Wednesday, July 1, 2009

O No

I’ve got an incredible knack for being at a ballpark the day before it hosts history. On May 16, 1998, my future wife and I went to the Yankees-Twins game at Yankee Stadium. This happened the next day.

On July 17, 1999, I covered a Yankees-Expos game, also at Yankee Stadium. This happened the next day.

On Monday, my wife and I took an anniversary trip to Fenway Park at Camden Yards to see the Sox host the Orioles. Then this happened last night.

Orioles 11, Red Sox 10 is the type of game that destroys a manager’s insides, if not shortens his career. Remember last night the next time Jason Varitek is catching the late innings of a blowout. You cannot blame Terry Francona, at all, for pulling Varitek in the seventh inning with the Sox throttling the Orioles 10-1. It’s not George Kottaras’ fault the Sox lost, but he didn’t exactly help matters by getting thrown out at the plate in the eighth inning and I imagine it’ll be a long time before Francona sends in the “B” squad in a lopsided game.

I don’t always miss history, though, as I realized while watching the postgame with my Dad, who was saying he thought Justin Masterson should have gotten the loss instead of Takashi Saito. I think my Dad was just ticked off about the loss and not really wondering why Masterson wasn’t on the hook for the “L” despite leaving with a 10-6 lead, but it reminded me of a Mets-Braves game I covered in 2000 in which the Mets scored 10 runs in the eighth inning, including nine with two outs, to shock the Braves, 11-8.

Almost as shocking was the decision of the official scorer to enforce the little-used rule that allows him to choose as the winning pitcher the hurler he deemed most effective, not the one who was the pitcher of record when the Mets took the lead. And so the win was awarded to Armando Benitez, who allowed two baserunners but no runs in a save situation in the ninth, instead of Eric Cammack, who allowed three runs in the eighth. And how’s this for a cruel twist of fate: Cammack never won a big league game.

In talking about the second-biggest comeback in Mets history mere minutes after the Orioles capped their largest comeback ever, I realized the Mets-Braves game occurred at the very end of June—almost certainly June 30.

(Don’t ask me why I can remember stuff like this, as well as remember that I graduated high school 18 years ago yesterday, but cannot remember to do the dishes)

A couple clicks on the Internet confirmed that the Mets did indeed beat the Braves 11-8 on June 30, 2000. How awesome is that? Two epic comebacks by perpetual underdogs against baseball royalty separated by exactly nine years. I only wish it was John Smoltz who started for the Braves against the Mets, not Kevin Millwood.

I’m sure the Sox would prefer it if the short- and long-term similarities to the Mets-Braves game in 2000 ended with the final pitch of last night’s contest. Just like the Sox will send Josh Beckett to the mound for a 1 p.m. start today, the Braves had Greg Maddux ready to start a matinee nine years ago. But the Mets hammered Maddux for seven runs in just two innings in a 9-1 win.

I remember writing the Mets declared their arrival as an elite team and forever weakened the Braves with their comeback win. There’s no worries about the Orioles traveling much further north in the AL East standings this year, and these Sox have a history of resourcefulness that should earn them the benefit of the doubt when wondering how they’ll react to the second-biggest single game collapse in team history.

But while I was a little hyperbolic back then—OK, a lot—I was also right, at least in terms of the bottom line: The Mets made the World Series that year while the Braves were swept out of the NL Division Series by the Cardinals.

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