Two hours and fifteen minutes sufficed to settle this mellow contest on Jackie Robinson Day. Courtesy of Fox the first innings was played in the ether – when they did deign to let us in their regional guys from SD manned the booth and were a pleasant surprise. Justin Kutchner did play by play, Preston Wilson color. They scored on two points – they said a lot of pleasant things about the Braves without condescension – their required tributes to Robinson were many and spotted throughout the game and Wilson, as one who directly benefited, was moving. Amusingly, he also had a story or two about Smoltz in their new broadcasting roles.
When we were finally permitted to view our game and not Cleveland’s, Dickey, who’d had an easy first so they said, promptly gave up back to back homers. We stayed behind 0/2 till the third when Dansby and Neck both had RBI singles to tie. Gatsby, as he is called in these parts, had horrible AB’s last night ballooning everything up weakly but his single here was to right field and hit low with power and authority. Neck continues to impress at the plate. So it was 2/2 going into the 4th.
In the bottom of the fourth we left 2 on. But the top of the innings was enlivened by the Dickey kick to propel a bunt foul. Not a nudge with the side of his foot but a full blooded kick – memory did not serve up another such from the past. In the top of the fifth, Dickey continuing to pitch tenaciously, it was the Padres’ turn to leave two runners on.
In the bottom of the fifth an event occurred which might well have gone viral around the world, an inch or two either way. Freddie had singled and was likely sent on his way to second in a hit and run. As he barrelled in towards the bag, his left leg was fully stretched out to the side and threatening. Cue our friend Erick Aybar who arrived there from a 45 degree angle with his legs splayed wide, wide open – Freddie’s left foot, most certainly not willfully, slid between both guides and was heading straight toward Hallelujah City when, with a masterful display of control and compassion, impact was shepherded off to the more friendly side regions. They ended up tangled flat on the bag, each in the other’s arms, much smiles and sighs of relief, all round you might think. No Hibar here.
The top of the 6th started with Hedges, 2/31 coming in, he who had homered earlier, now hit a double but he too was wasted. Come the bottom half, lo and behold, it was our favorite whipping boys who went back to back out of the park. Phillips first at 447 feet to straight center, Garcia his preferred route to right center bouncing off and over the substantial brick wall added to increase the degree of difficulty .
Somewhere behind all this BTW are several shortish rows of fancy seats with what appears to be calligraphy on them – could not make out what was happening. What it most resembled, from a distance, was one of those mausoleums for the multitudes where the customers are boxed and slid in place in their coffins -0r an assembled North Korean cabinet meeting trying to figure who’s the next to go.. Glad to say in this case of course they were sitting happily outside in their seats, coke in hand. Could someone who has been there, or better still, sat there, please enlighten, what are these seats,why do they look so odd on the screen and what do they cost?
Relief was called up in the top of the seventh when their first two batters had reached, bizarrely, both sending Dickey sprawling as he tried unsuccessfully to field their hard hit grounders which bounced off him and away. He had done us proud. As did Suzuki, no pass balls. Ramirez came on and cleaned up emphatically. Funnily enough the aforesaid Wilson had just said Ramirez was not one of those who could get it to 95 when a 97 was posted. To his credit he called himself out and laughed. Self deprecation in this business brings welcome relief.
Just like last night the Braves bullpen performed like clockwork. Vizcaino in the eighth, JJ polishing off the ninth. Much maligned a week or two ago they now look solid from the right and with Mauricio still to come.
It was a grand night all round. Three in a row, all the Robinson tributes, lots of laughs with Erick and Freddie, balls flying out of the Park. As our kids used to say, are we there yet?