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Pure Insanity
2004-10-18 23:31
by Mike Carminati

The Yanks and Red Sox are now starting the sixth hour of their (so far) 12-inning marathon game in Fenway. David Ortiz is being thrown out for the second out in the bottom of the twelfth as I type. Not only was everyone from here to Marblehead shocked that Ortiz would rumble into second for a stolen base attempt, one had to watch the replay about five times to determine that he actually was tagged out before flailing for second in his highly unorthodox slide, at least that's what I think it was (and Tim McCarver was wrong: clearly from at least two angles Jeter tagged Ortiz high before his flipper, er, hand grappled for the bag).

As the thirteenth starts (Mientkiewicz followed Ortiz's Fosbury Flop with a K), there are just too many wacky plays in this wacky game to review. By the way, Sheffield just led off the thirteenth with a strikeout and a passed ball by Varitek to reach at first. The oddest thing may be that I am choosing to watch this game instead of Brandon Backe possibly making history in the NLCS game (the reason for which I cannot mention because I have scruples unlike Joe Buck). That game I am watching in picture-in-a-picture.

The Yankees have not scored since the sixth inning when starter Pedro Martinez last pitched. They have faced an array of six mostly dead-tired relievers, including game three starter Bronson "Don't Call Me Brandon (Timmy Mac)" Arroyo on one day's rest. They did have opportunities though. Speaking of which, Jason Varitek just registered his third passed ball on the inning trying to catch Tim Wakefield's kunckler moving the runner to third. Oh, but of course, Sierra struck out to end the rally. Back to the sixth, the Yankees trailing 2-1 scored three runs on a double by Derek Jeter. The last runner, Miguel Cairo, had a great evasive slide but may have been out.

After Gordon gave up a lead-off solo homer to Ortiz to start the eighth. The Red Sox then relived the game four comeback with a no-out walk to Millar then being replaced by pinch-runner Dave Roberts, who later scored the tying run.

In the top of the ninth, the Yankees narrowly missed scoring the go-ahead run. With two outs and Ruben Sierra, who walked, on first, Tony Clark hit a ball deep to the right field corner on a 1-2 pitch. The ball bounced on the warning track, glanced off the top of the wall, and went into the stands for an automatic double. Sierra who certainly would have scored had to stop at third, and the next batter, Cairo, fouled out.

The bottom of the ninth started very encouragingly for the Red Sox. Johnny Damon, who has been flailing at pitches worse and worse as the series progresses, eviscerated his bat on a 1-2 pitch inside but was able to reach on an infield single. He, however, got himself thrown out on the next pitch as if god had corrected the himself. [By the way Damon just walked with one out in the 14th. Let's see if he goes again.]

In the bottom of the tenth with one out, Mientkiewicz went from 3-0 to a full count and then battled with three fouls before doubling to right. He moved up to third on Kapler's fielder's choice ground out, but was stranded there were Varitek popped up to end the inning.

In the bottom of the eleventh, the Red Sox started the inning with two singles to right (from Mueller and Bellhorn, on an 0-2 pitch). Bellhorn's single came after he failed to lay down a bunt to go to 0-2. Damon attempted a bunt on the next pitch and popped out to Posada. On that play Buck thought that Paul Quantrill was singling for Posada to drop the ball and go for two. It turns out that he re-injured his knee. But that didn’t prevent Tim McCarver from proclaiming that the ball wasn't hit high enough for the Infield Fly rule to apply. Well, I have to admit (begrudgingly) that McCarver was right but for the wrong reason. You see, the Infield Fly rule does not apply to bunt attempts:

An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out… If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare “Infield Fly, if Fair.” The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.

It turns out that the point was moot once Orlando Cabrera hit a hard grounder for a 6-4-3 double play.

Then there was Ortiz getting caught stealing in the 12th. The Yankees left runners at second and third to end the top of the 13th after the three Varitek passed balls.

That brings us back to the bottom of the fourteenth. When last we left it Damon had drawn a one-out walk on five pitches. After Cabrera struck out, Ramirez walked. Then came a ten-pitch at-bat for David Ortiz to end it. After getting called strike on the outside corner and a ball outside, Ortiz then fouled off six of the next seven pitches (the other was a ball low and outside), including one deep to right that was about ten feet foul. On the tenth pitch, Ortiz fisted a ball with a little too much plate into center. As Damon scampered home, Bernie Williams could only hold the ball. That was almost six hours after the game started.

The Red Sox now send the series into game 6, trailing three games to two, and incredibly, these teams do not get a day off to travel and recuperate since they lost that to a rainout of the original game three. However, that they are returning to the Bronx in and of itself seemed highly improbable after the way the Yanks won game number three. Of the 25 best-of-seven series that started with one team winning three games, only two went to six games and none have gone to seven. Tomorrow will have Curt Schilling on the mound, and more wackiness will ensue.

I now switch to the Astros-Cards, a game almost subsumed by the one that started about three and one half hours before it, only to find Brandon Backe, who had been throwing the no-hitter I could not mention earlier, being pulled to start the ninth in favor of closer Brad Lidge. Each team had one hit and no runs. More wackiness, but I'm too tired to stay up any more. I'll have to entrust this one to my VCR and MLB.TV.

OK, I lied. Jeff Kent just hit a massive three-run homer off the façade at Minute Maid on a first-pitch high fastball to put the Astros up three games to two. Of course, the rally started with a single by Carlos Beltran, on a 2-0 pitch to lead off the bottom of the ninth. A fly out by Bagwell, a stolen base by him, an intentional walk to Berkman brought Kent to the plate. All this came off closer Jason Isringhausen. Oh, and for more wackiness, Bagwell hit a foul fly off the roof that was immediately dead due to the ground rules.

I'm beat. I've got to go to bed. I can't take any more of this.

(Oh, by the way, both managers can be second guessed for pulling pitchers early. Torre could and probably should have let Mussina pitch the seventh with the bullpen in tatters. It caused overworked Gordon and Rivera to pitch longer and possibly allowed the Red Sox to tie. Francona used and then pulled game three starter Bronson Arroyo after just one inning perfect inning with two Ks in the tenth though that one did not cost him.)

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