Jim Riggleman had a decision to make.
With his struggling Mariners holding on to a narrow 4-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth, the situation called for the team's closer to come in and attempt to slam the door on its opponent. But for as terrific as he'd been for much of the season, lately Brandon Morrow had found himself in a rut, allowing three home runs over two consecutive blown saves, the most recent coming just the day before. The hard times were uncharacteristic, and they had done a number on Morrow's previously blossoming confidence.
And so Riggleman was faced with his decision. Try to squeeze a save out of somebody else, or allow Morrow to return to the scene of yesterday's crime in an effort to restore his shattered aplomb?
Riggleman never had any doubts.
For many, his choice was reminiscent of Terry Francona's controversial decision to bring Pedro Martinez into Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. With the Yankees trailing 7-1 and the stadium completely silent, Martinez's insertion - intended to let him conquer his demons - brought the crowd to life, as chants of "Who's your daddy?" rained down from the upper deck and inspired a late Yankee charge. The rally ultimately fell short, but even during Boston's postgame celebration, many wondered why on earth Francona would dare set a spark to such ignitable tinder.
The conditions were similar for Riggleman, who knew that bringing Morrow into the game would be setting him up for either successful redemption or spectacular failure. There was no in-between. Morrow would jog in with the Kauffman crowd in a frenzy and leave either the hammer or the nail, a new man or a beaten one. This was a decision upon which people would reflect for weeks, if not months, and no one better understood the daunting magnitude than the man at the helm. But the more Riggleman thought about it, the more he realized he didn't really have a choice. This was how it had to be. And so it was that Brandon Morrow shed his jacket and entered the game, armed only with a fastball and the knowledge that the next five minutes were to be the most trying five minutes of his life.
Eager and anxious, Riggleman watched on from the dugout as Morrow made quick work of John Buck for the second out of the inning. The strikeout left David DeJesus as the only thing standing between Morrow and the high of all highs or the low of all lows. David DeJesus, the very batter who not 24 hours before had been the agent by which Morrow's psyche was delivered an unthinkable blow. On the heels of such dramatic buildup, time seemed to stop in anticipation of a breathtaking climax.
A ball. A strike. A strike. A ball. The battle raged on until, on the eighth pitch, DeJesus lifted a fly ball to deep left-center that Raul Ibanez flagged down by the track. The game was complete, and Morrow exhaled a champion, having vanquished his foe on the grandest of stages. Gone were the memories of tragedy and heartbreak. His confidence soaring, no more shall Morrow concern himself with thoughts of inadequacy. For Brandon Morrow had earned this save by getting DeJesus to hit a fly ball like ten feet shorter than he had the previous afternoon. And if that's not domination, I don't know what is.
Biggest Contribution: Jeff Clement, +24.1%
Biggest Suckfest: Yuniesky Betancourt, -18.6%
Most Important AB: Clement homer, +37.5%
Most Important Pitch: Aviles single, -13.0%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +28.7%
Total Contribution by Lineup: -34.7%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +56.0%
(What is this chart?)
If Carlos Silva could face the Royals 30 times a year, he might not be so epically untradeable.