BOTTOM OF THE TENTH PADRES 7
(5) – 6 GIANTS
We start tonight in the perspective of two bespectacled eyes behind home plate, peering out at the mound with all-seeing supervision, gazing with some literary quality out at the weirdest story of the major-league night. Dr. TJ Eckleburg—migrated across miles and decades, sign to sign, from fictional billboard to the rectangular ad space on the Petco Park backstop:
The eyes of the Tough Turtle Turf turtle are white and tiny—their retinas are one inch wide. They look out of no human face, but, instead, from a pair of circular white spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose.
Sadness, in the eyes, at the sight of a Buster Posey home run in the top half of the inning. Reality hitting hard for Padres fans, with the ending All-Star break sending national media and fans back home, the struggling Padres back on field with their star pitcher traded away to Boston, and the Giants now up one run in the tenth—their expensive California peers to the north, even-year magic setting them up for another playoff run.
But then, Santiago Casilla came in from the San Francisco bullpen, throwing junk flying wild on both sides of the zone. Then, they got a runner on base, Alex Dickerson lining a single the opposite way, over the head of Brandon Crawford.
The fans turned caps sideways in a stadium-wide salute to the rally, flipped around backwards, praying for a breakthrough, a winning streak to start the first chunk of a second-half not predicted for anything too good.
Derek Norris came up, and lined another single into the outfield. Nobody out, and the Giants infield crept in for Adams Rosales, a vain run-preventing shift—and the batter batted a single through a hole between third and short. Dickerson scored. The game tied up, 6-6, with the rest of the baseball world fast asleep, the day’s games all over, extra innings still raging on the west coast.
TIE GAME! @arosie7 singles to left field to score Dickerson!
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) July 17, 2016
The camera cut to a dead-faced Bruce Bochy, in the Giants’ dugout biting his nails, and the TV guys narrating his own thoughts: “This,” they said, “is why managers get gray hairs.”
Casilla pitched yet another ball in the dirt, way wild, his follow-through sending his arm straight up in the air—just saved by Buster Posey, an instinctive pick across his body.
Casilla wiped his nose in his jersey, adjusted his cap.
The crowd got loud.
Alexei Ramirez came up to bat.
And then, Casilla set up again, wound up, and—from the mouths of the San Diego broadcast crew, in unison:
“Wohow!!! That’s a balk!!”
Fans point to the mound, pointing harder—pointing-hands shaking toward the umpire, to the mound: “That’s a balk! that’s a balk! balk! balk!” squawking their way in protest.
Not just a balk, not only a twitch, a restart, but a full tumbling stumble off the ground into the grass, like a video-game glitch you couldn’t repeat if you tried. Not just a bad mark on the stat sheet, a runner advancing, an embarrassing flop—but a game lost. On a single play, your legs tangled into a crouch, a walk-off balk with no room to make up for it. Game over. Your body near collapsed on the ground, ugly and lopsided. Yikes.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) July 17, 2016
The fans behind home go crazy, a wave of joy fluttering out in both directions around the park. A sea arms shoot up in the air, linked together with the rows in front and behind, like a massive criss-crossed quilt of W’s, a giant wall of win to be celebrated. It’s a game-winning safety, extra-time own goal, a foul hack on a last-second made three pointer, down three points.
Posey walks off in shame to the away dugout. Casilla follows, moving far slower, unemployment looming over his head. The PA System rubs it in: “Cel….e-brate good times, come ON!”
At home, with Norris trotting in to score: a disorganized scrum of teammates, water bottles sprayed on the heads, the quick substitute for a water cooler not yet on hand. The Padres’ flag girls jump up atop the dugout, waving their banners: “Padres Win”.
Another gem from the San Diego TV crew: “B-A-L-K that spells balk, that spells winner.”
It’s not the first time it’s happened. Padres had a wild walk-(not balk)-off against L.A., with Chin-Hui Tsao melting down in similar fashion.
And see Armando Benitez’s balky blown save in 2007, Johnny Cueto, this year, called for the shimmy-balk, and Casillas himself, a game-ending wild pitch, that same frustrated look in Posey’s face, and another Giants win lost to incompetence (as good as they are). On other teams, too, it’s happened before, even worse so.
For more, check out Grant Brisbee’s post over at McCovey Chronicles, and an excellent busting-out of old Peanuts strips to tell the story.
Santiago “Charlie Brown” Casilla, back at it again, ineptitude be thy name.
The 2016 Balkanization of the San Francisco Giants.