inning or two by Oswalt. But that’s a heartbreaker.
Elsewhere, another pitcher with a regular-season no-hitter on his career resume made a decent bid at providing the seventh official one of 2010. Jonathan Sanchez, who in July 2009 pitched a game in which the only baserunner reached on an eighth-inning error by Juan Uribe, no-hit the Braves through 5.1 before Tim Hudson broke it up with a single. Yes, the opposing pitcher. Amazingly, despite their low hit total for the game, the Braves actually managed to take the lead at one point, courtesy of an eighth-inning pinch-hit homer by modern-day Lonnie Smith Eric Hinske. (You remember Smith, right? Won a World Series ring in his rookie year with the 1980 Phillies, then picked up another with the ’82 Cardinals, a third with the ’85 Royals, then played in two more with the Braves in ’91 and ’92). The Giants struck right back with a pair of two-out runs in the top of the ninth, the latter scoring on Brooks Conrad’s third error of the game (his first error brought in the Giants’ first run). The 3-2 win gives the Giants a 2-1 advantage in the series.
As I write this, the Yankees-Royals game has just gone to rain delay with a 1-0 count on Robinson Canó, batting with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. The Yankees lead 4-0, so it’s an official game. A-Rod bats right ahead of Canó in the lineup, and he struck out looking in his last at-bat, still sitting on 599 home runs. Meanwhile, Canó is 2 for 2 so far tonight and has brought his career hits total to 998, meaning it’s entirely possible that the Yankees could see milestones in back-to-back at-bats. Crazy.
Also crazy were yesterday’s games. In the afternoon, the Phillies 1-hit the Cardinals for 11 innings in St. Louis. The only other time a home team was held to one hit in a game of at least 11 innings? The infamous “greatest game ever pitched”–Harvey Haddix’s 12 perfect innings followed by losing the game in the bottom of the thirteenth. The Cards’ lone hit was in the fifth, though, so it wasn’t the longest no-hit bid in the majors yesterday. That belonged to John Lackey, who no-hit the Mariners for 7.2 innings before Josh Bard broke it up with a single. Lackey then left at the end of the eighth, at which point the Red Sox collapsed, allowing five runs (three earned) in a two-error ninth inning to allow the M’s to tie the score at 6-6, the shutout having disappeared long before the no-hitter did (walk, stolen base, advanced to third on groundout, scored on passed ball). Uh…damn, that’s horrible. Due to the “can’t assume the double play” rule, the first of the two runs that scored on the second error of the ninth would not have been unearned due to the “would’ve been the third out” rule, but the second was because the runner only scored due to the overthrow and the third out was made by the next batter…except the first run was unearned because that was the runner who reached on the first error in the first place. Oh, and the Red Sox? Still won the game, in 13 innings. Wow. Just…wow.
Ken Griffey Jr. picked the wrong night to retire. On any other night, his retirement would be a huge story, but it got overshadowed by the drama in Detroit. Give Jim Joyce credit, however–he handled himself gracefully, admitted that he messed up when he saw the replay, and didn’t throw anyone out of the game (I was really thinking that Miguel Cabrera was going to get ejected after the botched play with the way he was jawing at Joyce.) Credit Armando Galarraga as well–he didn’t get angry once, even though he had a perfect game stolen from him. It’s unfortunate what happened, but it’s also a shining example of good sportsmanship on all fronts. Joyce is behind the plate for this afternoon’s Tigers-Indians game, although he was offered the chance to take the game off, and Galarraga came out to give him the lineup card. Wouldn’t you know it, the first out of the game was a close play at first.
Also, about that close play…my first instinct, even before seeing the safe call, was “oh no, I think he (Galarraga) missed the bag!” They’re considering overturning the call and awarding him the perfect game, but I can’t help but wonder if, failing an intervention by Commissioner Selig, the official scorer might not be willing to reclassify the play as an E-1, resulting in a non-perfect no-hitter. I really think it would be justifiable.
On a more positive (?) note, Joycegate or Perfectgate or whatever they’re going to call this may be the impetus needed to get the use of instant replay in Major League Baseball expanded. This morning on SportsCenter, a call for this was made by someone who knows from bad calls first-hand–Don Denkinger, the infamous first-base umpire in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, whose blown call leading off the bottom of the ninth sparked a two-run rally as the Royals came back to win the game and the Series in 7 games. Joyce, who has been umpiring since 1989 and was named the second-best umpire in MLB in Sports Illustrated polls in 2003 and 2006, worked with Denkinger. Joyce was…well, his postgame speech was as profane as an Ozzie Guillen tirade, but it was all self-loathing, and he admitted his mistake. He knew as soon as he saw the replay that he blew it. Finally, when he went to apologize to Galarraga personally, Galarraga replied, without a hint of irony, “Nobody’s perfect.” That was perfect.
UPDATE: WABC’s Warner Wolf brought up another point regarding the play. Umpires are trained to watch for the foot and listen for the ball. In addition to the overwhelming crowd noise at what appeared to be the 27th out of a perfect game, Galarraga snowconed it. If Joyce was doing his job right, he’d have never actually seen the glove–and thus, would have had reason to believe that Donald beat the ball, especially since Galarraga supposedly adjusted the ball after making the play. If Joyce looked up and saw Galarraga adjust the ball and mistook it for the ball just arriving, it’s only natural that he’d make the wrong call. This is why instant replay is needed.
The ever-wonderful Jayson Stark is at it again. Note that the link goes to ESPN Insider article, so you may not be able to read it.For this reason, and also because I want to comment, I’ll sum up some of the weirdness here.
