Joe Buck is the subject of a lot of scorn among baseball watchers, but he did something awfully cool to put the proper finishing note on a Game 6 for the ages.
As David Freese's ball was sailing over the center field fence, Buck stole a line from his father Jack and told us that he's see us all tomorrow night. That's the same call Jack Buck gave when Kirby Puckett forced Game 7 in 1991, a game that is one of the best in baseball history and Thursday night's game might have been sloppier but it is certainly memorable.
Who knows if we are in for the same kind of gift from the baseball gods on Friday night? What we do know is that Thursday night's 10-9 Cardinals win was full of so much ridiculousness that it would have been fitting if Joe Buck stole another one of his father's calls when it was all said and done.
The Cardinals trailed five different times and came back to win. They were down to their final strike in two different innings (What is it about Game 6s and final strikes?) and won. They became the first team in playoff history to score runs in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings of the same game and the first team to win a game that saw players on each team hit go-ahead home runs in extra innings.
Oh, and one of those home runs was preordained. At least that's what Josh Hamilton said after the game about a conversation with the man upstairs before he stepped up to the plate in the 10th. "He told me, 'You haven't hit one in a while, and this is the time you're going to,'" Hamilton said, before adding that the voice didn't say he would win the game as well.
All of that madness came after the first seven innings of the game were marked more by ugliness than glory. Errors and misplays helped both teams score runs and made the contest look like something less than baseball's finest hour. Heck, it wasn't just the first seven innings. Nelson Cruz misplayed Freese's ninth-inning triple in a play that got a bit lost in the extra inning craziness.
It wasn't all bad defense, though. Mike Napoli's pickoff of Matt Holliday at third base in the sixth was one more chapter in the coming book "Mike Napoli Did More in the 2011 Postseason Than Most Players Do All Year." That he did it after suffering a nasty looking turned ankle makes it all the more remarakable. Holliday got injured on the play, forcing Allen Craig into the game and Craig naturally hit a home run because this series is being scripted by Hollywood screenwriters.
Those screenwriters have clearly decided that Ron Washington serves as comic relief. In a night where the ridiculous became the routine, Washington's bullpen handling still stood out as particularly ludicrous. It started in the sixth when he pulled Colby Lewis with the bases loaded and brought Alexi Ogando into the game.
Ogando has been awful this series and promptly walked the first man he faced to tie the game. Napoli's pickoff alleviated some pressure, but Ogando put it back on with a wild pitch and another walk before Washington finally came and got him. We hate to say we told you so, but we did just that before the game Thursday when we urged Wash to use Derek Holland instead of Ogando.
He could have also used Holland to start the bottom of the fifth, but Washington chose to let Lewis hit with the bases loaded and two out in the top of the frame. Lewis predictably struck out, something that the manager should have let him do with two on and none out in the second. Instead, Lewis tried a bunt that a blind man could see coming and the Cardinals turned it into an easy double play.
Then there was the 10th inning when Washington ordered Scott Feldman to intentionally walk Albert Pujols to bring up Lance Berkman with two on and two out in a one-run game. There were two pretty obvious options for Washington at this point: walk Berkman to set up a righty-righty matchup with Allen Craig or bring in a lefty to pitch to Berkman, who is a lesser hitter against southpaws.
Washington did neither and Berkman tied the game with a single. If you're willing to let Berkman beat you, you should be more willing to let Craig beat you. And having Mike Gonzalez and C.J. Wilson (who was warming up during the game) sitting in the pen unused is impossible to defend. Feldman has his charms, but we're not talking about a guy who has proven to be lights out in his career.
Not a good night for Washington. He gets a chance to turn things around on Friday night, provided the screenwriters behind this whole thing have decided his character deserves a redemptive arc.