Game 21: Miami Marlins
Since it was Kitty’s birthday we decided to treat ourselves to a cab ride to Marlins Park. It was actually a short trip that cost about ten dollars with the tip. As to be expected, the ball park in its first year of operation is very sleek and modern. Because of the famous Florida heat it was of course a necessity to have a roofed stadium and with the temperatures in the 90’s, it was a welcome relief to get into the cool of the arena.
We were early so we decided to have a drink in the Clevelander bar. This bar, inside the park features South Beach entertainment including dancers, body painters and DJ’s beside the large indoor swimming pool. We enjoyed the entertainment and then went to our seats. The Marlins had graciously given us three tickets and when Linley decided not to attend I resisted the urge to again show my entrepreneurial skills and we instead chose to sprawl over three seats. Very nice seats they were too, in the club section with cushioned backs.
Miami are 14 games form the lead in the NL East while San Diego is lagging 13 games back in the West. I would suggest that both teams are severally out of the running and are only playing for pride and contracts.
San Diego Padres………..001 100 020 0 – 4
Miami Marlins…………..…000 004 000 1 – 5
This is the first game that we watched where the game went into extra innings. Justin Ruggiano provided the heroics for the Marlins with a sharp single to left field in the bottom of the 10th innings that scored Jose Reyes from second to give them a 5-4 victory. The starting pitcher for Miami, Josh Johnson, began with poor command , but San Diego were unable to take full advantage and scored only two runs off him, one the result of poor fielding by Reyes in the fourth innings.
The Marlins trailed by two runs in the bottom of the sixth when they scored four runs to gain the lead. Donnie Murphy drove in two runs with a triple and Reyes, who just could not stay out of the game, singled and stole a base. However the Padres came back at the top of the eighth when a towering 410 foot home run to Yonder Alonso gave tied things up.
Reyes was the catalyst for the victory in the bottom of the tenth. The Pares out fielders were all in close in a “no-doubles” defence alignment. That is they were prepared to give a single, but definitely did not want the runner to advance to second base. Reyes flared a soft fly ball to shallow left field. When Carlos Quentin charged hard but could not make the catch, as the ball slid under his body, Reyes kept running for second. Enter Ruggiano and that was that.
Once again my thoughts drifted off towards who has things easier, the pitcher or the batter. Today the pitchers generally struggled and none more so than Marlins starter Johnson. He is currently being scouted by a number of clubs to be transferred before the 31 July trade deadline. So he had quite a bit of pressure to perform today. However he was erratic, throwing only 53 of his 95 pitches for strikes and walking six batters over five innings.
It is a very hard life being a pitcher. The rules of the game have almost always changed to handicap his art and to add to the offence of the game. People want to see runs scored. Originally when the rules were written, the poor old pitcher appeared to be something of an afterthought. “The ball must be pitched, not thrown for the bat”. The pitcher was solely there to assist the batter to put the ball in play. Until 1887 the batter was even allowed to demand where the menial pitcher serve the ball up – high or low. In 1879 the rules stipulated nine balls before a walk; however this was more than halved to the current four in 1889.
The area that the pitcher has to aim at has been constantly shrinking. Initially it was a boxlike area but changed to a slab of rubber. Early on the pitcher was allowed a run up, like in cricket, but this was soon outlawed. The pitcher’s mound was initially 45 feet from home plate but was shifted to 50 feet in 1881 and in 1893 it was moved to its current distance of 60 feet and six inches. This last shift of a massive ten and a half feet had the effect of taking 10 miles an hour off a fastball. Next we need to consider not only how far our friend is throwing, but at what size target.
In 1887 the strike zone was defined as extending from the top of the batters shoulders to the bottom of his knees. In 1950 though, the rule makers came into continue the plot against the pitcher. The strike zone was changed to being from the armpits to the top of the knees. Then in 1988 it shrunk again. The top of the zone is midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, or put simply, the letters on the uniform (nipples was hardly a word that the rule book would be able to use).
The home plate is 17 inches wide. A 90 mile per hour fastball on the fists is hard to hit. If it is six inches further out over the plate however it is of course just generating energy for the impact with the bat. With the strike zone constantly disintegrating and the distance that he is throwing increasing it is little wonder that the pitcher is constantly being made the scapegoat and why we see such high scoring spectacles as we had today. Contrary to what I said about how tough it was to be abatter in the New York Mets game maybe the whole world is against the poor old pitcher after all. Just ask Josh Johnson.
It was a shame Sam and his Josh were not here, as after the game they did allow the kids to run the bases – the beauty of a covered stadium. Kitty and I again cabbed back to Hampton Inn for a swim and a glass of Champers to celebrate her birthday.