Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sometimes You've Gotta Wait Until the Bottom of the 9th

Last night's Indians v Rockies game is a great metaphor for patience.  The two teams set up for their interleague play in Cleveland and it turned out to be a pitcher's duel:  Indians Ace Corey Kluber vs young Rockies up-and-comer German Márquez.  Kluber gave up a second-pitch-of-the-game home run to center fielder Charlie Blackmon and that remained the difference all the way until the 9th inning.  Kluber, aka "Klubot," pitched a beauty besides that unfortunate HR in the 1st, striking out 11 batters in the full nine innings pitched.  I watched this game wishing for a miracle, saying out loud, "It really would suck if Kluber got the loss on this game -- complete game, essentially perfect except for the one mistake..."  If you've never watched Kluber pitch, you guys, you really should.  He's a monster, a machine.  He just remains calm at all times, rarely giving up walks and rarely losing the game.  He deserved this win.  But would he get it?

Márquez left the game for the Rockies after the 6th and the bullpen parade that came after him proceeded just like he had: consistent, confident, rarely working into jams.  But still -- it was a one-run game.  We just needed one run to tie it, even, just to give Kluber the chance for his tenth win of the season.

Bottom of the 9th, the Indians were down to their final three outs -- it was do or die time and they'd have to do it against Greg Holland, one of the best closers in baseball this season.  The first batter up, Jose Ramirez, popped out.  Then Edwin Encarnacion drew a walk, which lead to substituting Brandon Guyer as a pinch runner.  Carlos Santana struck out to leave the Tribe down to their final out.  Bradley Zimmer drew Walk #2 of the inning, positioning runners at first and second.  My guys were making Holland work -- which is always the key, especially for closers or any bullpen guy whose job is usually to throw as few pitches as possible.  The more these guys have to labor, the harder it is for them to be effective.  Holland had already thrown something like 25 pitches when up to bat comes Austin Jackson who bloops a single, bringing Guyer home to tie the game.

I was on my feet, doing a dance, so psyched, but barely even had time to soak that in before Yan Gomes hit one of the first pitches he saw into the bleachers for a walk-off 3-run home run.  Final score: Indians 4, Rockies 1.  Ballgame.

It. Was. So. Fucking. Awesome.

There's something so memorable and special about these 9th inning victories -- all of Progressive Field still packed to the gills with screaming fans there to watch Gomes get mobbed at home plate.  It's its own brand of exhilaration, especially when Gomes says in a post-game interview, "We had to find a way to win it for Kluber."  It's connected, it's social, it's the fusion of goals, it's teamwork.  I listened to a podcast once where someone referred to baseball as the only "individual sport team sport," and a game like last night's very beautifully illustrates this point.  Clearly, if it was so simple to hit home runs or even just play small ball to get guys across home plate, the scores would be astronomical -- it wasn't like the Indians weren't trying to get those runs across earlier in the game to give Kluber -- and the team -- the big W.  But the energy had to be right, the momentum had to be in their favor for the Jackson/Gomes one-two boom game-ender.  

It's a good reminder that sometimes you have to wait for those victories -- you've got to be patient and steady and constantly working.  It won't always end like last night's game did (somewhere a poor Rockies fan is blogging the opposite of this, for example), but having memories of things like this in my back pocket are true nuggets of "everything will be ok."  Sometimes you've got to power through inning after inning after inning of maintenance before the most exciting thing possible happens.  

Thank you, baseball, for being this constant source of uplifting inspiration.  It helps me play my figurative nine innings every day.  Keep these great moments comin'...

Originally posted on the Inspired in 2017 blog on August 9, 2017.

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