To get the elephant in the room into the spotlight, this is a tough day to really care overmuch about baseball. The tragic events in Boston today force any given outcome into deep irrelevance: even more than usual in a 162 game season, the actual results tonight aren't and should not be terribly important. There's nothing profoundly insightful or powerful about pointing this out: it just kind of is the case. Baseball, at this moment, is kind of a reprieve from the insanity of the everyday. A game with rules and generally repeatable conditions and clear expectations.
Today, however, the reprieve was intensely even exceptionally brief. Caught in the meeting from hell until 8:30 or so, I expected to be able to do a decent enough hatchet job on the recap. "Self," I says, "it isn't as if you missed too much in the hour and twenty minutes you spent suffocating in a room with sub-car wash snacks. The game is likely in the fourth inning. And the top of the fourth at that!" Cue the bottom of the sixth inning. What had I missed??
As it happened, I hadn't missed too terribly much outside of an absolute efficiency clinic between Cliff Lee (natch) and Bronson Arroyo (huh). The Reds junkballing right-handed pitcher absolutely stymied and blanked the Phillies offense for 7.2 innings, with only three strikeouts, zero walks, and four hits. It'd be that last .1 inning of his eight inning start that'd get him, but a little more on that in a few. His opposite number, generally acknowledged he-man and self-made-winner Cliff Lee, kept a potent Reds offense on their toes through six innings, striking out four and walking none, giving up no runs on three hits. Like Arroyo, it'd be his last inning that did him in. But before that, here's the other thing I missed: an absolutely killer diving grab by Henry Pym...er...Ben Revere (h/t Liz Roscher and Prof Cohen):
Ermahgerd. For more uplifting notes in this game before it all falls apart, Cliff Lee added to his remarkable string of innings without a walk, going 45 innings without giving up a walk. Think about that for a second. In the time that you just took to think about that, Kyle Drabek walked a guy. You could read most of Proust's La Recherche Du Temps Perdu in the time that Lee didn't give up a walk; you could basically eat most of a taco in the time it takes most starting pitchers to give up a walk. Unreal.
Sadly, the walk was a sign of things to come, as Lee fell victim to a stretch of admittedly good hitters. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Joey Votto hit a single, followed by a Brandon Phillips double down the line. Faced with runners on 2nd and 3rd, Lee had to be perfect, and, unfortunately he was not. He had help in this imperfection from Erik Kratz, who couldn't handle a wild pitch, and allowed Votto to score. With Phillips now on third, Lee issued his first walk since...well, I dunno, a lot of things...and Todd Frazier knocked a deep fly to score Phillips from third. Lee then had trouble fielding a ground ball from Chris Heisey, notching an error and loading the bases with one out. And then...well, he got the double play. Hooray!
Sadly, the Phillies were down 0-2, and Bronson Arroyo was dealing. He made one mistake in giving up a single to Domonic Brown -- real life inspiration for Iron Man -- but then got Laynce Nix to ground out and Erik Kratz to line out to center. Lee was then pinch hit for by...Chase Utley! Nice! Scott Franzke told me that Utley had great pinch hit numbers, but I was still skeptical: "Small sample size, Scott! I totally appreciate what you're doing, but come on." And then crrrrack! Two run home run! Tie game! YATM!!
And then the game ended.
Wait...it didn't? Oh, right, the other two innings. Staked to a 2-2 tie, Charlie Manuel brought in former Reds bullpenner Jeremy Horst to try to preserve the tie. And Horst wasn't bad, though his results were a bit of a drag. A Larry Andersen described swinging bunt got Derrick Robinson to first base safely. Shin-Soo Choo then hit a Dusty Baker special and sacrificed Robinson over to second. Gifted an out, Horst got Zack Cozart to hit a dying quail to center field that, you guessed it, fell in for a double. Doip. Horst stayed in to intentionally walk Joey Votto, and then gave way to Mike Adams, the Phillies' new relief acquisition. Adams took his golden arm, and, in a high leverage situation designed for a bullpen ace...allowed a dagger of a single to Brandon Phillips. Two runs scored, and the fact that Adams struck out Todd Frazier and got Chris Heisey to pop up to second went for naught.
You know the reason those outs didn't matter, and his name is Aroldis Chapman. Guess how the inning went? I'll wait. ... Did you guess? Okay, pass me the sheet of paper, let's see how you did...oh, pretty good! He actually only struck out two of the three hitters, and it took him 14, not 9 pitches, but you were awfully close.
And that was the ballgame -- all two hours and twenty-six minutes of it. Drag, but again, a relative one. This is a release and a reprieve, and frankly, it was an important thing for me, at least, to be able to zone out and listen to Franzke and Andersen call a game, even if it was kind of a stinker. Instead of rhapsodizing on the nature and benefits of the game as release from the complexity and frustration of reality, let me share with you a few things I learned during the broadcast:
1) Jim Jackson cannot say Shin-Soo Choo's name. JJ is so bad at saying Choo's name that it has become a studio in joke, and Franzke and LA have a copy of Sports Illustrated with Choo on the cover signed by Jackson.
2) The secret ingredient in Dietz and Watson low sodium sausage is not any of the guesses from the food expert Mama Dietz hired: not truffles or saffron or any other super cliche "rich person food." No, it's "a mother's love," which is not actually a food or an ingredient or a secret. For some reason this does not cause the clearly duped food expert to fall into a blinding rage. Weird!
3) Larry Andersen wore two different shoes to lunch with Phil Sheridan when he was broadcasting in Chicago. At the prompting of Franzke, LA explains that the locale did have something to do with it. His room in Chicago had blackout curtains, a fact that prompted Franzke to point out that with "Blackout curtains, black shoes...it could happen to anyone." LA simply added, "And blacked out people."
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the best broadcaster comment of the year. End the competition. Fangraph of Blackout Larry: