The All-Star game is upon us! Quite frankly it’s lost a je ne sais quoi ever since I hit puberty. Of course maybe that’s because girls started interesting me far more? Then again it was the mid 90’s and the Phillies really stank in the 90’s.
After Joe Carter’s bomb I had little reason to keep following Philadelphia as closely as before. The Internet was still a shaky dial-up country for Venezuela and MLB Media was still a blueprint somewhere in Selig’s desk. So it was just newspaper box scores and a lot of head shaking. The LVBP (Liga Venezolana de Beisbol Professional, I’m not calling it “Winter Ball”, since there’s NO winter in Venezuela) was far more entertaining and interesting. Bob Abreu was still a going concern and Omar Vizquel was at the height of his mutant shortstop powers.
July 8th, Michael Feliz of the Houston Astros. This one was a quite doozy and wild affair. The Astros were leading the Oakland Athletics by what seemed like a comfortable margin of 7 to 4. According to most experts your team has over a 97% chance of winning the game in the 9th inning with a such lead (Houston would ultimately win but not in the fashion one would expect).
Will Harris started off the frame by surrendering a double to Billy Butler. Then Yonder Alonso stepped up to the plate and did this to a shoulder high 93 MPH fastball:
That one left in a hurry. The game was now 7 to 6. Harris managed to sneak strike three past Marcus Siemen for the first out. Jake Smolinski pinch hit for Billy Butler and singled. Pinch runner Tyler Ladendorf subbed in for Smolinski. Jed Lowrie came up and smoked a double putting runners on 2nd and 3rd. At this point Harris has demonstrated little ability to get outs so in comes Michael Feliz. I wonder if his walk in song is Will Pharrel’s Happy? That’d be cool right?
Michael “Happy” blew it almost immediately on the second pitch that Khris Davis crushed for a 2 RBI double giving the A’s an 8-7 lead. (All four runs have been charged to Will Harris at this point, amazingly he still got a Hold! In my mind you should not get a hold if your runs are responsible for the opposing lead, but whatever).
The A’s weren’t done though. Josh Reddick singled to right bringing in Khris Davis making it 9-7 A’s. However, Josh got greedy and assumed the throw would go home and he was nabbed at 2nd base making the 2nd out. The next hitter, Danny Valencia, would mercifully end the inning with a strikeout.
Despite the disaster, the Astros rallied against Ryan Madson. After one out, Jose Altuve singled and stole second. Carlos Correa would strike out but the pitch went wild and he scampered off to first base. Then Luis Valbuena ended the affair in this manner:
And so, this is how two Astros pitchers combined to win a game despite surrendering five runs and only being directly responsible for 2 of the 3 outs. Rarely has a win been so tainted in such a fashion.
July 9th, Bruce Rondon of the Detroit Tigers. Sorry Philiac, but Bruce made it to the list this week. As Vultures go this one is of the “Little Margin for Error” variety. Leading 2-1 in the 7th inning over the Toronto Blue Jays, Bruce was tasked with preserving a one run lead. Now that’s a tall order considering:
A) Tasking the Tigers bullpen with preserving any kind of lead is daunting.
B) The hitting Team is the Toronto Blue Jays, a top 5 team in many offensive categories including Nose Hair.
Naturally, Bruce Rondon gave up the goose when he surrendered a solo home run to tie the game. With so many top sluggers you would think the hitter was Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnación, or maybe Jose Bautista…
That was Devon Travis’s 6th home run of the season. Not to worry Tiggers fans! Victor Martinez brought the lumber in the 8th to restore the lead:
July 10th, Pedro Strop of the Chicaco Cubs. It seems we keep going into less and less exciting vultures as we move on. For some reason only Maddon knows, John Lackey was pitching in the 7th inning with a 1 run lead after pitching six innings of not very sharp baseball, but hey, Joe Maddon’s the manager with oodles of experience not me.
Lackey walked Josh Bell and then allowed a single, failing to record an out in the 7th inning. Pedro Strop came in to relieve John and got Starling Marte to ground into a force out putting runners in the corners with just one out. Andrew McCutchen would hit a long fly ball that would end up as a sacrifice fly bringing in Bell and tying the game.
Kris Bryant would single in the go ahead run in the top of the 8th putting Strop in line for a win. I’m having trouble working up any indignation here. I mean, Lackey didn’t really deserve the W anyway.
ALL-STAR GAME BONUS!
I’m not quite done yet. Today is the All-Star game. So it would only be fitting to revisit the last time someone vultured an All-Star game. I’ll give you a hint. This happened in the late 90’s.
And that guy is still pitching.
Yes, yes. It is our favorite old barrel of fun. The sultan of swinging, the discombobulated helmet, the one and only, Bartolo Colon! Oh and what a Vulture it was.
He started off the bottom of the 5th inning holding the AL Lead 5-3. We see a bunch of familiar faces in the field. Ken Griffey Jr. Derek Jeter before Marriage. Just to name a couple. Pudge Rodriguez is out on the mound giving Bartolo a pep talk. After all, this was his sophomore breakout season and first All-Star game.
He starts facing off Devon White. He tries to work the outside corner of the plate but Devon didn’t bite and The Future Dugong found himself in a 2-0 hole. He challenged White with a fastball over the strike zone and Devon whiffed. Next came a pitch in the dirt to put Colon 3-1. Bartolo challenged White again but this time he crushed it back in between left and center for a triple. Devon barely made it though.
Mark McGwire comes to the plate, Man on third no out. The first pitch strike does not catch Mark unawares but he fouls it back. The next pitch was a crafty breaking pitch on the outside corner but McGwire didn’t bite. 1-1. Next pitch Colon tries inside and is more successful as Mark looks like he got jammed when he fouled it off.
At this point Mark’s muttering: “Come on”. He wants another piece of that, but Colon throws WAY outside for ball two. If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. Another outside low pitch makes this a full count. The next offering is over the middle and about chest high. Ball four. McGwire works out a walk. I’m pretty sure Bartolo wasn’t happy with that call.
Man on first and third, no outs. And now comes Barry Bonds.
The Future Dugong wastes no time and challenges Bonds through the strike zone and Barry takes a whiff worthy of Mighty Casey himself. Next offering is a high fastball Bonds does not lay off of and swings for strike two. He even grins a little. Next pitch is a bit more outside and Bonds fouls it off. Bartolo comes back with a pinata pitch and Barry barely lays off the very high ball.
Barry takes a few steps back after every pitch and settles back into the box with this crazy twitchy swing of the bat. This time Bartolo tries some off-speed stuff but Bonds is all over it and crushes a line drive into the left field corner… foul!
Now comes the mound conference with Pudge Rodriguez and Mike Hargrove. Not sure if they were discussing wedding gifts or what the heck where they gonna throw to Bonds but pep talk is over Hargrove goes back to the dugout and we resume the action.
The next pitch is another fastball but low. The free swinging Barry is now being cool and let’s it go for ball two. The count is now 2-2. Now comes more heat and Barry is late yet again as he crushes the ball into the deep left field foul line seats. This at-bat is really getting long.
Bartolo looks for his sign from Pudge but he briefly shakes him off and now he gets a sign he wants. After a steady fastball diet Colon tries to put away Bonds with an off-speed pitch betting that he’s been timing the heat and waiting on it…
Yeah, that didn’t work out so well for Bartolo. But he pitched the frame and got the next three batters without undue stress. In the next inning the AL got the lead back and ran away with the game which made Bartolo the winning pitcher of record. Gotta hand it to Colon, he vultured that win from the likes of David Wells and Roger Clemens. You do you Bartolo, You do You.