In this past Thursday’s Phillies-Nationals game, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino of the Phillies and Ryan Zimmerman of the Nats all homered, marking the first time that players whose names begin with the letters U, V, and Z all homered in the same game. That this has never happened before is not exactly surprising. What I want to know is, were all three necessary, or would some combination of two be sufficient? Obviously U and V have homered together before–Utley and Victorino–but none of those three letters is terribly common, and V is probably the most common of the 3. So have there been other times that U and Z have homered in the same game? And if so, was Zimmerman the “Z” involved? With both the Phillies and the Marlins in the same division as the Nats, this seems plausible enough…although I completely forgot about the Upton brothers when listing the active U’s, which changes things completely. Okay, so now the most likely combo for U/Z is B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays–although it’s quite possible this hasn’t happened yet, as both are fairly young and Zobrist didn’t really get regular playing time until just last year. Come to think of it, now that we have a plausible U-Z pair, what’s our V-Z?
Also, and I actually heard about this game while it was happening, there was Thursday’s White Sox-Blue Jays game. Freddy Garcia got knocked around early and only lasted 3+ innings, striking out 3 and being charged with all 7 runs. The first reliever, Randy Williams, struck out 3 over two shaky innings. Sergio Santos came in for the 6th inning and struck out the side, 1-2-3, and J.J. Putz pitched the 7th, allowing a hit but getting all three of his outs by way of the K. Scott Linebrink came in for the 8th, and sure enough, all three outs he recorded were strikeouts (he, too, allowed a hit.) Never before in a 9-inning game have five different pitchers gotten 3 strikeouts for a team. Also, never before has a team gotten their last 9 outs by way of strikeout with 3 pitchers getting 3 each. What makes this even more impressive, as far as I’m concerned, is the fact that the White Sox managed to strike out 15 Blue Jays despite being a losing road team; therefore, it was 15 out of 24 outs, not 15 of 27. Not a bad performance at all, except for the part where they ended up trailing 7-0 after four innings.
Also, Monday’s Royals-Tigers game marked the first time that two Guillens (Carlos of the Tigers and Jose of the Royals) homered in the same game.
More LOL Mets, too. Josh Willingham of the Nationals hit a grand slam off of Johan Santana last Sunday, but it didn’t get ruled home run right away, so people started running like crazy. Adam Dunn, who had been on first when the ball was hit, had to bowl over Mets catcher Rod Barajas in order to score, and when the ball got away, Willingham tried to score as well, creating another home plate collision and initially being ruled out, until replay decided that it was a home run. Why is this in the category of “LOL Mets“? Because they were the home team, which means the home run that almost wasn’t is courtesy of their ballpark. Still, even securely in last place, this year’s Mets have a long way to go to become as LOL-worthy as last year’s were–and most of last night’s biggest weirdness (position players on the mound and pitchers in left field, for example) was courtesy of the Cardinals. Although having a starter with more saves than your closer is, well, kind of silly.
Even when the races are dull, they’re interesting. This year marks the third straight year that a one-game playoff will be required after 7 straight years without one. While the first half of the decade had a few tight races as well–the 2003 NL wild card was a multi-team scrum, IIRC, that the eventual World Champion Marlins were considered a long shot to come out of on top, and if I remember correctly, the Cubs, who ended up winning their division, were leading that race for much of the final weeks; no division in the NL was won by more than 2 games in 2001, with the wild card having the same record as their division’s champion–but the second half of the decade has produced some real memorable ones. There’s 2005, where with three days remaining, the White Sox clinched their division in the strangest way possible, holding a 3-game lead over Cleveland, who they were to play in the final three, while Cleveland was merely tied for the wild card lead; the White Sox were assured a playoff spot because the team Cleveland was tied with, Boston, was also playing their division leader, the Yankees, and were only one game back, so were they to sweep, they’d be outright division champions and Chicago and Cleveland would still both be in the playoffs were Cleveland to sweep. The NL wild card also came down to the final day that year. Then there was 2006, and the Twins’ unlikely division championship. Prior to the final weekend of the season, the Twins had led the division for all of about maybe six hours, when Detroit lost a day game to drop into a virtual tie, percentage points behind; Minnesota lost that night. By the time the Twins tied it up with three days remaining, both teams had already clinched playoff spots, so the Twins, lacking the tiebreaker, still weren’t really in first place. Minnesota lost the first two and won the third; Detroit got swept in rather painstaking fashion, by the last-place Royals, who incidentally lost the #1 pick in the draft as a result, finishing 1 game better than the Devil Rays. Over on the National League side, 2006 was the year of Houston’s mad dash that came up short. With 12 days remaining, the Cardinals seemed to have the NL Central locked up, holding a 7 game lead over second place Cincinnati. They then went on a 7-game losing streak that included a sweep at the hands of the Astros, and so 9 days later, the Reds were still in it, 2.5 back, but now in third place, with the Astros a mere half game behind the Cardinals. Had that run been completed, all of this other “history-making”, with the Mets-Phillies in ’07 and Twins-Tigers this year, would have been moot–8.5 games in 12 days. Alas, it was not meant to be. (Another division was decided by a tiebreaker that year, the Padres over the wild-card Dodgers). 2007, of course, saw the Mets cough up the NL East and the Rockies win 13 of 14 to force a one-game tiebreaker for the wild-card, but what was forgotten in all of that was that had the Rockies won the one game they lost in that span, there would still have been a tiebreaker–between the Diamondbacks, the team that beat them and that won the division, and the Padres. The race was that close. Compared to all of that, the past two years have been relatively mundane. Hell, this year, almost every race was decided with nearly a week to spare–and yet, we still have a one-game playoff.
The title, by the way, was Detroit manager Jim Leyland’s response when asked if he was concerned about Rick Porcello starting such an important game at such a young age.