Nats Marathon Win comes with an Oliver Twist and Heisey Packing a Punch; Super-Size Sunday of Baseball

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On any other day, the crazy game in Washington featuring the heroics of Oliver Perez and Chris Heisey would be the only game worth talking about.  The way yesterday played out, theirs is just one of 3 games that will get special attention in this forum. The Pirates’ 12-10 victory  in Phoenix and the Dodgers’ 12-10 comeback over the Rockies will get equal time.

The game in Washington seemed like a sleepy Sunday afternoon game tied at 1 until the 8th inning. Nats’ starter Stephen Strasburg owned the Twins until the visitors’ 8th when Brian Dozier slugged a 3-run home run sending the starter to the showers. But the home team showed they were full of fight in the 8th. Wilson Ramos doubled home two runs making it 4-3. An inning later, Bryce Harper who had been given a day off by his manager strode to the dish and launched the  first pinch-hit home run of his career, tying the game at 4. The Twins thought they had the game won when Miguel Sano singled home Eduardo Nunez  in the top  of the 15th. Then came Oliver’s story.  He’s been a baseball orphan bouncing around more than an errant pickoff throw.  He came in to get the last out in the 15th. With two out in the home half Danny Espinosa walked.  There was no pinch-hitter to call on. It was Perez or nobody.  Oliver Perez hadn’t swung a bat with intent since 2010 and had a career .158 batting average.   Espinosa stole second.  Perez lay down a bunt that appeared destined to roll foul.

Not realizing this, Twins’ catcher John Ryan Murphy picked up the bunt and air-mailed the throw, allowing Espinosa to score the tying run.  An inning later, Chris Heissey hit a solo home run giving Perez and the Nats the win in what was almost a 6-hour game.  It was the Nationals’ longest regular season game since moving to the District in 2005.  Their only longer game went 18 and it was in the NLDS two years ago. Perez, a Mexican national now lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona, the longtime home of humor columnist Erma Bombeck.  It’s a fair bet that when he called home after the win and told his wife of his 15th-inning exploit she thought he was making a joke.  It was only the first sequence that pressed the limit of belief yesterday.

The second crazy finish yesterday took place at Coors Field in Denver. No lead is safe there, as both teams’ pitchers found out yesterday.  The Dodgers built a 7-1 lead early and were still up 7-5 in the last of the 8th when the Rockies put up what looked like a 5-run winning rally.  But the Dodgers scored five of their own in their half of the 9th for the win. Early on, Yasiel Puig doubled home two runs, Corey Seager trippled home two and Joc Peterson celebrated his recent birthday by hitting one the distance. But the Rockies scored 3 in the 4th and one in the 6th to make it 7-5. Puig did his team no good in the 8th making an outfield error on a single by Carlos Gonzalez. Two runs scored on that sequence. Another two-run single seemed to seal the Dodgers’ doom for this game. But the Dodgers scored the tying run on a wild pitch, then doubles by Chase Utley and Seager gave the Dodgers’ their margin of victory. In one of the peculiarities that makes baseball the beautiful game it is, Joe Blanton threw all of one pitch to get the win.  He got the final out in the 8th.  When the Dodgers’ put up their 5 runs in the visiting 9th they were on his meter.  Kenley Jansen came in for his 9th save and got it making a winner out of Blanton and the Dodgers.

As this game was wrapping up the Pirates and Diamondbacks were engaged in a duel in the desert. When my Pirates’ source informed me the game was tied at 8 in extras she knew I couldn’t resist tuning in. That’s her kind of game-and mine. Paul Goldschmidt and Wellington Castillo did all they  could to keep the D-Backs in the game early.  Goldy as the locals call him  hit a solo home run in the first and Castillo blasted a 3-run shot two innings later bringing in Goldy and Yasmani Tomas.  But the visitors plated 5 in their 4th inning which appeared to take the life out of the home team. Starling Marte singled home the tying run. On a grounder by John Jaso, Goldschmidt made an errant throw bringing home Andrew McCutcheon and putting two men in scoring position. They both scored on a Gregory Polanco single.  Chris Stewart singled home the Pirates’ 8th run.  The D-Backs appeared finished until the 8th when  Tomas hit a solo home run and Chris Owings trippled home a run. In their last gasp, Goldschmidt hit his second home of the day, a two-run drive that leveled the game.  But the fun was just beginning, if you can imagine. Nobody scored until the 12th when former Cardinals’ phenom David Freese doubled home mcCutcheon and Marte singled Freese home. Marte was thrown out at second, but who cared. The Pirates had it won. The Jolly Roger was about to fly.  UH, not so fast. With Neftali Feliz on the hill, Jake Lamb walked as the leadoff hitter.  Nick Ahmed struck out and, showing considerable presence of mind and knowing he was their last position player he got ejected for arguing the third strike call with the umpire. Zack Greinke singled and was pinch-run for by Shelby Miller, another of the D-Backs’ starting pitchers as Greinke is. David Peralta doubled home Lamb making it 10-9. Jean Segura tied it by singling home Miller but the D-backs failed to win it though they had the winning run on third with one out. This left starting pitcher Shelby Miller playing left field as they shuffled players to replace the ejected Ahmed.  In the top of the 13th Josh Harrison and Sean Rodriguez led off with booming doubles to make it 11-10.  With no position players to turn to, the Pirates called on starter Jonathan Niese who singled home their final run in the 12-10 victory.  Those 3 games provide enough action for a week, but they all took place on one April Sunday.

Luis Cessa is 24 today.  He made his MLB debut with the Yankees earlier this month before being sent back to AAA. He had signed with the Mets at age 16 in 2008. He was a shortstop until converting to a pitcher in 2011.  He was one of two minor leaguers the Mets sent to Detroit for Yoenis Cespedes. The Tigers sent Cessa and Chad Green to the Bronx with lefty reliever Justin Wilson headed to the Motor City.

Danny Espinosa, who scored the tying run for the Nats i the 15th inning yesterday is 29 today. The Nats took him in round 3 in 2008 after 3 years with the 49Ers of Long Beach State. He’s been with the Nationals since his call-up in late 2010.

Fred Haney, one of the very few managers to outfox Casey Stengel was born this day in 1896 and died in 1977. The third team he managed with the Milwaukee Braves.  He was their skipper from 1956 to 1959, during which time they beat the Yankees in the 1957 World Series, barely lost to them a year later and lost a playoff to the Dodgers in Haney’s final go-round with them.  He had managed the Browns and Pirates before that.  He would be the first general manager of the Angels once they joined the league in 1961 and would hold that position for 8 years. Before having this success he had been a radio play-by-play broadcaster in the Pacific Coast League between 1943 and 1948. He also did TV with Lindsey Nelson in 1960 on NBC’s Game of the Week.

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