The Anatomy of “Almost”
As I write this week’s post, I am happy to announce that The Booth will, for the next 3 years at least, be my domain once again, as Shenandoah University and WZRV have renewed their broadcast partnership for Hornet’s basketball and football. The 2017 season will be my 18th at the play-by-play microphone for SU football, while Mike O’Dell will be calling Hornet hoop for the 26th season. You can read more about our continuing affiliation at suhornets.com, the University’s athletic website.
Today’s topic is about the Washington Nationals heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Miami this week. In the grand scheme, a late June road loss is not a big thing. The Nats are comfortably in first place in the NL East and barring an historic collapse, are well on their way to their fourth division title in 6 years. Heartbreaking, though, in the sense that Washington ace Max Scherzer was unhittable on this particular South Florida afternoon, and flirted with his third no-hitter for the Nats before losing the no-no, the shutout, and the game, all in a gut-kick of an eighth inning.
When something like this happens, it’s usually not just one big event that leads to the loss, but a combination of little things. Here’s how “almost” took place Wednesday afternoon:
We’ll start with strikeouts. Mad Max was so untouchable that his first 6 outs came via the “K”. His entire arsenal of pitches was so baffling to Marlins hitters, that even Ichiro Suzuki, one of the most difficult hitters to strike out, actually fell down swinging at a Scherzer offering. However, the high number of strikeouts in the beginning in reality led to a high pitch count, which would eventually rear it’s ugly head in the eighth.
Then, there was the high stress of a 1-0 game. The Nats, who scored 12 the previous night, were playing with a depleted lineup that only provided a solo home run on the afternoon.
And there’s the fateful 8th inning. With one out, A.J. Ellis hit a chopper which just nicked Scherzer’s glove for an infield hit that broke up the no-hitter. Under normal circumstances, with a bullpen that manager Dusty Baker had any amount of confidence in, Scherzer would probably have been removed , with his pitch count in triple-digits. But he had no one to go to that would have been any better than a tired Max Scherzer.
One out later, Max induced a grounder that should have ended the inning and kept the 1-0 lead intact. Except that Trea Turner’s low throw to Adam Lind resulted in an error that put runners on first and third, as the pitch count grew higher.
Next was a hit batter that loaded the bases, and with Scherzer’s legs at the jelly stage, a wild pitch brought in the tying run to make it a 1-1 game. Still, Baker left Max in the game, not wanting to risk yet another Nationals bullpen disaster.
With the lead runner 90 feet away, Scherzer tried to finish off the dangerous Gioncarlo Stanton off with a pitch that clearly hadthe outside third of the plate. Incredibly, the umpire called it a ball, and Stanton then delivered a sharp hit to left. Gone in a matter of minutes was the no hitter, shutout, and ballgame.
Whose fault? Probably the correct answer is no one’s and everyone’s. It’s the cruel nature of baseball. Most certainly Scherzer will flirt with history again. Knowing Mad Max, it might even be as soon as his next outing.
That’s it from the Booth. Until next time…GO NATS, GO HORNETS!