I've often wondered what would happen if a baseball game just never ended. I mean, we had that fun 18-inning affair with the Orioles from a few years back, and I live just down the road from McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, which was home to the longest professional baseball game in history, taking two days, and thirty-three innings to complete. There have certainly been contenders.
None of which is to say that today's 12-inning, four-plus hour race to the bottom was a nightmare or anything. But the fact of the matter is that this here baseball game gave us two teams violently treading water, each underperforming in their own particular fashion and helmed by a toothless manager whose thin layer of gilding is only now starting to wear off. In one corner, the 43-52 Mariners, trotting out an anemic offense filled with completely competent hitters such as Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and fuck it, just look, they are bad okay? This team today combined for 1-12 with runners in scoring position, a statement which may have caused you deep concern in April but is now just a part of the wallpaper.
And then in the other, the 47-47 Tigers, pouting in the corner as their to-be Dynasty either stands ready to completely blow everything up or buy a few pieces for a late-season run. Rationality never sold newspapers, but boy take one step into Tigers twitter and you'll see how much these folks are loving their baby-faced manager these days:
In my almost 40 years of watching Detroit sports, Brad Ausmus is CLEARLY in the bottom five of managers/coaches that I’ve seen.— Jeff Moss (@JeffMossDSR) July 22, 2015
Can't hear Brad Ausmus in the press conference, but I'll bet he's explaining that today's loss isn't his fault. #Tigers— Chris Yates (@CPY87) July 23, 2015
@Jack_Diedrick Brad Ausmus is probably the most incompetent manager I've ever seen.— Andrew Acuna (@AcunaAndrew) July 23, 2015
So here we are, four-and-a-half-hours past those aforementioned records with one obnoxious and yet strangely fulfilling baseball games in the books. The Tigers, now a game under .500 at 47-48, are probably utterly furious that they also went 1-12 with RISP despite having hitters such as Yoenis Cespedes, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez in the lineup. Fans are probably baffled that Brad Ausmus made Anthony Gose bunt against Tom Wilhelmsen in the 12th inning after Chris Taylor scored the go-ahead-run, because Tom Wilhelmsen is currently letting lefties on base at a clip of .473 this season. FOUR SEVENTY THREE. The word, again:
But I digress. It all started out innocuously enough, with a Kyle Seager dinger off Tigers' starter David Price in the first, which broke an 0-10 streak by Sweet Prince against the
Ray Tiger Los Angeles Angel? It was the first pitch Seager saw, 93, straight-on, and belt high in the middle of the zone. It would also be the only time the Mariners made it past second base until the seventh inning.
Meanwhile, Hisashi Iwakuma started off the game with a bit of a hiccup, giving up back-to-back singles from leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler and Yoenis Cespedes, both of whom scored a moment later on a double to Victor Martinez. And by the time the Tigers were up two with no outs on the books, Iwakuma was sitting at 11 pitches, ready to break your heart like he had been before he seemed to turn a corner a few weeks ago.
But not so fast. Take a look at his at-bat here to Ian Kinsler to lead off the game:
Kinsler has pretty decent plate discipline, swinging at about 27% of all pitches outside the zone and making contact on 95% of them. The question then becomes: what is the wisest way to approach a hitter such as Kinsler for the out? You can't just throw him junk hoping he'll Pablo Sandoval it, so you have to be smart. Leave too much in the zone, and you'll be bitten as well. Instead, by keeping things out of the zone and only close enough to generate minimal contact--he reached base on a splitter down at his knees--Kuma really only ended up on the side of an inevitable statistical event.
But after these three reached base? Well, it seems pretty fair to say Iwakuma is back. Here he is facing Kinsler for the second time in the third:
Note that this time Kuma is leaving his pitches out of the zone (except for four, dammit) as swing bait, giving them movement not only to deceive the eye but also to betray the bat if the hitter could be caught off guard. By this point in the game, his fastball was up to 91, which is where it needs to be to really make that 84mph splitter so deadly. The result? A well-crafted strikeout using both the zone and the outside to a hitter who can really only be reliably attacked with at least five pitches. And that's exactly the kind of thing that makes Iwakuma such a damn good pitcher. Well, that, and this:
But alas, the Mariners were doing their part to stay off the basepaths, partially because they are fucking obnoxious but also in part because David Price is pretty good at throwing baseballs. Things were looking pretty bleak until the seventh, until Cano came up to the plate.
Price threw Cano four pitches, each no more than five inches apart right in the center of the plate. How can he get away with this? Well, when he can it's because he's throwing an 89mph cutter, a 94mph fastball, an 80mph curveball, and then a 95mph fastball. Problem was, though, that Price was facing a former member of his division who had seen him once or twice. The result? Well, Cano took his knife and whacked one of those 95mph peas right off the dinner table, glared at his mother on the way to first and said no I do not like these vegetables, thank you very much. Kind of an asshole about it, but then I guess you can do whatever you want when you're making a quarter of a billion dollars.
After Guti struck out for the second out of the inning, Mark Trumbo came up to bat (oh god), but was able to watch Cano move into second after Price miscommunicated on a dirt ball with catcher James McCann. Then? Well, let's find out. Here's where the ball landed:
Now what I would love to do in this situation is embed a video or GIF from MLB showing you this very important play in detail, giving them the eyeballs and credit through the magic of HTML on the multi-platform user-based internet that is known as Web 2.0. I can't though. One thing I could do, is make a GIF of this play, showing you exactly how the Mariners were able to score despite the fact that J.D. Martinez and his great arm was well within striking distance of keeping the game within a run, but we all know how that would go. I could link you to the video, sure, but then you'd have to leave this page, watch an annoying beer ad that's longer than the play in question, and then you'd be off doing something without finishing this recap.
So instead, I'm going to show you exactly what happened in this here play to tie the game at 2 and give the Mariners a chance to eventually win in extras. Yes, just that. So after the ball bounces in front of Martinez, it gets by. Why? Well you see there was a
WAIT WHAT'S THAT
Something about all this tells me there is a more common sense alternative, but I'm at a loss as to what it would be.
So after the seventh, the game remained tied at two until the twelfth. Kuma ended the day with 7Ks and six hits, Mark Lowe did some fancy strikeouts, and Fernando Rodney, despite beaning the first batter he saw, escaped the inning with the game still intact. Poor Mike Zunino came back into the game after Brad pinch-hit-walked late in place of Sucre, and while there's certainly something funny to be said there it's actually kind of more depressing than anything. Still, the boys walked away from the whole thing wiht a 3-2 win, splitting the series with the Tigers and managing to keep their heads above water despite the fact that it's rising, rising to the neck.
But they didn't get eaten by a dinosaur. So you know, a win is a win. A game that should have, for all intents and purposes, never ended: the Tigers bullpen was depleted by the 12th, McClendon Managed© his way out of a bench with possible multiple innings left to be played. There were some awful baserunning mistakes--Nelson Cruz was thrown out trying to turn a single into a double AFTER he stopped to look at the ball's landing spot--and there were some lucky steals stopped by our two catchers who decided to take the day to remind us why they are still on the team. Arguably, and if we are being honest, fairly, they should still be playing right now. Both teams. Punished for this madness, the Tigers down one J.D. Martinez thanks to an errant dinosaur and just a whole bunch of bunt outs to let them SUFFER.
We don't get that, but alas, we can't always get what we want. We should just be happy for a win. But you know, Dinosaurs will eat you either way, so take your pick.