Saturday, October 13, 2012

“The Moment”

Nate McLouth homers in the 5th inning of Game 4.
Since late last week, we have been treated to what seems like continuous baseball. Some days you could move from game to game to game to game, watching playoff baseball for nearly 12 hours. For diehard fans, it’s been an embarrassment of riches with some absolutely fantastic games. Last night’s tilt between the Yankees and the Orioles that ended well past midnight is probably the prime example. This series has seen stellar pitching from both nines, but last night was special. How else would you describe a 1-1 score going into the 13th when the Baltimore side finally prevailed.

As I was listening to the game on the radio, I was contemplating if it was possible to see some point in the game where a play that happened or a play that wasn’t made would serve as an obvious predictor of the ultimate outcome of the game.

I’m not talking about a grand slam such as occurred in the final game of the Giants/Reds series. The outcome from those can be pretty easy to identify, even if this one did occur in the fifth. It was pretty obvious that unless the Giants bullpen imploded, they almost couldn’t lose with a six-run lead.

So as the fourth game of the division series between the two eastern division teams progressed last night, I began looking for a clear sign as to which side might prevail. The pitchers, Saunders for the Birds and Hughes for the Bombers, both seemed to be on their games, putting zeroes on the board with efficient regularity.

Then came the fifth – once again.

In the top of the inning, Nate McLouth, the discarded Pirate, came up aces with a home run to take huge bite out of the Big Apple. (This was, after all, the New Yorker’s game to lose rather than the Baltimore’s game to win.) With the strength of both teams’ bullpens, I thought to myself his bomb could possibly be it. There might be other runs, but McLouth had given all the momentum to his team. You could almost hear the Yankee bench tighten up.

McLouth’s brilliant 5th inning catch.
The bottom of the fifth was without a doubt “the moment” in the game, the point where I would have happily plopped down some bills on the Orioles. Russell Martin walked on six pitches. Granderson did what he’d been doing all series (inexplicably): striking out. Then Jason Nix came to bat.

[Sidebar: Guess who hit the BP ball before his first game as a Yankee on May 3rd, the one that Mariano Rivera was going back to snag when he tore up his knee and was knocked out for the season, and possibly ended his career?]

On Saunders’ second pitch, Nix hit a long fly ball to deep left. Racing back, McLouth, a gold glove winner in ’08, made a brilliant catch against the scoreboard (making it look far easier than it actually was. Martin had already rounded second, believing he would score when the Nix drive dropped in for a hit, and he was easily doubled off first when McLouth threw to Hardy at shortstop who relayed to Reynolds at first. Inning over. Momentum was solidly ensconced in the visitor’s dugout.

Even though New York scored in the bottom of the sixth, it was clear to me that Baltimore had seized “the moment”, and the baseball gods would eventually send them to the clubhouse smiling, and ready to try for the brass ring in the final game of the series.

Friday evening: Even though Baltimore just lost the fifth game to CC Sabathia (the other eight guys on the field were just there to throw the ball back to him), that fourth game will be one I remember for a long time. Purely and simply, it was great baseball.


JohnZ said...

The "moment" for the Nats could have been last night's first inning where they hit a double, triple and HR to start the game and seemed to be invincible from the start...low and behold the real "moment(s)" of this game came in the ninth when the Cards just would not be denied - with 2 outs - they just reached down deep and put one hit after another to destroy the Nats Cinderella season...but great baseball for any fan (except the Nats fans) !

John Trembath said...

Great comment JohnZ. The Nats will return next year, even better. They will be more seasoned like the Cards.
Rick, about you rside bar, it Jayson Nix obviously. A career .214 hitter who has been whit a new team every year. He was a utility player for the Jays last year. Some good fielding and no bat. One HR in five years. It would be some like that to affect the career of the greatest closer of all time.
Yes, this has been a great week for ball fans. Loved every minute if it. So sad for my Reds, they blew it big time.

Rick Blechta said...

John, I don't think anyone could have seen the Cards taking the final game of the series like that. If there was a moment in that game where something went awry, I think it was bringing in Jackson as a relief pitcher. That was a bone-headed move if there ever was one. Still, this was a game where you couldn't see that momentum shift. I know I certainly couldn't at the time.

Great comments, guys.