incremental victOries

Posted in baltimOre, buck shOwalter, octOber on October 6th, 2012 by The Wayward O

When it came down to crunch time, Team played small ball. And Team played it well!

They were up 2-1 in 7th when Ryan Flaherty, who had fallen victim earlier to a low Yu Darvish breaking ball, appeared to learn from his mistake, fouling off that same pitch to stay alive and, ulimately, winning battle by punching breaking ball on outside corner into left field.

Flaherty pulled up at first, got fist bump from Wayne Kirby, and Darvish — who exhibited strange behavior with phantom injury in sixth inning — retrieved ball from outfield and pointed to chest as if to say “Yeah. He got me.”


The battle that won the war? TBS via MLB.com

In humble opinion of Blog, it was key moment in entire game full of incremental victories offensively for Team. It helped Buck as he sought to take control of game, starting with Buck’s move to put Robert Andino on first as pinch runner and accruing additional returns from there…

Andino took third on Derek Holland’s wild pitch. Blog thought at time “Flaherty probably doesn’t take third on that play.” It’s hard to know whether he would have — but, hey, Andino did.

Then Andino scored as Big Game Nate McLouth smacked a clutch single.

Adding that run at that moment was an immeasurable boost for Team and its chances.

Even a bullpen that had been stellar all year had to love seeing its margin for error doubled. Adding that run likely also made Buck far more comfortable sticking with Darren O’Day, one of game’s great heroes, who grinded through six of game’s most crucial outs.

Buck’s reliance on O’Day then set up Brian Matusz’ three-pitch humbling of Josh Hamilton, likely ending strange Hamilton Era in Lone Star State. After all Matusz has been through, and class he has shown, that has to have been moment (on national stage no less) to remember forever.


Big spot. TBS via MLB.com

Then it was tack-on time in ninth. When Jim Thome walked with nobody out, every person in entire world — even in INDONESIA as Adam Jones might say — figured on pinch runner.

But not Mr. Buck. He left matter in Andino’s hands and Robert, just as his counterpart Flaherty had done earlier, keyed inning with a hit in a big spot. Dino’s double moved Jimmer to third and credibly allowed Buck, with one out at that juncture, to pinch run for Thome.

Fans of Team have seen Jimmer get thrown out at home in at least one sac fly situation and move made perfect sense. Manny Machado’s single then scored pinch runner Lew Ford.

Buck’s moves from sixth through ninth encapsulated genius we’ve seen from him all year; he rarely makes moves simply because they’re obvious; instead he relies on years of thought to guide him. His moves often yield positive results that defy immediate measurement.


Bruisers. Image via MLB.com

“With our team, it’s just a bunch of guys that raised the bar, and wouldn’t give in, and still haven’t,” Buck told camera crews after game.

Maybe, but with power bats of Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Jim Thome and Mark Reynolds going a collective 2 for 17 with one walk and one sac fly between them, Buck did some bar-raising of his own.

buck shOwalter

Posted in buck shOwalter on September 17th, 2012 by The Wayward O

Today Blog was more patient than usual with strangers who pushed him on subway. And above subterranean warrens of Blog’s ingress into New York City, sun appeared to shine brighter, farmer’s market produce looked even fresher and morning coffee tasted a tad more savory.

But sun was same sun, commute was same commute, produce was same produce and coffee was same coffee…

Only real difference was Team of Blog, which ceased to be losing team after 14 years of losing its way, being bullied, being shafted, screwed and just plain beaten.

Team’s 82nd win lifted well-rotted albatross from Neck of Blog and gave Blog — and all supporters of Team — their long-overdue release from dungeon of losing.

It wasn’t pretty win. Heck, with foibles of Pedro Strop of late, and with what appears to be eight-man starting rotation (two per game) it was downright ugly.

But Team scored early — behind two home runs from Team’s Rock of Gibraltar, Matt Wieters — scored often, and kept scoring until scoring was done. An ungainly win to be sure, but a key win, a much-needed win and a glorious win!

It marked another losing streak nipped in bud; one of so many Team could have let consume them this year, as they have done in so many other seasons.

Team has refused, this year, to make habit of losing ways, and that ultimately translated to Win No. 82 on a late Sunday afternoon in Oakland when 95 percent of American Sporting World was slavering over beautiful depravity that is NFL football.

But those of us who needed to see it, saw it. Those of us who have suffered, numb and stumbling, for 14 years, saw every pitch, worried just as much as ever — just like when there was no hope — and took comfort when final out was recorded.

A win. And winning. Both in one day.

Is Buck simply demanding more? Is it that core of Team is more mature, less willing to accept losing and more adept at game? Is it that Team’s two merciless bug-bears, Yankees and Red Sox, are in disarray? Or was it an off-season pickup or two that put Team over hump?

Is it return of Cartoony Bird mascot?

Whatever it may be, Team as of Monday night’s late game versus Mariners, which Blog of Team and many working fans of Team will struggle to stay away and watch, was firmly ensconced in playoff picture with just over two weeks left in Magical 2012 Season.

From here things could turn ugly; or Team could push deep into improbable October run. Just like nobody in April could have predicted Randy Wolf would stay off ropes long enough to help Team gain 82nd win in strange confines of Oakland’s home field, nobody in September can say where this will end.

But here’s something else nobody can do: Nobody else can take away what Team already has accomplished this year. They’ve lifted great weight from shoulders of fans in Baltimore, and fans of Baltimore, who bore it as best we could.

And that’s why, today, regardless of his fickle October fate, Buck has earned his O.