Saturday, September 21, 2013

18 Innings In

18 innings.
21 pitchers.
6 hours, 54 minutes.
184 pitches thrown for each team.
10 consecutive scoreless innings.
A game-winning RBI delivered by a guy who didn't enter the game until the 10th inning, and had enough time to go 2-4.
That's what the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles did to each other last night. That's what you do when there's under 10 games left in the season and the wild card standings are packed tighter than salmon going upstream in a David Attenborough documentary. That's what you do when it's September and your roster has expanded and one loss can drop you from leading the wild card race to a half game out of the second spot. That's what you do when you're a couple back with not that many to go, and you're running out of chances to make up ground.
The storylines are everywhere. The win went to a guy (Jeremy Hellickson) who had to get sent down to Class A to get his head straightened out. That RBI in the 18th came from a guy (David DeJesus) who was traded twice this season, once to a team that expressly didn't want him. The losing pitcher (Bud Norris) was supposed to end up on the West Coast when he got ransomed out of 100-loss factory Houston for prospects; instead he wound up, to everyone's surprise, in Charm City. Super-rookie Wil Myers went 0-8 in the game. The guy who scored the winning run (Desmond Jennings), went 2-4 after getting into the game in the 9th. The Orioles' closer never entered the game, which may say something about the way Buck Showalter manages or may say something about the way Jim Johnson is pitching.
But really, the only storyline that matters is that this is what you do when the year's running out. You fire every bullet, including your Sunday starting pitcher, because this one game really does matter that much. There's no time for sunk costs any more, no saying sometime around the 13th "screw it, put the shortstop in so we can save the bullpen for the rest of the series". Because if you don't win this game, the rest of the series might be too late.
The game wrapped up around 2 in the morning.
And today at 1:05, they do it all again.

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