This day brought everything you could ever ask for; from late inning come from behind victories, walk off winners and even a no-hitter. I’d like to give my account of the day as I was either watching or listening to all the heroics and grand endings. This is also a day I hope to look at five to 10 years from now and smile remembering how magnificent it was.
My day started off by listening and watching to what I thought would be a great pitching matchup between Ricky Romero and Matt Harrison. This game ended up being an 11-5 blowout for the Blue Jays, which should have signified something crazy was going to happen today.
With that game well in hand I flipped over to listen to the end of the Tigers game where Justin Verlander was losing 2-0 to the Royals; another sign of the apocalypse. But a two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th by Brennan Boesch saved the day for the moment and I figured the Tigers would find a way to beat the struggling Royals.
Instead of sending Verlander back for the ninth, Jim Leyland decided to go with Joaquin Benoit. Although Verlander had thrown 123 pitches, he had struck out four of the last five batters he faced and clearly had more in the tank, but in the era of pitch counts he wasn’t given a chance to continue.
Well, lo and behold a Mike Moustakas double and a Chris Getz single later and the Royals had taken a 3-2 lead. Jonathan Broxton came on in the bottom of the ninth to finish off the Tigers.
Two games, two unlikely outcomes.
After I finish off my day of “work” I got home in time to watch the end of the Dodgers-Rockies afternoon contest. Another ace, Clayton Kershaw, was still on the mound for the Dodgers who had just taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth. Kershaw was sent back out in the bottom of the eighth, but unlike Verlander, his day should have been done.
After a Marco Scutaro single to start the inning manager Don Mattingly should have signaled to the bullpen, but it’s easier to second guess now and I applaud the young manager for sticking with his ace. But after a sacrifice bunt, Dexter Fowler singled to tie the game up at three. Still Kershaw was left in the game and Carlos Gonzalez connected for his second home run of the game and now the Rockies were on top 5-3.
Then came another managerial blunder, which was also a decision everyone would have agreed with. The hottest hitter in the game, Matt Kemp, stepped up to the plate as the tying run in the top of the ninth and manager Jim Tracy decided to intentionally walk him to pitch to skinny little Dee Gordon. Gordon made them pay for this by driving one in the gap scoring both runners and tying the game … again!
Things couldn’t get any crazier, right?
Well in the bottom of the ninth with runners on second and third with only one out the Rockies turned to 41-year-old Jason Giambi. Still a big guy late in his career, probably attributed to steroid use, Giambi cranked one over the center field wall for the first walk off victory of the day and put an end to an incredible back-and-forth game.
Now that the afternoon games were over I had a little break to relax from all the excitement. I sat down and started to watch the Nationals-Diamondbacks game as well as the Athletics-Red Sox game.
As I left for church I hadn’t even checked to see what the score was in the Braves-Phillies game. I guess you could say I was a little nervous and frustrated from the game the night before. The Phillies had owned us (the Braves) for nine straight games now and I couldn’t take any more punishment.
After church I checked my twitter feed, which was going crazy after a grand slam by Brian McCann off Roy Halladay to tie the game at six. My first thought was, “What in the world happened to Tommy Hanson?” But as I got home and put the game on the radio I realized the umpire had a tight strike zone forcing pitchers to throw the ball down the middle.
By the time I got settled into my recliner the Phillies had already regained the lead 9-8 and I began to get sick. On the TV I turned on the Nats-Dbacks game as things were getting interesting late.
It was 4-3 heading into the ninth with Bryce Harper due to lead off the bottom of the inning for the Nationals. As he swung I thought, “this ball is gone.” The 19-year-old didn’t even start his swing until the ball was at home plate showing off his tremendous bat speed, but the ball fell just short of reaching the seats and he settled for a double. After the next two batters struck out I felt like the magic was gone.
In steps Ian Desmond. The top prospect who was drafted way back when the team was still the Montreal Expos. He delivered on of the biggest hits of his career and in Nationals history. He got his hands on top of a high fastball and delivered it into the stands for a two-run walk off home run. The second of the day!
With that game over I fully turned my attention back to the Braves-Phillies. After scoring three more in the top of the eighth and taking a four run lead my hopes were dwindling. But after an error by the Phillies great defensive short stop Jimmy Rollins put two on with no outs I thought we had a chance to at least cut their lead in half. A single, walk, walk and another single later and the Braves had tied it up! And they still had a runner on third with only one out.
Freddie Freeman lifted a ball to center, which easily scored the speedy Michael Bourn from third giving the Braves a 13-12 lead and signaling the call to the bullpen for Craig Kimbrel. The last time Kimbrel came out to save a game against the Phillies it had cost the Braves a shot at the playoffs.
With the nerves getting to him he walked the leadoff hitter, who eventually came around to score tying the game … again. The Braves loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning but failed to push across a run and we headed to extras.
The next nine batters in the game were retired in order. Then came the bottom of the 11th.
Chipper Jones is no doubt a first ballot Hall of Famer and has nothing left to prove. He’s announced his retirement and anything that happens for him this year is just icing on the cake.
A Dan Uggla single started off the inning, which is rare because normally Braves hitters look to end the game with one swing in these situations causing them to lose a lot of games like this. But with Uggla on first and Chipper up at the plate I felt like he would do his job to get a base hit and try to move Uggla to third.
On the sixth pitch of the at bat Brian Sanches hung a slider to the 40-year-old veteran and Chipper crushed it deep down the line and as the announcers voice grew louder and louder I thought this can’t be real … and it wasn’t. The ball went just foul and the great Braves’ announcer Don Sutton mentioned something about his daughters’ softball team making a cheer to keep that ball fair.
That cheer must have worked because two pitches later the greatest hitter in the history of the Braves organization, a legend in this game, connected for a walk off two-run homer to relinquish all of the pain from last year’s loss in game 162 against the rival Phillies.
Before the old man had reached home plate I had dialed up a text of my own to his biggest fan, my dad. A night like this is exactly why we watch these games.
As our hero would go on to say to Atlanta Journal Constitution’s David O’Brian after the game, “It was epic,” Jones said. “It should be on instant classic. That game was phenomenal.”
In deed it was. A night I’ll never forget.
But this night was not over for a baseball fan. After reading and getting into bed I decided to check my Twitter feed again to read some of the aftermath from the Braves big win. I saw the several people were tweeting that Jered Weaver was working a no hitter through six innings. At this point in the day I knew that things were going to be crazy and a no-hitter would be the ultimate exclamation point to a day like this.
Being dead tired I dared not get out of bed to watch the ending, but instead I listened to the game on my phone as I acted like I was trying to fall asleep. Luckily the Angels hitters, who were up 9-0, took some quick swings to help get Weaver back out on the mound. He continued mowing Minnesota Twins hitters down. It just sounded so easy as the announcer detailed out after out.
Weaver is a stand-up guy for the sport of baseball. One of the few players who took a discount to stay at home and pitch for the fans he truly loves, something teammate Albert Pujols could learn from him. With his family and wife in attendance Weaver breezed through the ninth inning to record the no-hitter.
The radio announcer described the scene as magical. His family embracing him as tears streamed out saying, “Now this is the way a no-hitter should be celebrated.”
This was a classic day indeed and one that should be celebrated for days, months and years to come. This is why we watch every day. Baseball is an amazing sport and if you’re not watching you’re going to miss something spectacular.
This day will forever serve as a reminder for why we continue to support and be entertained by this historically elegant drama filled sport we call baseball.
You can follow Jake on Twitter at: @ShortStopBall