Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sometimes You Just Tip Your Hat

Prepare yourself.

You're going to hear a lot of chatter and overall negativity on the radio tomorrow concerning the Brewers getting no-hit tonight. They're going to complain that Graffanino was in the line-up instead of Braun. They're going to complain that Gross was the designated hitter and that Counsel was batting lead-off. The dooms-day speakers are going to say that the Crew has finally hit rock bottom and that we should all prepare for the continuing free fall--right into last place. Some are going to call for Yost's head. Others are just going to call him an idiot.

But you know something? None of it matters.

Because Justin Verlander was flat out filthy tonight. And there was nothing Ryan Braun, Ned Yost or Tony Gwynn Jr, could have done about it.
(Although, it would have been nice to see Gwynn start this game. I'm still baffled by the Gross as DH decision, and can't understand why Yost is so reluctant to get Gwynn's bat at the top of the order, especially in Rickie's absence. He's the guy with the best chance to beat out the infield single after all...)
Verlander was getting his no-no no matter what. And you could feel that it was going to be the case as early as the fourth inning. He was electric. And he was changing speeds as well as any pitcher that can throw the ball 101 mph ever has. He was locating his curve, his changeup and the fastball, which never registered lower than 96 all night. And he craftily used sea gulls to his all advantage all night long.

I'm not claiming that I predicted this no hitter ahead of time, but let me walk you through my night so you can see why I became sure that it was on it's way. After all, the Brewers have been no hit through four or five innings half a dozen times this season--even a couple times during the 24-10 start. But this night was different, here's my take on the series of "lowlights"

5:45 p.m.--I'm at the Ford dealer, getting some work done to my brakes (Or at least I went in for brakes; turns out I needed these tie rod thingy-ma-bobs replaced too. Apparently they're pretty important to the front end of your car or the tires fall right off the axle. Who knew? I sang a lot in high school.)
I'm told the car isn't going to be ready until 7, so I call Sonia and she picks me up. During the ride home, I panic that I haven't changed my fantasy baseball line-up for the night. I get home just before the 6 p.m. deadline and insert one Justin Verlander into the starting pitcher slot for my team, Harvey's Wallbangers. Hope that move works out...

Brewers 1st--After a Counsell strike-out Grafanino puts together the worst Brewer at-bat, since Chuckie Carr hacked 3-0. When Hardy lines out to center, I actually stand up and clap, yelling "Way to put it in play, J.J." I probably should have taken that as an omen.

Brewers 2nd--I warmed up some food in the microwave. I swear I ran it for 1 minute and 11 seconds (I'm lazy, so I always press "1, 1, 1" or "2, 2, 2" whenever I use the microwave.), but somehow, by the time I get back to the couch, the Brewers are already out. What the--?

Brewers 3rd--Billy Hall draws a walk. The perfect game has ended. Eat that, Tigers.

Bottom of the third--We're in route to pick up my car, which still isn't done when I arrive. By the time I make it to the waiting room and get their tv turned on to the game, the Tigers have a run. These Brewers really need me.

Brewers 4th--After another Graffanino strike out, JJ draws a walk. Verlander then delivers the filthiest curveball I have seen, at least since Sheets 18 strike-outs versus the Braves, to Prince Fielder. I don't have proof, but it may have broke a full 6 feet. On the next pitch Verlander throws another nasty curve, but instead of making it bite into the dirt, he paints the corner. Nothing Prince could have done. I swear on all things Brewers that at this moment, I realize the no-hitter is more than just a possibility...Hart strikes out to end the inning. But there's good news, Brewers fans; if my count is right, we forced Verlander to throw 20 pitches that inning (turns out it was 19).

Bottom of the 6th--I get home with my car just in time to see Curtis Granderson's triple. (I have to say, the triple is a pretty exciting play.) When he scores on a sac fly, I look to my wife and inform her that the Brewers just lost and she might want to stick around and see a little history...she goes to the bedroom and falls asleep. 'Cause that's the kind of pull I have around the house.

