Sunday, April 10, 2011

Narrative of a most Interesting 14 Inning Marathon

What a game in Anaheim tonight! Three different games in one 5 hour, 3 minute 14 inning roller coaster.

The first 4 innings were a shoot out - each team scoring 5 runs, reckless base running, ill considered throws, base runners everywhere - and hits as often as the tick of a clock. Then came a bullpen-pitchers-duel - and the tick-tock of hits turned to thwacks of the catcher's mitts as hitters fell 1, 2, 3. Followed later on by an hysterically crazy finish that could not - would not end.

The chaos of hits and runs, and the taking of extra bases that was the first incarnation of this game ebbed imperceptibly between the 3rd and the 6th, and we became aware that the game we were watching had vanished and a new game had taken it's place. The thing we thought we were watching had become a game reminiscent of the well played, pure-ists style pitching match-up of the night before. Time seemed to stop - no runs plated after the forth; before we knew it was the ninth... and into the tenth we go. Almost as if baseball games were supposed to do this.  This one anyway.

The tenth is always full of tension; this is extra innings after all, it's the nature of the thing - out here on the edge every 6 outs is a 9 inning game. The Jays began with the 7,8,9 hitters and - what do you know - the lead-off guy gets plunked. Next batter flies out but the 9 guy works a walk. (Alright, they've turned the line-up over - here we go - one out and the go-ahead run on second.) Two quick outs and the calmness like from the-before-time returns to the Angel Stadium.

The Angels go 1,2,3 and I'm filling in the top of my scorecard; 11th, 12th, 13th... - this is going to be a long one - neither team has scored since Saturday.

In the 11th the Blue Jays get a runner on, but then go down in order.

Then the change.

The Angels get an error to start their half of the inning - E5th, on Edwin Encarnacion, and veteran Bobby Abreu is on first. They follow that with the first Angel hit since the 5th, and it's no outs, runners on the corners. The Jays battery manages to manufacture a strike-out and then intentionally loads the bases to set up a double play. (Ground ball the right side - the winning run's coming on contact!) The second baseman picks himself up off the infield - finds the ball - and with robotic efficiency rifles home in time. Two out - still bases loaded. Ball, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Ball, Ball, Swing - the great young catcher Mathis is out.

Just no runs (so that you'd notice).

(These moments of opportunity-not-seized, in extra innings, offer much potent. That kind of Karma costs games; everyone knows you don't fail in such situations and very often win.) It's at this point that we notice that this is again a different game. There isn't the deluge of hits like from the-before-time - but now there are dead base runners all over the place. But this is different than the first four inning free-for-all --- this is 'serious-er'. :)

The Angels have already used their entire bullpen - it's all riding on Jason Bulger, the last man standing in their rank. It's only pitch 10 when the reliever walks the lead off Jay in the 12th - but with the news that the Angel bull pen is empty we're wondering maybe this guy isn't the best Angel pitcher on the roster? Bulger efficiently strikes out the next guy on the 2-2 pitch - but the battery has allowed a stolen base during the AB. One out - a runner at second --- then he walks another.

The Jays play small-ball - the lead-off guy moves them over with a bunt. Two outs, runners at second and third. Next guy works a walk, and now it's bases loaded with the 2010 Home Run Champion Jose Bautista up. Fly Out centre.

Three runners left. 'Karma'. And 'these moments of opportunity-not-seized'... . But the Angels go quietly in the bottom half. It's like redemption, all sins erased; and we are born again.

And on to 'lucky 13'.

Lead off base hit to right for the Jays, this must be the inning! TV play-by-play man Buck Martinez said earlier, "lucky 13". Could the numerology be correct? Where did I put my tea leaves? The next guy walks. (Bulger is still out there - he's wild and likely tired. He's toast, left out to dry - he can't do it, it's over - get a fork ... done. Ah, the taste of sweet victory! Hallelujah!)

The manager insists on small-ball again, 'Move 'em over!' he says.

But the catcher out of the Blue Jays farm system can't for the life of him preform such a thing. He looks amateur-bad as he strikes out on the 0-2 pitch trying to catch up with a fast ball he hadn't even seen yet.

Oh well, Next! And 'next' guy moves them over with a perfect ground ball that the first baseman has to field down the line, he feeds Bulger at first as the runners move up. Now the go ahead, and the insurance run are in scoring position. This team will play little-ball this year or John Farrell will not be it's manager - count on it. With two outs the go-ahead run is ninety feet away; but the Jays need a hit, a wild pitch, a pass ball or an error to plate it.

