Friday nights, in a perfect world, are great for blowing off steam, cutting loose, and letting go of the previous work week. They are also quite good for walk-off baseball victories, even in a lost season. More on that later. But, first, the Tigers!
In one of the strangest double plays I've ever seen ... Nola bobbles a Dixon grounder, grabs it, steps on his base for the out. But, Cabrera decided not to run to second, and Nola tagged him sliding back to first.— Lauren Smith (@smithlm12) July 27, 2019
Anyway, Kikuchi is out of the fourth, but it's still 2-0 Tigers.
I have nothing but the utmost respect for Miguel Cabrera as a ballplayer and his awe-inspiring career, but hey, this shit happens to the best of them (side eyes Robinson Canó absentmindedly wandering off third base in Dodger Stadium). But, yeah, this is the Tigers in 2019. The team with 30 wins at the end of July. The team with 2 position players with names I recognize even as someone who follows the game fairly closely, particularly the AL.
So a two run lead did not exactly seem insurmountable, even with a Mariners team that was purposefully starting Kristopher Negrón, Austin Nola, and Dylan Moore, with Ryan Court in a knee brace on the bench. With any luck, these are fun names for a Sporcle quiz 5 years down the road.
Yusei Kikuchi, he of the beleagured adjustment to Major League Baseball, pitched into the sixth inning for the first time since May and only gave up two solo home runs. As any seasoned pitcher will tell you, solo shots don’t hurt, much like pain like don’t hurt.
Tom Murphy did his part and slipped a long fly ball just over the wall after Daniel Vogelbach doubled to tie things up at 2-2. Niko Goodrum, well, he probably wants this one back.
Okay, here’s the part of the recap where I devote a lot of space to this absolutely fucking insane play by J.P. Crawford from the top of the ninth inning with 2 outs.
First, in slow motion.
Okay, now full speed!
J.P. Crawford made a difficult pick of a hot grounder and blindly chucked that ball with one foot BARELY planted and beat the runner by a full step.
How did Roenies Elías feel about it?
Okay, so back to the walk-off! Mallex Smith had a rocky start to his tenure as a Seattle Mariner. He missed practically all of Spring Training due to an elbow injury, had a decent first week of the season, and then settled into an utterly dreadful slump combined with several brutal misplays in center field that led to him getting sent down to Tacoma for several weeks. It’s been a long road back and who knows if he’ll ever match his 2018 numbers with Tampa Bay, but his approach has at least been fairly consistent at the plate.
With runners on second and third, he patiently took a 3-0 count to a full count, and then casually uncorked a game-winning base hit like he’d been there one hundred times before. His reward for such heroics? An ass-kicking from his teammates, naturally.
All tomfoolery aside, though, respect must be paid on behalf of all Florida Boyz.
No matter the circumstances, walk-off wins are still a unique thrill in an otherwise joy-starved season of baseball.