Last night, Aroldis Chapman allowed an earned run, after 29 innings of allowing no earned runs and striking out almost every other batter he faced. This was a stimulus that caused at least three responses. First, and maybe most obviously, it made the Reds lose to a team only two games behind them.*
*Have the Pirates reached the point where we can call them a “division rival”? Or are they still just another team that happens to play in the same division?
Second, and maybe most unfortunately, it made this headline happen:
Third, and maybe most predictably, it made approximately everyone watching chuckle, shake his or her head, and intone, “You can’t predict baseball.”
Before their consecutive doubles that drove in the run in the top of the 10th, Clint Barmes was batting .188 and Michael McKenry, whom I just discovered is nicknamed “The Fort,” was batting .185. They hadn’t done a lot of hitting. Aroldis Chapman had a .074 batting average against. He hadn’t done a lot of allowing hits. Actually, he hadn’t allowed two hits in any of his outings this season, let alone two consecutive ones.
And then this happened:
And the Pirates’ announcer, echoing the thoughts of all his viewers, said ““How about that! Clint Barmes!”
I wrote yesterday that Chapman is intentionally throwing a little less hard and hitting 100 a little less often this season, for the perfectly reasonable reason that he doesn’t want to walk people. That doesn’t mean he can’t still throw harder than anyone when he wants to. After getting burned by the slider to Barmes, and with the go-ahead run in scoring position, Chapman thought, “to hell with breaking balls,” reached back for a little extra, and threw gas. And then this happened:
“Scout” was clearly smirking when it said that.
Chapman got a pop-up and two strikeouts to end the inning, and order was restored. But for a few minutes there, everything was upside down. Clint Barmes and Michael McKenry could get hits, and the Pirates could score, and Aroldis Chapman could let them. We all sort of expected that when the unthinkable happened and Aroldis Chapman finally allowed a run, it would be against worthier opponents than two of the worst hitters on the worst-hitting team. It couldn’t have come against Joey Votto, because Joey Votto is on Aroldis Chapman’s team. But it could have come Ryan Braun, or David Wright, or Carlos Gonzalez in Coors, or hell, if it had to be the Pirates, at least Andrew McCutchen.
But it was so much better this way. Because baseball.