Thursday, July 28, 2005

Devil May Care


Here was the situation yesterday: third game of a three game set between Tampa Bay and Boston. Series tied 1-1, somehow. Top of the fourth inning, game tied 0-0. Pitching for Tampa, Seth McClung. Who?

The unheralded, unheard of, and unbelievably, pitching in the majors, Seth McClung, that's who. No offense to the McClungs of Lewisburg, West Virginia, but he did come into yesterday's game with a 7.07 ERA, and had given up at least one home run per start, suggesting that another 707 was in his future, ready to fly him back to Double A. Having now slighted him, he will no doubt wind up on the Yankees someday, coming out of the bullpen to shut down the Sox for five innings while his overpriced teammates stage a comeback.

But through three innings on Wednesday, he was perfect. Nine men up, nine men down. While a rash of injuries and one mood swing led to the Red Sox using a somewhat makeshift lineup, perfect is perfect. So give the man his due. Or was someone, or something, else responsible?

While toiling away diligently at work, I happened to notice that an open browser on my computer had the in-game box score for this game, updated every pitch. Weird how that happened, but there it was, so I took a look. I noticed that when the inning started, McClung's ERA had fallen (for the uninitiated, the numerator for ERA, earned runs allowed times 9, stayed the same, but the denominator, innings pitched had increased by three, so ERA down).

What caught my eye was where his ERA was exactly: 6.66, the number of the beast, the Antichrist. So here was a pitcher, for the DEVIL Rays, mind you, with a 6.66 ERA, pitching a perfect game against the slayers of the Evil Empire, the Red Sox.

Who strides to the plate? Leadoff man extraordinaire, Johnny Damon, who, despite his nearly nefarious sounding last name, is worshipped as a savior in New England. With his long flowing hair and sometime beard, he bears a striking resemblance to another savior often worshipped in those parts. What would Johnny do?

Reminiscent of the final scene of "The Final Conflict," the third chapter in "The Omen" series, one man stood in to do the devil(rays)'s work against the second coming (it was Damon's second at bat that game). Damon (too close to Damien from "The Omen" for my taste) struck first, with a single to left. ERA still a devilish 6.66, but perfection gone, McClung no longer clung to the strike zone, walking the next two batters; but with no more innings (each out is 1/3 of an inning) pitched, or earned runs allowed, McClung's ERA was still 6.66. John Olerud next grounded into a double play, which allowed Damon to score. ERA now 6.75. Order restored.

Next up, the Sox return to baseball heaven, Fenway Park, to host the Minnesota Twins, who will be fresh off a series with the Yankees. The Yankees next opponent? The Angels. How fitting.


Extraneous Superfluous A-Rod Bashing Note: A-Rod celebrated his big 3-0 by going the big 0-for-3 on Wednesday, though he did have two walks. A-Rod may well finish with most of the coveted (by him) offensive records in baseball. When he turned 30, he had more home runs than Hank Aaron did by that age, and was similarly ahead of the 30th birthday pace of a number of other record holders. But on that one day, he was tied for last place for the worst batting average of all time for players from their 30th birthday on. Happy Birthday, big guy.


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