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.