The first two innings of Wednesday morning’s River Cats 9-7 roller coaster loss to the Tacoma Raniers were very uneventful. The only man to reach base was Matt Watson, and he did so on a walk. Everyone else from either team who stepped to the plate was set down with alacrity. There was no sign of the slugfest to come.
Four pop outs, two fly outs, a couple ground outs, three K’s and a line out. The innings flew by. By 11:50, a mere 15 minutes into the game, it was 22.22 percent over. If they’d kept up that pace, they may have set some kind of record.
The first two outs of the top of the third came nearly as quickly. I was beginning to speculate as to the length of the shortest game in professional baseball history and what to do with the rest of my afternoon. It turns out the record was never in jeopardy. On September 28, 1918, the New York Giants beat the Philidelphia Phillies, 6 to 1, in 51 minutes.
Eziequiel Carrerra ended my reverie when he crushed a double to center field. The next batter, Ramon Vazquez, hit the ball sharply to the left of first basemen Chris Carter, who gave a halfhearted swipe at the ball before watching it roll into the right field corner.
The official scorer originally deemed it an error, and it certainly appeared to be an E3 from my vantage point. I was reminded of Corbin Bernson’s character in "Major League," Roger Dorn. More specifically, his tendency to swipe at balls that he should have gotten in front of. Which led coach Lou Brown to exclaim in a voice that sounded like whiskey-soaked gravel, "Get in front of the damn ball! Don’t give me this ole’ bull#$%$"
Carter would be well served to follow coach Brown’s advice if he hopes to play first base in the majors. The play now shows up as an RBI double in the box score, but that is being exceedingly generous, or forgiving. The play should have been made, and the inning should have been over.
The next batter, Jack Hanahan, took a walk, but not before his batt slipped out of his hands on a mighty cut and ended up nearly braining a waitress in the front row, behind the Raniers dugout. It buzzed the servers tower and clipped a gentleman in the back. Luckily, Alex saw the bat coming and protected his young daughter Frida from the projectile.
Alex passed the bat around. It was a Josh Bard San Diego Padres signature model. I’m not sure how that works. The Raniers are the Mariners’ AAA squad. But soon, he received a visit by a River Cats staff member. It turned out Hanahan was fond of the Louisville Slugger he’d donated to the crowd, and wanted it back. It was switched with an Adrien Cardenas model, and everyone was happy.
The next batter, Brad Nelson, hit a legit double to deep center that cleared the bases. The damage was done. When the River Cats came to the plate in the bottom of the inning, they trailed 3-0.
The Cats were able to answer, however, owing in large part to their sparkplugs at the top of the order, Corey Wimberley and Eric Sogard. I continue to be impressed by these two high-energy guys. They never give up at bats, they work hard, and they go full speed, all game. If Carter and Michael Taylor played with the passion, consistency and drive of these two kids, they’d be playing their ball in Oakland.
The rabbits put together three singles before recent addition Matt Watson cleared the bases with a game-tying double. The next batter, catcher Josh Donaldson, crushed a ball to right field that Tacoma’s right fielder, Mike Wilson, caught before crashing violently into the fence. Matt Watson was able to tag up and score from second as Wilson recovered from the collision.
The next batter, Carter, made amends for his earlier miscue by hitting a mammoth shot over the 403-foot sign in centerfield. 5-3, River Cats
After a few uneventful innings, the home team tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth on Taylor’s RBI single. He also showed his athleticism by stealing second to get into scoring position, but was left stranded when Brett Harper struck out.
It remained 6-3 in the top of the eighth, when I allowed myself to consider, briefly, the possibility of a River Cats victory. This was the fourth game that I’d attended, and they’d lost the first three. Surely, this would be the game where they get off the schnide!
The Rainiers proceeded to put up four runs in the inning to retake the lead, never to trail again. An error and a walk put runners on first and seconded with nobody out. Tommy Everidge singled sharply to Carter’s right. The first baseman made a less-than-heroic lunge for the ball, and the big inning was under way.
Now, I’m not saying that he should have made the play, or even could have made the play. But it certainly seemed like he could have gone after it with a little more gusto. He could have gotten dirty at least. In the next inning, on a similarly hit ball that was farther out of his reach, he decided to dive. I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one who felt his effort had been lacking.
The Cats went down with a whimper in the eighth.
Tacoma added two runs in the ninth on a two-run blast from Hanahan. When he returned to the dugout, I asked him if he’d hit it with the bat that had spent most of the third inning in the stands.
"Nah, it was another one" he answered, with a sheepish grin.
Those two runs proved to be the difference in the game when the Rivercats staged a two-out rally after the first two batters went down meekly. The rally was keyed by Cardenas, Wimberley and Sogard … who else? They managed to plate Cardenas and get the would-be-winning run to the plate, but Watson popped out to second to end the game.
The home team is now 0-4 in games I’ve attended. At least baseball players aren’t superstitious. Oh, right.
Fifth time’s a charm!
Most of the pictures are mine, but the good ones (#’s 17-20) are the work of Ahsan Awan
If you’d like to discuss outfield shifts or infield flies, I can be reached at [email protected]