If this is an October preamble, then bring us much, much more. After a 58-minute rain delay, there was a 4-hour 27-minute long contest with a dozen pivot points. It exhausted so many relief pitchers that, long after midnight, Nats starter Edwin Jackson — who had struck out 11 Mets just 50 hours before — was warming up in the bullpen. It was his “throw day.” The Washington bullpen was totally empty. What else was left?
So, he put on his cleats and volunteered. “The bullpen was done. It was a game that we could possibly win. It’s definitely a game where they don’t want to throw position players. It’s not a give-away game. So I guess I was the next best option,” Jackson said. “This was a good old-fashioned fight.”
When will we sleep? Oh, who cares?
“This was almost like a playoff game. We were making high-energy mistakes,” said Manager Davey Johnson. “We missed a couple of throws because we were trying to do things too fast. Everybody was trying to crush the ball to end the game with one swing. Even our starter [Jordan Zimmermann] was too amped up at the start” of the game.
“It was all that playoff stuff,” Johnson said. “We’re very young. This is great. This is the learning curve.” Or, maybe, the cardiac arrest chart.
In the end, the Nats won thanks to three blessed infield hits. That’s it. The first was a seeing-eye grounder up the middle. The next was a checked-swing chop that only went 70 feet, but Kurt Suzuki’s accidental blow sucked three Braves infielders toward it just behind the mound; in that instant, an alert Danny Espinosa raced from first base to a completely unattended third base — a “stolen” base of a different kind that ultimately set up the win.
On the final play, the Nats won ugly — or, more precisely, they won Uggla. With men at first and third base and one out and the Braves’ infield playing in, pinch hitter Chad Tracy lashed a grounder at second baseman Dan Uggla, who plays the position with his bat. His only play, a basic one, was to throw home to get Espinosa.
But, as Tracy said, “Speed on the bases makes people panic.”
In a split second, Tracy’s groundball arrived, base runner Suzuki appeared in Uggla’s peripheral vision and skidded to a stop so Uggla couldn’t tag him easily and Espinosa was speeding toward the plate.
In that awful instant, the veteran Uggla had a total brain-and-glove cramp. He bobbled the ball, couldn’t get it out of his glove, turned to throw to first base, even though he that would be pointless since the game-ending run was scoring. In the end, he kicked the ball around, then went numb. The play was generously mis-scored as a hit for Tracy. It was more like a triple error for Uggla. Whatever.