Saturday, April 5, 2008
Omar Daal, 2004 Topps #479
I've always found the sudden-death nature of extra-inning games to be especially hard on my nerves. With a string of horror show bullpens in recent memory, I sit on the edge of my seat as the latest questionable reliever works with no margin for error and somehow escapes trouble, only for the offense to sputter and send him (or a contemporary) back out to the mound for another inning. So it was in this game. Kerry Ligtenberg, B. J. Ryan, Jorge Julio, Willis Roberts, Buddy Groom, and even *gasp* Omar Daal kept the Phillies off of the scoreboard. Meanwhile, the punchless Bird bats never even came close to pushing across the winning tally. A single here, a walk there. Inning after inning, I found myself pleading...just one run. That's all they needed. You can score a single run accidentally with luck on your side. But the O's pitchers were using up all of the team's luck, wriggling out of two separate bases-loaded jams. So the game continued for ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen...fourteen innings??? That's right. There were two seventh-inning stretches.
My uncle was long-gone, but my father and I stayed behind. As the innings pushed on into the teens, I started feeling weak and numb in my extremities. I could barely stand. On a hunch, I took my long-empty commemorative plastic souvenir soda cup (commemorating the 1983 World Champion Orioles) to a water fountain between innings and filled it. As I drank voraciously, I almost immediately felt better. I'd sat out in the bleachers in on 95-degree afternoons, and never been worse for wear, but this game had dehydrated me. Some time between the fifteenth and sixteenth innings, Dad and I decided to head for the upper deck and make sure that my sister was still around. She was, and her nerves were in better shape than mine, though some overly enthusiastic Phillies fans in her section had been grating on her.
Meanwhile, Omar Daal was defying the odds, pitching two scoreless innings. This was the southpaw's first relief appearance of the season, and he had earned his position as the team's last resort by losing his last four starts, including a two-and-a-third inning, nine-run masterpiece in his previous start in Toronto. Hell, I was starting to feel sorry for the guy, and the chance of him grabbing an improbable win made me want the game to end even more. So under these bizarre circumstances, with my body and mind incredibly weary and the game plowing on well past midnight, I threw down the gauntlet.
It was the bottom of the sixteenth inning, with two outs and the bases distressingly empty. Who else but David Segui should stroll to the plate? This madness had to end. From my perch high above left field, I shouted in a deep, raw voice:
"Get a hit, Segui, or you'll never see your children again!"
There were a smattering of laughs around me. One man turned around grinning and said I was "harsh". I'm certain Segui didn't hear me, or at least I hope he didn't. Because if he truly cared about his kids, he surely wouldn't have struck out swinging on a 2-2 pitch. David was 1-7 in the game, and so we reached the seventeenth inning.
Omar Daal had used up all of his luck. Singles by Thome and Lieberthal put runners on the corners with one out for outfielder Jason Michaels, whose career high in home runs would be the ten he'd hit in 2004. I mention that because, on this day, he hit a three-run home run to triple each team's sixteen-inning run output. We'd seen enough. The three of us started the long walk out of the stadium, haunted by the cheers and taunts of the jubilant Phillies fans. Now it was my sister's turn to snap: "At least we don't live in PHILADELPHIA!", she barked. That's why I love her.
We would later find out that Luis Matos hit a solo home run in the Birds' last at bat, a symbolic and futile gesture. Too little, too late. 4-2, Phillies. Time of game: 5 hours, 41 minutes. Fifteen total pitchers used, thirty-eight players altogether. 531 pitches thrown to 137 batters in 34 half-innings. And three grouchy members of my family.