Brewers 7th--Prince Fielder hits one back through the box, but Verlander grabs it and throws him out at first. Hart then sends a line drive to right field that Magglio makes a nice diving catch on...I immediately flash back to the unnecessary dive Robin made on the final out of Nieves no-no in '87. It takes the pain away, but only momentarily...

Brewers 8th--Bill Hall walks for the third time in the game. (Here's my chance to find a bright side to being no-hit. Bill Hall showed patience at the plate and didn't flail at pitches off the corner. Mark this down: Billy is about to get hot. And remember you read it here first.) Gross hits a ball up the middle that Neifi Perez turns into a nice 6-4-3 double play. He was a Cub last year. Enough said.

Brewers 9th--The ump calls a pitch that was obviously a ball a strike and Counsell pouts...

I'm sorry, I have to interrupt my own typing a second to comment on the NBA game tonight. With 11 seconds left, Varejao just threw up some God-awful spin move on Duncan. That was the ugliest crunch time play the NBA Finals has ever seen. I really wish I had completely tuned out of this tournament as soon as Golden State was eliminated...

Anyhow, as Counsell pouts, you can actually see the third base ump laughing in the background. The Brewers fan in me wants to believe that the ump is laughing because he realizes it was a bad call and that the home plate ump has gotten carried away in the moment. Truth is, he's laughing at Counsell for not understanding that the home plate ump is going to give Verlander that call as he gets carried away in the moment.

Next, Graffanino accomplishes the rare feat of striking out for the fourth time, all swinging. Well, kind of swinging. If, that is, you consider a half-ass check swing strike an actual swing. Actually, someone should call Elias, he may have just set a record for check-swing strikes in a game. Of the 12 strikes, at least 9 are check-swing half-assers...

Finally, JJ send a soft liner to right. The Tigers celebrate, and all I can do...

...is tip my hat.


Anonymous said...

nice little write up. brewer fan or not, anyone who witnessed the entire game--or the recap on espn, which is probably the most airtime the brewers have received since starting 24-10--should be tipping their hats to mr verlander. the man was a complete stud last night.

mr rosenthal, i truly enjoy your articles. as the brewers nosedive, you seem to be grasping at the unreachable hope of the playoffs, almost as if the sweet fruit that your palate suckled on w/the great start of the season has, little by little, been pulled away from your lips. you're reaching for it only to realize your hands are tied behind your back. american beauty and about schmidt come to mind. beautiful trajedy at its finest. the air slowly being sucked from your sail, only to leave you aimlessly drifting in the waterways to mediocracy. lecter slowly feasting on your brains while you're still alive. hopelessly hoping for that which will no longer be w/in arm's reach by mid september.

as a cubs fan, we go through this every year. the one thing that has eased the pain these last three years is hearing all you brewer fans ramble about "our great young home grown talent that has risen through the minor leagues and now is our future". in years past, i would find all of you already talking about how green bay is the team to beat....right around mid may, which is when you realized the brewers were out of contention. at least for the last 3yrs, you've gotten a taste of false hope which we experience every year since i was born. hopefully, with more uprising prospects to replace your young stars that you'll lose to free agency w/in the next 3-4yrs, you will continue to experience longer and longer periods of false hope each summer. instead of mid may, stretch the agony to mid july. and last year to mid august. maybe, as horrible as the central is this year, it'll strech to the beginning of september. close. close. close. but not quite.

and all i can do....is tip my hat.

Anonymous said...

After Graffanino struck out (for the first time... not the other three times) I turned to Alyssa and said, "This is about to get really ugly for the Brewers."

That said - Gabe Gross? Seriously? I can only hope they're giving him a look as trade bait. It's not working.

Anonymous said...

great call on bill hall. he single-handedly won yesterday's game. however, one game doesn't erase the slow start he's gotten off to; hopefully he can keep the momentum going to help get them into the all-star break above .500

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