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September 19, 2013

What You Need to Know

Weirdest Baseball

by Daniel Rathman


The Wednesday Takeaway
For all the grief we give big-league managers and players, most MLB games, even those with a couple of fielding errors or a small army stranded on base, can teach valuable lessons to Little Leaguers and young baseball minds. Every once in a while, though, a game sets the sport back so far that the only saving graces are sheer athletic prowess and a finish so late that the most impressionable fans are long in bed.

Last night’s meeting between the Reds and Astros was precisely that sort of debacle, but it wasn't until the ninth inning that the game truly began to devolve. Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar misplayed a popup that led to a Reds run in the top of the sixth, but those things happen—they’re a part of the game.

The hare-brained play that followed isn’t supposed to be. And yet…

If you enter a tie game and your opponent’s fastest player—indeed, arguably the fastest player in the world—is leading off the ninth inning, you’re supposed to do everything in your power to prevent him from earning the only base he can’t steal. And yet, Josh Fields walked Billy Hamilton on four pitches. And then, after Hamilton stole second, he walked Shin-Soo Choo on four more. And then he threw ball one to Brandon Phillips, hitting with two on and nobody out.

If the opposing pitcher has just thrown nine consecutive balls, it would generally behoove a hitter to force him to prove that he can throw a strike before offering at a pitch with a chance of making an out—much less giving one away. But Phillips bunted the 1-0 pitch and was subsequently hit with the throw to first while running in fair territory. His sacrifice attempt became a batter interference out. Neither runner advanced. And Fields was one-third of the way to escaping the jam.

The Astros’ closer coaxed a fly ball from Joey Votto, on which Hamilton finally advanced to third, but that aggressive baserunning enabled Fields to intentionally walk Jay Bruce. In stepped Ryan Ludwick, who might as well not have stepped in. Ludwick saw six fastballs, all of which had something in common: they hit the catcher’s glove with Ludwick’s bat still on his shoulder. The first three were balls. The next three were strikes. Ludwick looked like what Phillips should have looked like when Phillips squared around to bunt. And the inning was over.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Painting the Black: Th... (09/19)
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Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (09/18)
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Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (09/20)
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Reworking WARP: The Im... (09/19)

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