December 6, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Let’s discuss the THT Annual (7)
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Braves 10, Diamondbacks 1: Justin Upton went 4-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs. Chris Johnson went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs. Martin Prado had a couple of hits and I suppose he was gritty. Gonna say that the first visit to Arizona for the Braves post-trade falls to their advantage.
Twins 10, White Sox 3: Aaron Hicks hit two home runs and robbed one from Adam Dunn in center. If I remember by college accounting course, that's a +3 in the home run column.
Indians 1, Yankees 0; Yankees 7, Indians 0: An old-timey doubleheader with no multi-hour break in the middle and one ticket buying access to both games. Don't see that happen much anymore. Takes a couple of rainouts to make it happen I guess. Justin Masterson was outstanding in the first, shutting out the Yankees and striking out nine. Vidal Nuno, I'm guessing a hair stylist/cosmetics mogul, pitched five innings of shutout ball himself in the second game, backed by a couple of RBIs each from Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay. Those three names, if I had told you were important parts of a Yankees game before the season started, would have likely had you thinking the team was in last place. They're, instead, a game up in the AL East, tied for the best record in the American League.
Cardinals 6, Mets 3: Rick Ankiel's Mets debut: 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. And he made a diving stab at a catch in the seventh inning, but just missed it, which led to the Cardinals scoring three runs. He said after the game if he'd had his own glove -- which was still back in Houston -- he would have caught it. Instead he had to use a pitcher's glove. I'm actually inclined to believe him here. Outfielder gloves are gigantic.
Brewers 5, Pirates 1: Milwaukee stole six bases off Pirates backup catcher Michael McKenry. I haven't seen a defender so abused since Jerry Rice embarrassed Charles Dimry back in 1990. Maybe Jerry Glanville thought McKenry could handle throwing out Brewers base runners like he thought Dimry could cover Rice in man-to-man.
Cubs 9, Rockies 1: Travis Wood joins the increasingly long list of pitchers making the Rockies look lost at the plate lately, tossing seven shutout innings. The AP gamer said "He's the first Cubs pitcher since Hippo Vaughn in 1919 to start with eight quality starts." I'm guessing that Hippo Vaughn had no idea what a quality start was. And even if he did, it wouldn't fit the same definition of "quality start" we know today. In 1919 it probably included cigarettes, Spanish Flu masks and trips to a brothel.
Tigers 7, Astros 2: A grand slam for Andy Dirks and, ouch, a dislocated jaw for Jose Altuve. These losses are getting increasingly painful for the Astros.
Nationals 6, Dodgers 2: Bryce Harper needed 11 stitches on his chin and he jammed his shoulder hitting the outfield wall. This is the quintessential "guy who plays really freakin' hard" kind of injury, I suppose. He actually hit a chain link fence which sits in front of a scoreboard. Don Mattingly said after the game "That fencing we have is a little dangerous. If you hit that, you're going to feel it, especially face first." You know THAT's gonna be thrown back in Mattingly's face during his deposition. Man.
Royals 11, Angels 4: Five hits and five RBIs for Billy Butler, breaking a horrendous slump for Country Breakfast. Speaking of nicknames, Ned Yost called pitcher Luis Mendoza "Mendy" after the game, extending his streak of awful, unimaginative nicknames for his players to, like, 15. He and Eric Wedge probably have a little cheat sheet with every player's name on his team with a little "y" next to it in case they need to use a nickname in a postgame interview.
Athletics 5, Rangers 1: Eight Ks for A.J. Griffin. Back to back homers for Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss. The A's needed this one after dropping six of their last seven.
25 years ago today, one of the wildest games of the 1980s took place. It’s a contest that will forever be known as The Jose Oquendo Game, after the Cardinals utility infielder who played such a key role in it.
On May 14, 1988, Oquendo and the Cardinals hosted the Atlanta Braves. It would prove to be a game that just wouldn’t die.
Early on it looked like it would be a good day for St. Louis. The Cardinals jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, but things wouldn’t keep going that way. Instead, in the top of the fourth the Braves rallied for four runs against Cardinals pitcher Cris Carpenter and took the lead. They wouldn’t get to keep it for long, as St. Louis pushed a pair of runs across in the bottom of the frame. In fact, the Cardinals chased Braves starting pitcher Zane Smith from the game with just four innings pitched.
This would prove to be a day you didn’t want to lose your starter early.
After four offense-fueled innings, the game’s pace shifted. The pitchers took over, and the game remained 5-4 Cardinals until the seventh, when the Braves pushed Carpenter out of the game and tied it, 5-5.
With a tie score in the late innings, both teams could safely assume the next run would win it. That would be correct—but no one could foresee how long it would take to get that next run across the plate.
St. Louis nearly put it away in the eighth when Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee belted back-to-back singles to lead the inning. Alas, they stranded Smith on third. In the ninth the Cardinals had a pair of one-out singles, but again couldn’t score the run.
One of those ninth inning singles came from Jose Oquendo. He had just entered the game to replace first baseman Bob Horner. Well, technically Oquendo replaced relief pitcher Ken Dayley, but that was just part of a double switch. No one would ever think to have Oquendo pitch, right? Sure position players sometimes pitch in games, but only in garbage time in blowouts, not late in a tie game. It would take some really bizarre circumstances to get Oquendo on the mound. …. Not that I’m foreshadowing anything. …
The game entered extra frames, but neither team could get someone home. In a sign of the year, the umpires called both teams for balks—one on St. Louis’ Todd Worrell in the 11th and another on Atlanta’s Rick Mahler in the 12th. This was the year of the balk—the league wanted a crackdown on that arcane rule. Neither balk led to a run scoring.