The hit ball bounces lazily towards the shortstop position, but it's too slow for the shortstop playing deep with 2 outs - it's the third baseman's ball. It seems to me the first thing Alberto Callaspo's does is notice that Yunel Escobar is going to intersect him at the point where he wants to field the ball - so instead of charging the ball, he waits until Escobar is by - then in one motion, grabs the bouncing ball and makes a sling throw to first - the ball sails towards the right field side and pulls the first baseman off the bag. SAFE! the Umpire gestures. (The run scores! Holy cow, we finally scored! This is the first base hit since the ninth - about an hour ago...)

Wait a minute...

Bob Davidson, the third base umpire's saying Yunel Escobar's out - "Baserunner Interference". Escobar interfered with Alberto Callaspo's attempt to field the ball!! he is out; run does not score; inning over.


(There will be LOTS of conversation about this tomorrow, I'm sure - see my take on the controversial call here.)

(Is there no end to these endings that don't cause ending - that wind up short? Holy mother of god I don't think I can take another half inning of this. But that doesn't matter, there's more... and once into extra innings there no getting out, this isn't the kind of game you can just quit.)

Bottom 13

Abreu leads off again; BH. Hunter follows with one of his own, moving Abreu to third. On the corners, no outs. The Angel manager has been starting the runners all game long, and he does it again; he's pressing his advantage - at home, in extras. Off 1B goes Hunter; it's a hit and run and aTexas-leaguer arcs out into short left where a charging Snider meets it with his glove in a tumble. He gets up quickly and throws it back to McDonald at cut-off. Shawn Camp is yelling and pointing, managing the infield. 'Throw to first!! Hunter - double him off!, Watch the runner at third! ' John McDonald checks the runner and tosses the ball. Double play 7-6-3. Two outs. Runner at 3rd.

(What just happened? Karma. All that. They just gave it back - we can win this - we're going to win this! Just one more out and we'll get our turns again... .) The next guy walks - runners at the corners two out. Mike Scioscia figures the Jays won't be ready if they try to run again - who would? So now they try the double steal, a play designed to fool a team - entice a throw to get the guy stupidly going from 1B which is only a distraction from the guy stealing home - just behind the play. But the Jays see through it and plays goes 1-4-2 as quick as you please. Third out at home is DOA. Slam-Bam. Thank You Mame!

OK, they're Crazy - we'll win for Sure.

But we don't win - we don't even get a runner on - some guy who usually starts games (Dan Haren 2-0 1.15) came out of the 'empty' bullpen and shut us down! (Well at least that inning didn't cause any heart attacks. No runners - no tension. Cool. Get 'em next inning.)

The Bottom of the 14th

A guy I've been watching, Peter Bourjos, Centre Fielder for the Angels. He's one of the sweetest centre fielders in the league - he gets to stuff and gets there poetically. He played 51 games with the Angels last year after coming up from the AAA Salt Lake Bees of the Pacific Coast League. I first noticed him when he made a brilliant catch in left centre robbing Bautista of a 2BH hit in a game in Anaheim on Friday, August 13, 2010. The Angels have even changed the way they play outfield defence because of Peter's range (and 2 former CF's on either side of him, Vernon Wells & Torii Hunter); they hug the gaps and leave the lines to the odds. (Coincidentally it's the way I play left and right field - I figure that all things being equal, on average most balls are going to be hit out to the centre area of the field - I consider the hits down the lines, flukes statistically - on a straight run to the foul line I'll make the play on most balls. I figure if you scorch a ball down the foul line, good for you, nicely done - you beat me - but what are the chances? So I play towards the gaps as much as I can to cut off balls in the power alleys and Texas-Leaguers out of the reach of the infielders.)

So any way, because I love the way this guy plays, I've begun penciling him into the line-up as Peter "gorgeous" Bourjos.

(It's a loose reference to Firesign Theatre's "Georgy Porgy" character from the comedy album, "Don't crush that Dwarf, hand me those pliers (side 2)"

(Youtube: ).

So anyway... with two outs in the bottom of the 14th inning of a game the Jays have had about 5 good chances to win - the number nine hitter - who is currently batting .231 -  Peter "gorgeous" Bourjos hits a double to left - which is peremptorily followed by the game winning RBI base hit by the lead-off batter, Maicer Izturis.

Finally an end of chances.

One of the most entertaining games I have seen --- and these new John Farrell little-ball Jays are great.  I look forward to a lot more RBI's from this team. I really think they're on the right track with this. This should give all Jays fans a really good idea of just how many parts this team is away from contending for a Pennant.

Scorecards for this game (two separate scorecards):
Innings 1 to 9.
Innings 10 to 14.


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