July 18th: With the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the eighth of a tie game, Adrian Beltre works a walk off of Chad Bradford, giving the M's a 6-5 lead.
Like Moment #50, we're still with the O's, and still with Chad Bradford. Unlike Moment #50, this one was far, far less likely to play out as it did.
Given the foreboding matchup of Jarrod Washburn vs. Daniel Cabrera, one had to be ecstatic with the Mariners' 5-1 lead halfway through the game. That they so much as found a way to make contact against Cabrera was nothing short of a Christmas miracle, and with Washburn in a groove against Baltimore's feeble lineup, at the time it felt like the final few innings were just a formality. God bless those midsummer tilts against the walkovers of the American League.
But then things started to happen. Horrible things. The Orioles narrowed the gap in the sixth and, with Jarrod getting ready to start the 7th at 92 pitches, you knew the ride was about to get bumpy. Single. Double. RBI lineout. RBI single. In came Sherrill, but a walk and bloop "single" between Betancourt and a charging Broussard later, the bases were loaded with total pains in the ass. While no one else would reach base in the inning, Markakis tied the score with a sac fly to left. Suddenly it was up to the Mariners to awake from the familiar coma they slipped into whenever they established a reasonably comfortable early lead. We did our best to help by yelling a lot.
Slowly - ever so slowly - they started to once again become cognizant of their surroundings. It took an inning, but the bottom of the eighth brought us more of the charitable blessing that is Baltimore's bullpen, and within four batters we had the bases full with one batter down for a pinch-hitting Raul Ibanez. Against a righty specialist like Bradford, you couldn't have drawn up a better situation for Raul to succeed. All he needed to do was draw a walk or hit the ball hard against a guy whose platoon splits worked wildly and uncontrollably in Raul's favor.
Of course, this being July, Raul was busy sucking like he'd never sucked before. Scroll down in the game thread to 9:48 and read on to see what I'm talking about. This wasn't the "oh sweet Raul's up, now if only we could do something about his defense" Raul Ibanez of August and September. This was the "if we all say we did it by ourselves then the police can't arrest any of us for killing the stupid son of a bitch" Raul Ibanez of July.
Raul quickly fell behind 0-2 and grounded weakly to first, allowing Millar to get the force at home. (Keep reading the game thread, unless there are children nearby.)
With two down and the rally on the line, our hearts got heavy, because that meant it was time for Adrian Beltre. Now, ordinarily we're all collectively the second-biggest Beltre fan on the planet, but in this particular situation, I think we knew exactly how things were going to go against a submarining reliever who'd been eating batters up for the better part of a decade. Bradford would pitch around the zone, but never in it, and Beltre would get himself out by swinging at crap. The only thing of which we weren't certain was whether the final nail would come on a high fastball or a low-outside slider.
While we sat there feeling sorry for ourselves, though, Beltre got ahead 3-1. Could it be? Could one of the most reliably overaggressive Mariners in recent history really draw a walk against pretty much the one guy you'd never want him to face in a game?
Strike two was a good pitch that Beltre watched fly by. That was the right idea.
Swinging at ball four wasn't.
The sixth pitch of the at bat was well out of the zone, but Beltre chased and fouled it off. The natives were displeased. One more foul later and we were right back to feeling the smothering curtain of dejected acceptance that you get when you know that you can tell the future, and the future sucks.
Then the eighth pitch missed by twelve feet.
You know a pitch has something special on it when it misses the zone by so much that Adrian Beltre doesn't even flinch. A walk may not be the most invigorating way to score the go-ahead run, but it's all the same to Red.
Shortly thereafter, in a moment of staggering irony, JJ Putz would slam the door by getting little bitch Brian Roberts to ground out to second to end the game. And, for another night, King Awesome was a hero. Anyone can be clutch if you throw bad enough pitches.