This past Sunday, my beloved New York Yankees lost a thoroughly uninteresting game to the Tampa Bay Rays. The loss dropped them into last place and saw their highest paid player exit with an injury. Sunday was also the best day of this young baseball season. If not in the Bronx, the thrilling games in Washington D.C. and in Phoenix reminded me once again how baseball can be so weird, so wild and so unlike any other game we have.
In Washington, Bryce Harper continued his Barry “Roy Hobbs” Bonds impression with a game-tying, pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. As the game went into extras, the Nationals ran out of available pinch hitters. Such is the curse of playing in the league that still requires players who can’t hit to…well…try to hit. The Twins scored in the 15th, and the Nationals were down to their last out. Oliver Perez was their last hope. Perez had not had a Major League plate appearance since I was an underclassman in high school, and I graduate college in less than a month. He didn’t stand a chance. I listened on the radio as he laid down a bunt. The catcher threw the ball away. Tied game. The Nationals would hit a walk-off home run the next inning. A pitcher who can’t hit had somehow saved the game. Baseball.
In Arizona, Paul Goldschmidt hit his own game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was his second homer of the game. Bryce Harper who? As the game meandered through extra innings, both teams began to run out of position players. After the Pirates scored two runs in the 12th, the Diamondbacks were forced to use Zach Greinke, their ace pitcher, as a pinch hitter. He got a hit. Of course he did. Arizona tied the game. For the next inning, they were forced to use another newly acquired hurler, Shelby Miller, as their left fielder. The game began to resemble one of the Little League contests where every player gets to try out every position; these were usually the ones where one kid would be told to play second base and would go and stand on the base until told to move. After Pittsburgh infielder Sean Rodriguez drove in the clinching run on a double, he hit over Miller in left field, and the Pirates turned to Jon Niese, yet another pitcher, as their pinch hitter. Niese would single and drive in an insurance run. Two pitchers. Two pinch-hit singles. The game would end when the Diamondbacks were forced to let two pitchers hit for themselves in the bottom of the 13th. They both struck out. A disappointing end, yes. But even the baseball Gods knew that the impossibilities had to stop eventually.
As this season ambles on through the summer, most everyone will forget about these two wacky games on this Sunday in April. The baseball season is long and unforgiving. The sports world moves on to bigger, flashier and newer stories each and every day. Sometimes, I need to take a moment to appreciate the fleeting ones.