Not long ago, out of a discussion I had with a couple friends, one of whom is not irrationally dependent on sports the way I am, came this question: "Would you rather watch an intense, memorable 5-4 Rangers loss that ended in a way you'll never forget, or miss a mundane 6-2 Rangers win and hear about it on the news?"
The answer was easy for me - unquestionably the latter - yet tough for him to comprehend.
Today was a perfect example.
Max's Little League game started at the same time as Texas-Tampa Bay, and as a result we only caught the last two innings on TV. So I didn't see much of Tommy Hunter's 9-5-1-1-0-4, and only a fraction of his 117 pitches (76 strikes). And I'm totally fine with that.
Before landing in Texas, Tampa Bay was 21-6 on the road this season. The Rays had played nine road series, and lost only one (when they dropped two of three to Oakland a month ago, in a series that included Dallas Braden's perfect game). They're going to lose this one, too, needing to take tomorrow's series finale in order to stave off what would be just their second sweep of the season (having dropped three at home to Boston a week and a half ago).
Wins like today's - even if you didn't see it - are adrenaline boosts, games where the offense stepped up and so did the pitching, and where the starting pitcher saved the bullpen, not an insignificant fact in a day game after a night game, not to mention in heat that apparently registered at more than 110 degrees on the playing surface. Only Chris Ray (in the 7th or 8th and again in the 9th) and Neftali Feliz (in the 9th) even got out of their seats to get loose (which doesn't count Feliz's grab of Josh Hamilton's 11th home run, which despite three ensuing hitless at-bats lifted his slug to .537, which is higher than the .530 he put together in his memorable 2008 season). Hunter shot down any thought of having anyone come take the ball from him, needing just 10 pitches in the 7th, 10 more in the 8th, and 11 in the 9th (despite an error that extended the game by one extra hitter) to shut things down.
Tommy Hunter was big today. As was Max Ramirez, whose work behind the plate this afternoon - if not these five weeks - shouldn't be neglected. Can we start asking whether Ramirez (who is hitting .262/.360/.429) should be considered any more of a placeholder than Hunter, whose 2010 big league debut was just tremendous? I understand that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is probably back soon, and I'm in no mood to let Matt Treanor go, but at this point it sure seems that Ramirez's right-handed bat would do the bench a lot more good than having Joaquin Arias around. It's not as if Arias can do anything defensively that Andres Blanco and Ramirez can't do better.
That was a masterpiece today. Anytime a pitcher and catcher can execute like that and give the bullpen a day to kick back and watch, I'm happy - even if I didn't get the chance to do the same.
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(c) Jamey Newberg