Atypical Games — Part 1
The Tides’ games of Saturday, September 3, and Monday, September 5 were the last games of the 2011 season that I worked. Often, the last games of the season reflect the season. However, these games not only did not particularly reflect the past season, these games were very unusual for any baseball games.
On Saturday, the Durham Bulls took advantage of almost every opportunity Tides starting pitcher Mitch Atkins provided them. It is true that in the second inning, Atkins hit two batters with pitches and Durham failed to score. But in the third inning, Atkins walked two batters before Matt Carson hit a three-run home run. In the sixth inning, Atkins walked Carson before Dan Johnson hit a two-run home run. Immediately afterward, Leslie Anderson doubled and scored on Daniel Mayora’s hit. Those were the only baserunners Durham had in Atkins’ six innings of work.
The Tides batters could not produce much offense against Durham starter Alex Torres and two relief pitchers, and trailed 6-1 going into the bottom of the ninth. Durham brought in Jay Buente to pitch. Buente is probably the worst pitcher in Durham’s bullpen, and the Bulls probably thought that even Jay Buente couldn’t blow the lead. They were right — sort of. Buente walked the first two batters he faced. After a fielder’s choice forceout at second base, Blake Davis singled in a run and Tyler Henson reached on an infield singled to load the bases. Durham decided that they didn’t want to find out if Jay Buente could blow the lead and brought in closer Rob Delaney. Josh Bell crushed a Delaney pitch to the wall in center field, about 405 feet from the plate. The ball was caught, but the runner on third scored and the runner on second advanced to third. The next batter, Brandon Snyder, ran the count to 3-2 and I told the official scorer “Swing-and-a-miss.” I was wrong; Snyder did swing and drove the ball into the left-field picnic area for a game-tying 3-run home run, capping a most improbable comeback.
But that only tied the game. The Tides brought in their closer, Mark Worrell, to pitch the tenth inning. Fairly or not, I remembered Worrell as someone who, after the Tides had come back late in the game to tie or take the lead, surrendered the runs that cost the Tides their win. But on this night, he gave up a mere single and held Durham scoreless.
In the bottom of the tenth, Brendan Harris led off with a ground ball that deflected off third baseman Daniel Mayora’s glove. Shortstop Tim Beckham raced toward the hole, caught the ball, turned and lept into the air, and managed to fire a strike to first base that ALMOST beat Harris to first. After a sacrifice bunt and a passed ball, Jacob Julius hit the sacrifice fly that gave the Tides an unusual come-from-behind win.
I suppose I might have been responsible for making that game-winning run an unearned run. The official scorer’s initial decision on the pitch that advanced Harris from second to third was “wild pitch”. I told him that I disagreed. The scorer looked at the videotape replay and decided to change his call to “passed ball”. It’s likely that if I hadn’t said anything, the initial call would have stood. While I have been critical of team personnel influencing official scorer’s decisions, I believe this to be different because (1) I wasn’t influencing the decision to the benefit of a player or another and (2) I would have accepted his decision not to change his ruling. There’s a big difference between getting multiple opinions to make the best decision possible and ordering the scorer to issue a beneficial ruling.