Simply put, if you thought Friday’s game reminded you of 2004, you didn’t see anything yet until you saw yesterday’s game. In Friday’s game, we had the potentially winning grand slam but it wasn’t enough. Yesterday, it was enough. It wasn’t deep, but it was as dramatic as ever. We won it in true 2004 fashion.
Dice-K’s performance was mediocre. He pitched six innings, gave up four runs on eight hits, walked two, and struck out five on 108 pitches. His efficiency is clearly improving, but it’s easy to see that his hit total prevented him from staying in longer past a reasonable pitch count. His fastball, slider, curveball, and cutter were actually thrown well. He did not throw a single changeup for a strike, though. His bad inning wasn’t actually so bad labor-wise; he threw only twenty-two pitches in the first, but he gave up a two-run shot in the process. Still, it’s a step in the right direction. It could have been worse. He could have given up twice the runs in twice the pitches. And we’ve seen him do that before. So technically we should be thankful. His strike zone was completely random. He didn’t deliver any wild pitches, but he certainly made some pitches that were pretty wild.
Richardson and Atchison combined to pitch the seventh, when we got on the board. Ryan Kalish, promoted as Hermida was designated for assignment, hit an RBI single and scored on McDoanld’s double. Kalish would finish the night two for four. And he started in left field without making an error, which is kind of a big deal. (It was actually Beltre who made our error. Unfortunately no surprise there.) That’s a great kid we’ve got here. Looks kind of like Trot Nixon when he’s out there, actually. The future in the outfield looks bright. Anyway, those were part of a string of four straight hits. So we cut the deficit in half.
Before the inning was over, Papi found himself at the plate with the bases loaded and two out. He struck out. Worst. Foreshadowing. Ever.
Atchison and Okajima continued to hold the Tigers at bay. And now we come to the bottom of the ninth. The grand finale. I’m telling you, this will smack of 2004 like you wouldn’t believe.
McDonald led off the inning with an infield single. Then Lowrie pinch-hit and stroked a double. Then Youk was intentionally walked (after being hit by a pitch earlier; the irony continues). So the bases were loaded, and Youk would be on the move no matter what because he was the winning run.
Then Big Papi stepped up, in all his Big Papi glory. He took some pitches. He even showed bunt. Then he ripped a double into the hole in left-center field and emptied the bases. We won, 5-4. Just like that. Sometimes one swing is all it takes. As soon as I saw that ball reach the Monster, I knew Youk was coming home and we were going to win. So the Tigers walked the winning run. How ‘bout that.
And I was watching all of this and reminiscing like crazy. After Friday night and yesterday, how can you not? Especially when you see Papi get mobbed.
They say that the more successful you are in the All-Star Home Run Derby, the worse your timing and average are afterwards. David Ortiz has officially disproven this theory. He finished the night two for five, extending his hitting streak to nine games during which he’s batted .308 with twelve RBIs. That’s his eighteenth walkoff hit, and it’s particularly impressive considering Coke is a southpaw and Papi’s average against southpaws coming into yesterday’s game was a mere .190 with one home run. Particularly against Coke, Papi didn’t have even one hit to his credit in eight at-bats. Well, he changed that in a hurry. Coke’s fastball ended up away. Papi was waiting for a fastball away. That’s pretty much how it happens.
And I think the outcome of Friday’s game played a big part in our win yesterday because it shows you that you have no way to know which run will be the winning run. You can’t afford to give up because you don’t know who’ll turn it around when. So you just have to keep chipping away because something like yesterday might happen, and you’ll walk off with a win. Literally. It was epically awesome.
The trading deadline came and went yesterday. Nothing earth-shattering happened, although we did go against the grain. The theme of this year’s trading deadline was bullpen improvement for most teams, but Theo decided to go for catching improvement. He traded Ramon Ramirez to the Giants for a minor leaguer. It’s been fun, but he wasn’t as good as he’d been when he first arrived, and his impact has been minimal of late. And we landed Saltalamacchia (that is spelled right – I triple-checked) from the Rangers for two prospects, a player to be named later, and cash considerations. Salty will spend some time in the minors for now while Cash continues to play for Tek.
The market on the whole was loaded with starters and bats but skimpy on outfielders and relievers. Figures. We don’t need any of the former; we need the latter. The problem of course is that our current status in the standings is deceiving. We’re playing without key members of our lineup. It wouldn’t make sense to make an earth-shattering move because we’re not really as bad as we look right now. We don’t need another bat; we have bats. They just happen to be on the disabled list at the moment. It’s a tough position to be in. But I think Theo ultimately made the right choice in standing pat. Our performance with those bats present in the lineup before the break proves it. In Theo we trust. It’ll all work out.