Friday, April 18, 2008

Total Insanity, Total Awesomeness

Wow. When the rubber match between the Rockies and Padres came about, a pitching duel might have been expected, but what everyone got was well and beyond the call of duty. Perpetual Cy contender Jake Peavy was starting against Colorado "ace" Jeff Francis (and ace is in scare quotes because although he entered the season with that designation, his first few starts were anything but). But Jeff lived up to his half of the billing, and for seven innings, he and Peavy threw zeros at each other. Francis finished with 7 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, and 7 K's; Peavy with 8 innings, 4 hits, 3 walks, and 11 K's. Brian Fuentes pitched a perfect bottom of the eighth for the Rockies, and Trevor Hoffman only did the same for the Padres in the ninth thanks to his ridiculous park. Helton and Holliday hit back-to-back shots that would have been out of anywhere except the hitter's wasteland known as Petco Park, but since they were in Petco, they just went down as a pair of flyouts. With the score 0-0 entering the ninth, Taylor Buchholz came in and pitched a perfect inning to send it to the tenth, where Heath Bell pitched a clean inning for San Diego, so Buchholz came in and threw another one... are you by any chance detecting a pattern here?

The team went on swapping goose-eggs right up until the 14th, where, with the bases loaded and 2 out, Brad Hawpe worked a walk to make it 1-0. Of course, it wasn't destined to end there. The Padres had already wasted a golden opportunity in the bottom of the 12th -- Paul McAnulty hit a laser into the right field corner and had the bad idea to test Hawpe's arm. Hawpe fired a bullet to second baseman Barmes (yes, he's starting due to Nix's terribleness, and shockingly not embarrassing himself) and Barmes fired it on to Atkins, who applied the tag for the first out. Instead of having a runner at second and no out, the Padres had one out and no one on -- and when Randy Wolf (the same pitcher who two-hit the Rox a few nights ago) hit a single, it loomed even larger, as the game was still scoreless as that point and it could have been the winner. The Padres tried again in the bottom of the 14th, as Manny Corpas, who is still prone to the early-season wobbles, blew his second save in five chances and allowed Josh Bard to stroke the game-tying single. Tulowitzki threw Clark out at the plate on the next play to again escape the game-winner, and pinch-hitter Colt Morton grounded out to end it. Onto the fifteenth. And sixteenth. And seventeenth. And eighteenth. And nineteenth.

Both teams exhausted their benches around the sixteenth, leading to a number of relievers having to actually bat. The Rockies grounded into four double plays; the Padres into two. The Rockies left 16 men on base; the Padres left 14. The Rockies struck out 20 times, the Padres 17. Buchholz, Micah Bowie, and Corpas pitched two innings apiece, allowing between them 3 hits, but most unfortunately Corpas yakked up the tying run. Ryan Speier pitched 3 innings, allowing just two hits. And the game STILL wasn't over! Kip Wells came in for the 19th as the last available pitcher -- Cook and Morales had flown to Houston already, and Jimenez and Redman had pitched in the first two games of the series. Who knows who was going to pitch next -- Barmes? Helton? (He pitched in college). Tulo? (He can hit 94). I always kind of wish that would happen, but it didn't. In the top of the 22nd inning, Willy T reached on a Khalil Greene throwing error, stole second, and moved to third on Josh Bard's throwing error, ending up there with two outs and Tulo at the plate. Tulo has, let's just say, not looked very much like himself for the early going, and is still lugging around a .167 average. However, he redeemed himself for the moment, bouncing an RBI double into left-center to score Willy T with the go-ahead run, 2-1. Wells still had one more inning to get through -- he hit Greene with a pitch to begin the bottom of the 22nd, got Josh Bard to ground into a double play, and struck out Glendon Rusch -- yes, Glendon Rusch, hitting for himself since the benches were long since empty -- to end it, six hours and 16 minutes after it had begun on Thursday night. It was over early Friday morning at 1:21 AM PT. Wells picked up the win, pitching four innings with one hit, one walk, and three strikeouts.

This is 4:21 AM ET. And where was I? Sitting through every agonizing pitch. Did I have class tomorrow... er, later this morning? You know it. Was anything happening? No. Was it painful? As all hell. And yet there I sat, with all my fellow lunatics on Purple Row, getting goofy by necessity and fighting off exhaustion since I'm too much of a fanatic to give it up and go to bed. But it was amazing. The guys seem to have realized that they've been grinding too much (Tulo) and forgetting to have fun, so just having to sit through a game that we all seriously thought would never end helped loosen them up. Although I can't say I envy them, having to play again tonight only about 14 hours after the last game ended -- travel to Houston included. Hopefully everyone slept on the plane..!

Go Rockies!

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