Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Kyle Kendrick imploded, John Lannan pitched well, and a bullpen-led comeback effort fell a bit short as the Phillies lost a tough one.
Conceptual poet and my critical catspaw Kenneth Goldsmith makes a (marginally) famous distinction between "boring boring" and "unboring boring," available in a blog post on the EPC site. The quote that's pertinent here is Goldsmith's claim that "Unboring boring is a voluntary state; boring boring is a forced one." Goldsmith means to use this distinction to explain his "unboring boring" poetry -- one famous example is his 800+ retyped issue of the September 1, 2000 New York Times (Day), and he's also copied every word from a Yankees radio broadcast (Sports) -- and the "boring boring" nature of everyday life -- like waiting in traffic or filing paperwork. The point, whether you agree with Goldsmith's poetic mission or not, seems to be that there are activities that are entertaining, not only in spite of their tedious nature, but in fact because of their tedium. When I reread that line earlier today, I couldn't help but think of baseball.
Well, late season, relatively inconsequential baseball anyway. Since I was set to recap it, I thought about tonight's game a lot before I watched it: a September game against the Nats well after the Phillies' second swoon turned an exciting September into a 5.5 game Wild Card deficit with 7 games to go; almost no real spoiler effect, given that the Nats have a four game lead on the Braves and a guaranteed playoff spot; a Kendrick-Lannan billing. Outside of the unsustainable force versus the incoming object, I didn't see much to like about tonight's game. Hopefully, I thought, Kyle will remain good-Kyle, and I can write about that, because otherwise, what is there to say about the stakes of this game?
So, you know, other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln? Kendrick was unabashedly putrid, and while his line was aesthetically interesting -- 1 K, 2 BB, 3 HR, 4 ER, 5 R -- it was not exactly what we wanted to see from new Kyle (thanks T-Mac). By the third batter, it was 2-0. By the top of the third, things were looking like pro forma 2012 Phillies, a kind of purgatorial boring boring. At least we'd see the bullpen, a vision of the folks that would be making up some of the cheap value of the 2013 team. That's a kind of fun.
BJ Rosenberg started things off...on offense! He provided the first bit of scoring against John Lannan in the bottom of the third. Up until then, the only offense had been a HBP on Howard, as Lannan attempted his only maiming of the game. Kevin Frandsen led off the inning with a double, and Rosenberg bunted him over; fortunately, Kurt Suzuki paid his two-run home run forward and made an error that scored Frandsen and left Rosenberg at first. A Jimmy Rollins line-out, a Chase Utley single, and a John Mayberry Jr. single later, Rosenberg was on second in a bases loaded situation when a Ryan Howard strikeout and a Carlos Ruiz groundout ended the inning. Oh well -- that's some brief excitement. It held until the next inning when Rosenberg singled home Kevin Frandsen after the latter's nail-biter of a triple. Rosenberg was unfortunately not left in for his next three at-bats, or else he'd have certainly had a cycle, but he pitched well and kept the Phillies in the game, going three scorless innings with three strikeouts, one walk, and no hits. Not bad.
The bullpen itself was not bad, if a bit boring through the next three innings, with Josh Lindblom going two scoreless with two strikeouts, and Jeremy Horst went one scoreless inning with one strikeout. Meanwhile, the offense kept things interesting, with a Jimmy Rollins homer off of Ryan Mattheus in the seventh, and a loooooong Dom Brown sac fly in the eighth. 5-4! Things were getting exciting!
And then the ninth inning. Justin De Fratus has been excellent this year, let's get that out of the way first. He's pitched to a 1.17 ERA and a 2.45 FIP through tonight's game, over an admittedly small sample size of 7.2 innings. He was not so great tonight. A walk, a stolen base, a groundout, a single, a strikeout, another stolen base, and a Jayson Werth 2-run single made it 7-4. Then De Fratus gave way to Antonio Bastardo, who promptly gave up a Bryce Harper triple to make it 8-4. He struck out Ryan Zimmerman to end the inning, of course, but the game was suddenly boring again.
The Phillies went down in order against Drew Storen, strikeout, foul out, groundout, and suddenly, the excitement was shot. But was this really "boring boring?" Goldsmith talks, in his article, about a play he went to, wherein the action was entirely focused around two people walking towards each other for four hours, and when they met, one stabbed the other for another hour. "Because I volunteered to be bored," Goldsmith explains, "it was the most exciting thing I've ever seen." Now, I don't much like Kenneth Goldsmith or his poetry, but this is pretty spot on. We all had a decent idea of what might happen when the Phillies went down 0-5, and we knew that even as they crawled back to a near tie. But we still watched. For four hours, metaphorically as much as literally, we watched the Nationals and the Phillies cross the stage towards each other, where the Nats stabbed us for an entire hour.
And because I'd volunteered to think about it and to watch it, it was the most exciting thing I've ever seen. Well, maybe not ever, but still. These recaps are a labor of love in a certain way, but I'm incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to write them, because the thought process directed with clear focus onto the game itself reveals what is so wonderful about it. It's deeply dull, horrendously plodding, and tied to projections and predictions that come true so, so much more often than they do not. And yet, we watch because there is a deep logic to the game that makes it unboring boring -- different than our banal everyday lives. And better. This was a predictable loss twenty minutes in that meant absolutely nothing in the long-run outside of some Darin Ruf centric development, and it still beats the alternative. Man, I'm going to miss baseball.