With tickets to three September games at Nationals Park in hand, I decided to break in my new Baseball Score Book to get it ready for the playoffs. The ring binder on my old score book had a “notebook malfunction” on our August road trip, so the timing seemed right.
The idea of the September call-up is standard in baseball. Rosters expand on September 1st and promising players come up to the big club from the minors. On losing teams these rookies get to play regularly to show they should make the ball club next year. On teams going to the postseason, like the Nats, the call-ups may provide an occasional day-off for a regular, but more often than not they fill specialized roles. (Need a pinch runner, turn to the speedy Michael Taylor.)
So I have now given my September call-up three chances. If he was coming out of the bullpen, my score book would be 0-3 with about a 10.00 ERA. If he was a batter, he would be well below the Mendoza line.
I wrote about this debacle after returning home from the game. Beautiful night. I am there with my colleague Paul from work. This is the first night the new Section 313 cheer sign is unveiled.
Strasburg is cruising. He leaves with a 5-1 lead. It grows to 7-2.
Then Soriano happens. Again.
Oh my – take a look at that ninth inning score card. The first batter – Dominic Brown – singles. Then Soriano gives up a 2-run home to Carlos Ruiz. It is now 7-6. But Soriano gets the next two batters on a ground ball to second and a strikeout. Just one out to go.
And Ben Revere steps to the plate. He’s had one home run in 2014. Shouldn’t frighten anyone. So Soriano promptly gives us…
…a home run that ties the game. 8 innings of great baseball wasted. It breaks your heart.
And my score book captured it all.
If you can’t read the note at the top of the page capturing the Soriano fiasco, I wrote,
Soriano meltdown in 9th, giving up a 7-4 lead. Paul Edmondson and I leave after 9. Game goes 11. Phillies win 9-8.
Okay, everybody has the occasional O-fer. They wear the collar. Tomorrow’s another day. You play them one day at a time. The kid could bounce back. I threw him back out the next day.
(Yes, I know my baseball cliches.)
He did better. It wasn’t a complete meltdown, but it was also pretty lack-luster, especially against a team as bad as the Phillies have been this year. If you want to play in the postseason, my score book would have to play like he wanted to be there. At the end of the evening, the Nats had dropped a 3-1 game. Once again, my score book captured it all.
So last evening was it. My friend Dolores – whose family is part of our season ticket group – and I were at the ballpark for our final regular-season game of 2014. It was a picture-perfect evening. I ran into Craig Albright and Jim Quigley from St. Albans – checking out the Albright’s new Section 313 seats and getting ready for the playoffs. The Nats were playing game 4 of back-to-back doubleheaders. Most importantly, they had clinched National League home-field advantage up to the World Series earlier in the day.
Which meant we got to cheer for the Syracuse Chiefs last night – the September call-ups.
Jayson Werth – one of two regulars in the line-up – came within a home-run of hitting for the cycle. The Nats went up early 3-1. Pitcher Taylor Hill, making his first major league start, got his first hit.
But then Taylor Hill got hit by a fifth…inning, that is.
Just look. Two quick outs. Cruising. Just has to get through this inning and he has a chance to gain a win.
Then he hits Casey McGahee. That is followed by a single, a double, an intentional walk, a triple, and another double. (Perhaps the Marlins were trying to get their own type of cycle.) Five runs and the floodgates were opened. The worst was Craig Stamen, who was rocked from the first pitch he made. Soriano came on in his new role as “come in when it is safe to enter the water” reliever and actually should have had a 1-2-3 inning, except for a dropped fly by Steve Souza, Jr. (Another September call-up.)
Final score: 15-7 Marlins.
Sometimes the manager and GM have to make tough calls. It is like the lady sitting next to me (and scoring the game, I might note), said about one-time starting second baseman for the Nationals Danny Espinosa: “I want to believe in Danny, but he makes it so hard.” (Espinosa’s line: HBP, 6-3, two Ks. Not a great night and – after batting .221 – not a good year.) I wanted to believe in my new score book. But after three looks, I’ve made my decision.
This kid is going back on the shelf. I can pull him back out and give him another chance in spring training, 2015. But no way will this guy jinx the Nationals 2014 postseason run. Everyone has to do their part to pull the Nats through.
N-A-T-S, Nats, Nats, Nats, Woo!
Bring on the postseason!
More to come…