Anne in the Stands: Beauty of walk-offs
My husband and I went to the opening game of the Brewers' series with the Cincinnati Reds. And did we get our money's worth!
The Reds snagged the lead right away, but the Brewers battled back. In the bottom of the fifth, the Reds were ahead, 5-4. In a tight game like that, you know every pitch is important. Every stolen base is going to matter. We knew we were watching a marvelous, competitive effort, the kind of game where you don't dare leave your seat for anything, not even that ice cream bar.
Never giving an inch, Schafer walked, Bianchi sacrificed, Aoki flied out. Segura singled, scoring Schafer, tying the game. But the feisty Reds scored again in the seventh.
When the eighth inning ended, the Reds were ahead, 6-5, and the crowd began to head for the exits, which happens pretty often when the game goes past 9:30 p.m. I figured my husband would be happy about their departure. With all of the traffic out of the way, he'd have an easier time getting out of the parking lot. (There's always more to a game than actually watching baseball. Which hot dog line to choose? Which water fountain takes the least time? Which parking lot can you zoom out of quickly?)
In such a tight game, anything can happen in the bottom of the ninth. Anything. Every pitch, every play is going to count. The score was Reds 6, Brewers, 5 and the Brewers' wonderful shortstop, Jean Segura, was up first, facing the Reds' closer, Aroldis Chapman.
Right away, my husband noticed the pitch speed sign indicated that Chapman was throwing the ball 99 mph. The guy sitting in front of us explained that was actually slow for Chapman, who usually hits 102 mph, or higher. But Segura didn't choke. In fact, he looked very comfortable at the plate as he slapped down an infield single.
With the tying run on base, everyone in the stadium stood up and cheered. (I imagined the folks who left in the eighth were listening to the game and grousing, blaming each other for leaving early.)
The next up to bat was Jonathan Lucroy, back this season and healthy, his batting average climbing. Chapman flung one pitch after another, each as fast as the first one. Lucroy fouled off all of them -- bam, bam, bam.
Did I mention the crowd was on its feet? That everyone was cheering, whistling, clapping? That the sound was deafening?
Again Lucroy fouled off another 99-mph pitch. Then, as if time, the crowd and Chapman himself were standing still, Luc made contact. The ball sailed toward deep left field. Was it going foul? Yes. No!
It was a home run! A walk-off home run! Segura scored. Lucroy scored, spoiling Chapman's save attempt and the Reds' five-game winning streak.
And we were lucky enough to be there, laughing and high-fiving everyone around us.
Walk-offs are magical, because they happen so quickly. The teams battle for three hours, then the whole game comes down to two players. Which one will make the mistake?
The game stops suddenly. The home team erupts from the dugout and swarms toward home plate, surrounding the hero, jumping up and down like kids at a birthday party.
I love walk-offs!