What a difference a few innings can make, eh?
I wonder sometimes how much players think about momentum and things along those lines. Are they more selfish than that? Is David Ortiz only worried about his performance contributing to the team win, or does he wonder about the mental stability of the bullpen? You sometimes hear of squabbles when one side isn’t pulling its weight. But, on a winning club, I wonder how much time is spent worrying about everyone else.
So I wonder if players realize that the team needed that win. Individual players definitely needed that win. But, it also meant a lot to the team as a whole.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to exaggerate the importance of a game in late June. Or, maybe I am. How would I know? But if you’re looking for a sign of a team breaking out of a slump, yesterday’s victory would be a great place to start.
They battled back. Sure, I’ve said before that I’m not really sure what that term means. I don’t think baseball is the sort of sport where “trying extra hard” does a lot for you. Unlike, say, football where that extra push towards the quarterback may be the difference between reaching him or not. I don’t think trying extra hard to hit a curveball does much for you. So, maybe the battling part is overstated. But, they came back. And, this was the exact sort of game you’d almost forgive them for not coming back. The last game of a long depressing home stand. You know they really just wanted to hop on that plane and get the heck out of Dodge. So, you’d almost expect them to just go through the motions at the end. Especially when they went behind. Just pack it in and start fresh in Texas. But, they didn’t do that. They kept scoring, and worked as long as it took to score as many as they needed.
They reminded themselves that they can score. That is important. They can score lots of runs. They can score lots of runs when they need them. They can score a run with the bases loaded. They can score a run without them loaded. It’s just good to see it happen in front of your face. It’s good to not have to think of James Shields getting the better of you for so long. It’s easier to get that thought out of your mind on that long plane ride. The last thing you remember was a big hit and a big run.
It was important to remember that Craig Kimbrel can pitch whenever you need him. Oh, don’t worry. I’m with you in being completely amazed he was in the game after loading the bases in the tenth inning with nobody out. Especially since it was his second inning of work after having worked in, what, every game of the home stand? But, he got out of it. (Noticed how I said “he got out of it” instead of “The White Sox choked”?) He got the pop up to hold the runners, and then took care of the next two with the strikeout. Just what he needed just when he needed it. Both for the team, and for himself. Now we’ll just have to hope he remembers it the next time he pitches…which may have to be after the All-Star break at this rate.
Will any of this carry over to Texas? Only time will tell. But, at the very least it lets them start fresh. If they don’t get a hit in the first inning, or two, they don’t have to wonder if they’ll ever get a hit. They don’t need to react like Twitter does to every failure. After all, they’re starting the game tonight knowing that the last person who came to the plate for them got a hit, and drove in a run. The last pitcher on the mound for them retired the last three batters he faced, all with the bases loaded. The last thing they did was a good thing.
And David Price is on the mound to try and keep it going.
They need that too!