As the game churned on, a key question emerged: Who was going to pitch? At a certain point in time, the bullpen runs out of arms. Atlanta, whose starting pitcher left earlier, ran into this problem first. The Braves' solution was to bring in starting pitcher Mahler in the 12th and see how long he could hold up.
St. Louis should’ve had a deeper bullpen because its starter went longer, but the Cardinals had a problem. Whitey Herzog blew through two relievers in the seventh, when Atlanta tied the game. He had a third man last just one inning before pulling him in the double switch that brought Oquendo in the game.
Ace reliever Todd Worrell lasted three full innings, allowing just one hit and a walk, but Herzog pulled him for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 11th. On came veteran Bob Forsch, who could go a long time, but Herzog yanked him for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 14th.
This was the ninth straight game the Cardinals played a game. Just two days earlier, they’d been in a 13-12 contest that used up his bullpen. The day before that the Cardinals played in a 16-inning marathon, with the bullpen throwing 10 innings. His staff was fried. When Herzog pulled Forsch, he had no relievers left to use.
Okay, do the best you can. Herzog called on Randy O'Neal. He’d been the starting pitcher in that 16-inning game on May 11. He threw six innings that day, and couldn’t pitch much here—but he could pitch some, right? Herzog’s basic approach was to try to win the game in each inning. There’s no point worrying about the 17th inning when it’s the 10th—and how often do games go that long anyway?
O’Neal pitched one scoreless inning, and that’s all he could give. Herzog was out of relievers, and he was out of starting pitchers who could fill the gap. Time to get creative.
That’s when he called on Oquendo. No, he wasn’t a pitcher. Yes, he was an infielder. But he had the best stuff of any position player available, so to the mound went Oquendo. Oh-kay then.
Oh, and there was one other odd little wrinkle. Because Herzog had used so many players as pinch-hitters or in double switches or whatever, when Oquendo shifted from first base to the mound, Herzog had no one to put on first. He wasn’t just out of pitchers—he was also out of position players.
Time to stay creative. Herzog moved Duane Walker, who had been playing in left, to first. In left he put Jose DeLeon—a starting pitcher. Yes, that’s right—Herzog put a pitcher in left, and a utility player on the mound.
You see, DeLeon was the starting pitcher the day before. He threw 8.2 innings, and so was far too tired in the arm to take the hill today. So that’s why Oquendo was on the mound instead.
Of Herzog’s remaining starting pitchers, he figured DeLeon would be the best bet in the bat and in the field. Not that Herzog wanted to risk DeLeon doing anything in the field. He kept switching DeLeon with right fielder Tom Brunansky. If a lefty was at the plate, he put Brunansky in right and DeLeon in left. When a righty was up, flip them. By the end of the day, DeLeon’s defensive assignment would read like this: LF-RF-LF-RF-LF-RF-LF-RF-LF-RF-LF-RF.
Oquendo nearly lost the game right away, though. The first batter he faced, Ken Griffey Sr., doubled. After an intentional walk, a single by Ozzie Virgil threatened to end the game. Griffey pushed past third and on to home, but Brunansky threw him out at the plate. Given a new lease on life, Oquendo got the next two batters out to end the inning.
He allowed another single in the 17th, but survived without any real danger. He issued a pair of two-out walks in the 18th, but Ron Gant’s line drive was snared by third baseman Tom Lawless to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Mahler was having a hell of a game for himself. Heading into the 18th, he’d already pitched six innings in relief—and surrendered just two meager singles and a pair of walks, one of them intentional walk.
But in the 18th, St. Louis finally staged a rally against Mahler. First, Brunansky hit an infield single to third, and an error by third baseman Ken Oberkfell let him advance to second. Lawless tried to bunt Brunansky to third, but Mahler fumbled the bunt and everyone was safe on to the second error of the inning. Brunansky was just 90 feet from victory—and there were still no outs. Incredibly, Jose Oquendo was about to post a victory.
However, half the Cardinals players were weak hitting backups, and one was due up right now: catcher Steve Lake. He grounded weakly to third. Oberkfell made sure to check Brunansky and then threw to first for the first out, with Lawless advancing to second.
Next, Atlanta walked Luis Alicea. It’s not listed as an intentional walk, but it’s not a bad time to give out a base on balls, as the run is meaningless and now there is a force at every base.
Up next, Duane Walkermashed a hard hit liner—but a horribly placed one. Shortstop Andres Thomas caught it and before you could say “on to the 19th inning” he threw to third to double off Brunansky, who’d been running on contact. Mahler survived. But how much longer could Oquendo?
Turns out that a fourth inning was too much for St. Louis to ask of its utility man. Though he got two of the first three batters out, he issued two walks and a wild pitch. Up came Griffey, the man who nearly ended the game about an hour earlier. This time he didn’t hit a single, but bopped a double to bring home in both runners.
Mahler had an easy 1-2-3 inning to close it out. It was one of the best relief stints of the era: eight scoreless innings with just three hits and three walks (two intentional) for the win. Atlanta won, 7-5—but St. Louis had put up a brave effort in that game from a quarter century ago.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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