Mark Wernick: “Til The Last Man Is Out”

Mark Wernick’s Scorecard in the Game of the Big 8th.
Even the smudge marks sweat allegiance to his caring.

 

How deep is your fandom in the destiny and fate of the Houston Astros? And what do you do when the opposition scores 5 runs in the top of the 8th to take a 5-1 seemingly deadly lead over the local heroes on a night when the boys are home and hitting at their too often fatally anemic pace?

Do you stay or do you go? 

This e-mail I received the other day from friend and colleague Mark Wernick in the wake of the 9-run rally in the bottom half of the same 8th inning by the Astros in Game Two in the immediate wake of the recently concluded three game series sweep of the Angels not only speaks for itself to the questions we now put forth, ~ it also qualifies for elevation of Mark’s work to column status as a man who thinks, writes, breathes, bleeds, cries, and sweats baseball with all the other deepest blue fans of our great game.  ~ So here goes.

Mark Wernick

 

Til The Last Man’s Out

By Mark Wernick

I didn’t finish the tallying for this scorecard – too exhausted. If you can read it, you’re amazing.

This was actually 2 games. Justin Verlander out-dueled Jaime Barria over 6 innings in the first game, 1-0, and Ryan Pressly shut down the Angels in the 7th. Verlander yielded one hit, no walks, and struck out 11, while Pressly yielded 2 hits, no walks, and struck out 2. So the Astros defeated the Angels in the first game, a 7 inning pitchers duel, by a score of 1-0.

The second game only lasted 2 innings, but it felt like 7 innings. Hector Rondon set the table for the disaster to follow, his 3rd consecutive poor outing. Rondon immediately walked the 8th inning leadoff man, pinch hitter Eric Young, Jr, (slash line .210/.257/.314), who is extremely fast and a base-stealing threat.

Young immediately stole 2nd base. Then pinch hitter Francisco Arcia, hitting .233 with 5 doubles in 90 at-bats, pounded a double to drive in Young with the tying run and blow Verlander’s masterpiece. Rondon did manage to strike out the next batter, whereupon manager Hinch replaced Rondon with the usually reliable Joe Smith.

Smith proceeded to have one of the most disastrous outings I’ve ever seen by a relief pitcher. He faced 5 batters and made a throwing error on the first batter to put two runners on base ahead of the best hitter in Major League Baseball, Mike Trout.

Trout then launched a 414 foot home run into left field orbit. That’s 2 batters and 3 runs, putting the Astros in a 1-4 hole. Then Smith yielded an infield hit to Shohei Ohtani and walked Justin Upton.

Then a passed ball by Brian McCann allowed the runners to move up to 2nd and 3rd. Then Andrelton Simmons just missed a three-run homer to left, the ball bouncing off the concrete wall in left center, barely below the yellow line. The ball was hit so hard that the ricochet came back to the fielder fast enough to enable the defense to keep Upton at 3rd, but Ohtani scored to make it 1-5, Angels. Mercifully Hinch pulled Smith, who faced 5 batters and retired no one. Collin McHugh then came in and put out the fire.

I was at this game with my old buddy from San Antonio, Stephen Smolins. We looked at each other at the end of the inning, shrugged, and then looked at the multitudes filing for the exits. “Wanna go?” I asked. “I’m in no hurry”, he answered. I was glad he said that. I’d have gone without a whimper if he had wanted to leave, but I preferred to stay to the end.

I told my friend a story about a game I attended with my son and my cousin and her husband in New York in 2004 as a lesson in leaving early. Here’s the box score and the play-by-play of that game. It will be self-explanatory. My cousin (may he rest in peace) decided to leave the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Yankees trailing to San Diego and Trevor Hoffman (in his prime) 0-2.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/box…/…/NYA200406130.shtml

By way of very brief summary, we remained, and the Astros scored 9 runs in the bottom of the 8th, nicely capped by a monster 2-run homer by Jose Altuve, who went 3 for 4 with a walk and was the Altuve of old. So the Astros also won the second game, 9-5. Very glad we stayed!

********************

And all of us are the richer for the fact you wrote, Mark Wernick. Thank you for turning the hose of that eternal flow of passion for the game of baseball you channel upon all the rest of us.

Things are looking sweeter by the day. The Astros’ 5-3 win over the Blue Jays last night has taken us to 99 wins on the year and a reduction of our magic number for clinching the AL West title from “3” to “2”. ~ Oakland kept it from further shrinkage on Monday by later taking their game at Seattle by a 7-3 count.

If the Astros win and the A’s lose today, the AL West is ours and manager Hinch can rest and plan his use of personnel for the playoffs through the end of the regular season this coming Sunday.

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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3 Responses to “Mark Wernick: “Til The Last Man Is Out””

  1. maxwell1901 Says:

    Impressive work, Mark

  2. Mark W. Says:

    It only gets brutally hard from here. For 2 years the Astros have matched up poorly with their most likely ALDS adversary – assuming the Astros do win the AL west – the Cleveland Indians. Here’s a brief MLB.com summary assessment of the Indians.

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez do their best to carry an offense that may wind up playing second fiddle to its rotation.

    While Indians relievers have looked solid this month, they understand they’ll go only so far as their starting pitching – and their starting pitching might be the best in a postseason full of good arms. The best in the second half has been Carlos Carrasco, who over 80 innings put up a 105-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 2.36 ERA. Not far behind: Mike Clevinger, whose 2.44 ERA in the second half personified a season in which he became the fourth Indians pitcher to strike out at least 200 batters, a new major league record.

    That Corey Kluber – two-time Cy Young winner, Indians ace – is playing third fiddle is telling, as is the return of the best Indians pitcher this season, Trevor Bauer, to the rotation following a freak comebacker breaking a bone in his leg and preventing him from running away with the AL Cy Young Award. More on that next week, too, though the fight among Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Blake Snell and Bauer – yes, Bauer, whose numbers are incredibly similar to Snell’s – is worth watching this final week.

  3. Fred Soland Says:

    But the funny thing is, Kluber won his 20th game yesterday. He was untouchable in the first half and while the wheels came off for a moment or two, his second half has not been bad. I believe he will be in the mix as well. I know the Indians staff well since my fantasy team which I craftily put together had an opening Day pitching staff consisting of Kluber, Bauer & Cleavinger, to go along with Chris Sale, Zach Greinke & Dallas Keuchel. Unfortunately with Dallas Keuchel’s horrible season early on, he was replaced by Mike Fontynewicz to form a pitching juggernaut. I wanted to get Carlos Carrasco as well, but was thwarted in my effort. The Indians have the best pitching for starters followed by the Astros. The key to beating Cleveland will be to keep Lindor, Brantly and Ramirez under wraps, which will be a tall order. The addition of Josh Donaldson, under some shady circumstances, adds to the problem….if he stays healthy. Encarnacion is also a predator. The bullpen is much better since they got Andrew Miller back to go with Brad Hand and Cody Allen.

    No doubt, Houston will have their hands full with the Indians.

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