In modern baseball analysis, one of the most important principles is that batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is roughly a constant. In the majors, BABIP — in other words, batting average on everything other than strikeouts or home runs — sits at around .300, and any pitcher or hitter with a BABIP far above that is likely to see it fall over time, and anyone below it will likely see it rise. Average BABIP is higher in our league — more like .400-.500 — but the principle is the same: If you’re getting more than your share of hits on balls in play it’s a sign that you’ve been lucky, and if balls you hit keep finding gloves you’ve been unlucky, and luck tends to even out over a long season, even if not necessarily over a single game.
With that in mind, let’s recap the Green Blueberries’ marathon first-round playoff game vs. SFX Mezzo-Lui.
We were the home team, by virtue of having beaten out the Mets for fourth place. (I think we actually finished in third place, ahead of 78 Steckel, but as seeding was set before the final few days of games, we ended up seeded 4th.) Following his three-straight-strikeout mound stint on Wednesday, Luke got the nod to start last night’s game, and almost kept up that pace in the 1st inning, sandwiching a pair of strikeouts around a groundball error where first baseman Roan smartly retrieved the overthrow and tossed to Isaac to nab the runner as he tried to go to second.
Jeremy led off the bottom of the 1st, and merely hit a mammoth line drive off the base of the left-field wall at Parade Grounds field 1, ending up at third with his third triple of the year. Ben M followed with an RBI single to center, then stole second and scored on Marco’s hard ground single through the left side, with Marco taking second on the throw home. Marco later scored on an errant throw from the Mets first baseman, and the Green Blueberries had a 3-0 lead.
It was in the top of the second that things began to, as they say, go pear-shaped. Lucien led off with a groundball that snuck between shortstop Jeremy and third baseman Ben M for a single. Efrem then delivered an epic clout over the head of center fielder Jordan G — who was already playing deep — for an RBI double. Will then hit a dying quail down the right field line that was out of right fielder Yates’ reach, and our lead was down to 3-2.
Luke struck out the next batter, Pat, but then the pecking to death by ducks resumed: a grounder that was just out of reach of first baseman Roan to put runners on the corners, a walk to load the bases, and finally a hit batsman that forced in the tying run. Out went the call to the bullpen — or in this case, to second base, where Isaac came in from to take the mound. Unfortunately, he was unable to stem the bleeding, yielding three straight walks before departing in favor of Nathan.
Nathan didn’t do much better at first, walking the first batter, Lucien, then being called for a balk when he stopped mid-delivery after catcher Marco reached down to adjust his shinguard. Nathan struck out the next two batters, though, and finally the inning was over, but with the Green Blueberries now on the wrong end of an 8-3 tally.
The home side tried to mount a rally in the bottom of the 2nd, but a one-out single up the middle by Roan was followed by a grounder to third off the bat of Jordan N that forced Roan at second, and a walk to Jeremy only left two runners stranded when Ben M’s hard grounder was picked cleanly by the Mets shortstop, who threw to first just in time for the third out.
Nathan’s top of the 3rd couldn’t have started worse, as he hit the first two batters, then walked the next one to load the bases. After a strikeout, an infield single and another hit batsman, it was time for another call to the pen, this time for Dylan, who got a quick strikeout and a groundout to end the inning, with the Green Blueberries now down 10-3.
And that’s where things largely remained: In the bottom of the 3rd, Nathan walked and stole second with one out, but we were unable to score thanks to a pair of groundouts. In the top of the 4th, Dylan pitched a 1-2-3 frame, striking out two more Mets batters along the way. In the bottom of the 4th, Yates walked and stole second with one out, but wasn’t able to score, largely because Roan’s rocket to the left side was right at the Mets third baseman, who caught it cleanly a couple of feet off the ground. In the top of the 5th, Dylan made it five straight Ks by fanning the side; given the time, we were likely looking at one last chance to reverse a daunting seven-run deficit.
With the distant tennis center lights providing a slight glow on the darkening field, Jeremy led off the bottom of the 5th, reaching base for the third time on the day with another walk, then stealing second. Ben M grounded to short again, but this time the Mets shortstop couldn’t make the play, and we had two runners on. After Jeremy stole third and Ben M advanced to second without a throw, Marco smashed a hard grounder into the gloom that skipped past the Mets shortstop, and suddenly we were down only 10-5, with a man on and nobody out.
And, just as suddenly, the umpire waved his hands and said, “Sorry, guys, I can’t see the ball anymore.” With the inning still underway, by tournament rules it was a suspended game, one that we would have to resume the next day at 11 am to see who would play in the regularly scheduled game that day against HN Meehan.
And so, this morning at 11 am, we picked up where we left off. (Except without Jordan G, who had a piano recital and was duly removed from the lineup.) Nathan led off the morning with his third walk of the contest, and Luke followed with a looping liner to center that dropped in for an RBI single. Isaac next hit a groundball to the left side that the busy Mets shortstop just barely threw to first in time for the forceout, and Yates struck out, bringing to the plate Roan for our final chance of the game. He again made contact, again hitting the ball hard to the left side, but the Mets third baseman made a clean throw to first, and that was the ballgame. SFX Mezzo-Lui 10, 78 deMause 6
It was an extremely frustrating loss, in part because those ten runs were due to our pitching breaking down at the worst possible time — I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen multiple pitchers on this team collectively lose the strike zone to the tune of 10 batters out of 14 in a row either walking or getting hit by pitchers — and in part because of unlucky hitting: Most of what the Mets hit fell in, and most of what the Green Blueberries hit found a glove. (Their BABIP on the day: .625. Ours: .333.) Over more time, that disparity almost certainly would have evened out, and we would have started having more hits fall in; but as we didn’t have more time this game, and our other issues had left us without much margin for error, it was enough to saddle us with our first loss of the tournament.
The saving grace is that this year our tournament is double-elimination, so we still have a chance to redeem ourselves if we can start winning games in the elimination bracket. Our first challenge will be this Wednesday at 6 pm on Prospect Park field 2 against 78 Shiffman, who suffered a shock 6-2 defeat today to 78 Steckel. Both teams will be short-handed on Wednesday — Jeremy and Nathan will be late thanks to an ICE baseball championship banquet (congrats, Jeremy and Nathan and the ICE team!), Roan will be rushing back from the airport, and Jordan G may have a concert practice; on the Shiffman side, Sergei is injured and another player will be at the ICE banquet as well — but we’ll have Dylan back on the mound attempting to keep his streak of now retiring nine straight batters alive, and the rest of our team will be ready and willing to back him up. See you then, and go Green Blueberries!