A Tie is Like Kissing Good Bye
Long story short, Mark Hamilton's solo homer with two out in the top of the 9th gave Memphis a see-saw 7-6 win over Iowa today that also advanced the Redbirds to the PCL playoffs and ended the Cubs' season. The teams deadlocked for their divisional crown with records of 82-62 and split their season series 8-8 but the playoff berth goes to the visitors on the basis of their superior intra-divsional record.
It was another pulsating game in a pulsating series. I would say that the umpiring left a little to be desired, not necessarily in terms of the accuracy of calls, but in the length of fuses. After all, these were two teams in a dead heat with 140 games down and four to go. Thicken the skins and stop tossing people in the early innings. More on that later.
For the second straight day the wind was blowing briskly out to left and was a factor.
Iowa starter Jay Jackson was shaky at the outset, loading the bases with one out in the first but escaping unscored upon. In the second he got himself in the same jam but wasn't so lucky this time. Tyler Greene was at the plate with teammates at second and third when he checked his swing on a 2-2 pitch. The plate ump called it a foul ball but Greene swore the pitch had hit him on the forearm. The plate ump asked one of his colleagues on the bases and he too said foul ball. But Greene must have shown evidence of a mark where the ball had struck him because he was suddenly waved to first. You know who, back in the dugout after yesterday's banishment, joined the conversation at that point but his brief and somewhat restrained argument fell on deaf ears and the game resumed with the crowd actually into the action on the field for a change. Alas, Jackson was nonplussed by now and became even more so when he lost the ruling on another checked swing that ensued on his first pitch to the new hitter. In the middle of his next windup the plate ump broke out of his crouch to eject someone inside the Iowa dugout who turned out to be Mitch Atkins. Another delay, after which Jackson completed a four pitch walk to force in a run. A sacrifice fly followed but Jackson finally made it back to the dugout trailing by only 2-0.
In the bottom of the inning back to back doubles by Bryan LaHair and Bobby Scales and a single by Robinson Chirinos, who had three important hits and dug a bunch of sliders out of the dirt behind the plate in my first look at him, tied the score and the game was on.
Jackson labored again in the 3rd, giving the lead back on a single to his counterpart as the bottom of the Memphis lineup got to him. The frame ended when Chirinos threw behind a runner at first to pick him off and a runner breaking from third was eventually tagged out trying to score in the confusion.
In the top of the 4th Scales made a great diving catch of a wind-blown popup down the line in right to start Jackson's first 1-2-3 inning of work. In the bottom of the frame Dubois led off with a prodigious blast to tie the score before Scales was safe on an error and Chirinos doubled him home to give the I-Cubs their first lead of the day. Jackson then doubled off the center field wall and I noticed Sandberg smiling and gesturing at the dugout railing while the Redbirds pow-wowed at the mound. He seemed confident.
When Dubois homered again in the 6th to put his team ahead 6-3 it looked bubbly for the home team. They had been overcoming leads throughout the weekend, not blowing them.
Jackson was removed after surrendering a leadoff double in the top of the 7th. Justin Berg came in and served up a run scoring single and a double that put runners at second and third with no outs. A grounder and a sac fly were all it took to tie the game from there.
While Iowa was failing to score in the bottom of the 7th and Memphis was being put down in order in the top of the 8th some kid with #28 on his back and nothing else [all the other players' names were on their jerseys] was nervously throwing in the Memphis pen. He took his nerves with him to the mound in the bottom of the 8th and walked Dubois on four pitches leading off. Better than allowing him the hat trick I guess. Then he fell behind LaHair and the dam seemed about to burst. Instead LaHair grounded sharply into a 6-4-3 double play with a 3-2 count even though Dubois was running on the pitch. The kid, whose name turned out to be Alan Reifer, was new in town, having come a running from Springfield after yesterday's 15 inning affair drained the Memphis relief corps.
Hamilton's dramatic homer made Reifer the winning pitcher in his first Triple A appearance, but not before the aggressive Chirinos hit the first pitch from closer Josh Kenney in the bottom of the 9th for a double and got stranded at third. While Reifer was working into and out of trouble in the 8th Kenney was making new friends by returning a cell phone dropped over the RF railing the way young ladies used to accidentally on purpose drop their hankies.
One minute 10,000 people were on their feet headed for the playoffs. The next, the season and the summer were over.
It took a long time for the parking lot to clear after the game. I didn't really mind the lingering.