Sunday, October 09, 2005

“Pinch Hitting for Wheeler....., Roger Clemens”

I just got through watching one of the best baseball games of all time as the Houston Astros beat the Atlanta Braves to win their Divisional Playoff Series and move on to the National League Playoffs in St. Louis. The game had all kinds of records to put in the books, the most obvious was that it took 18 innings and just shy of 6 full hours to find out which team was going to win, that’s a new record for Post Season games.

Then there was the fact that there were two Grand Slam Home Runs hit in the same ball game, one by each side; another record. The Braves blew a 6 – 1 lead when Lance Berkman blasted a Grand Slam in the 8th to move within a run followed by Brad Ausmus who hit one half an inch over the yellow stripe with 2 out in the bottom of the ninth sending the game into extra innings.

It tied a record when the Astros used 23 of 25 available players; the only ones not inserted into the game were Roy Oswalt who pitched last night’s game and Andie Petite, scheduled to pitch the next game as a starter. Those on the field had to play it out to the end, “last man standing” baseball can be brutal. Each missed opportunity to score was torture knowing that so much was at stake; an Astros win meant that the Braves season was over while on the other hand a Braves win would mean yet another trip back to Atlanta for a 5th and deciding game there.

The relief pitchers were used up quickly leaving only Wheeler, who came in and pitched scoreless ball until it was his turn to bat in the 15th. Roger Clemens had volunteered to be used as a relief pitcher, had already completed his warm up tosses and had come in to sit on the bench. In his 21 years in the Major League Roger Clemens had only been used as a relief pitcher one time; a couple of innings when he was with Boston his first year. Roger had never been called upon to pick up a bat to pinch hit, never! He put down a sacrifice bunt and headed back to the dugout to slap some high fives; but the team didn’t score for him.

Roger pitched 3 scoreless innings as he closed out the top of the 18th and was scheduled to lead off. There were no other players, no relief pitchers to take his place and so he stood there and took a couple of nasty rips; who knows, maybe one would clear the fence on the fly and he could set another record, 1st home run. That didn’t happen. A young fellow, Chris Burke ripped a walk off home run over the Crawford Boxes and that’s how the game ended.

The last “great game” that came even close was in the playoffs between the New York Mets and the Astros back in 1986. The difference between that one and this was that this time the Astros won and by doing so get to continue playing in October baseball.

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