28 September 2011

My 32nd Game of the Year

Tonight I went to - where else? - Chase Field for my 32nd and final regular-season game of the year to watch the Arizona Diamondbacks take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. I've blown my previous high of 15 games in a season out of the water in 2011 thanks to all the tickets I've been given or won from the Diamondbacks organization, the Diamondbacks Foundation, Fry's Food, and now from right fielder Justin Upton himself!

That's right, I won a four-pack of tickets to tonight's game on Twitter from @realjustinupton, who was giving away tickets yesterday. Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and had a direct message from Upton telling me I'd won! It was very cool.

I ended up taking Scott to the game with me, but we had two unusable tickets because no one else could go. We got there early enough to be first in line to get in when the non-season ticket holder gates all opened, and while Scott went to the team shop to get a shirt and hat, I went to left field in an attempt to catch a ball or two. I was wholly unsuccessful, though I did get Clayton Kershaw's attention and he glared at me. Funny story. Kershaw robbed a couple DBacks fans of a ball hit at the wall, and a guy 20 feet to might right yelled at him "You suck, Kershaw." Kershaw turned around, asked who said it, and the guy said "I did." So Kershaw proceeded to wind up for a really hard throw of the ball he'd just caught right at that guy. He didn't do it obviously, but he came off as a wimpy little you-know-what. So one of the next balls that was hit was a homer, which Kershaw also chased to the wall right below where I was standing. I yelled out at him, "I don't think you're tall enough to rob a fan of that one, Kershaw," which prompted him to glare at me a moment. I glared back. He went and moved to center field to shag balls after that. Probable Cy Young Award winner for 2011 or not, Clayton Kershaw is a jerk. Period.

Anyway, after BP, we had some time to kill, so we wandered to our seats in right field, then just before game time, we got some popcorn and chatted throughout the first six innings of the game. It was a 0-0 deadlock, with  phenom Jarrod Parker (@JarrodBParker) pitching in his first ever big league game, and doing really well. He got pulled after 5 2/3 innings with a pitch count of around 75, but he was obviously getting tired, and he did a great job in his debut!

Eventually, the Dodgers scored a run on a Dee Gordon single in the 7th, but the Diamondbacks came right back to tie it in the bottom of the inning on a long Lyle Overbay double, scoring Chris Young.

Fast forward to the top of the 10th inning... score still tied at 1-1. Micah Owings came in to pitch and promptly gave up a double, then made a throwing error to score the runner on a fielder's choice, then a single and a fielding error on Chris Young, a groundout advancing the runner, a single, a walk, and a triple, and just like that, it was a 6-1 Diamondbacks deficit. By that time, most of the crowd had left, thanks to both the time and the circumstances, but Scott and I stayed. (Okay, in all fairness, I kind of made Scott stay... he wanted to leave in the 8th inning.)

By the way, that triple I mentioned was a clanger off the wall which Justin Upton tried to chase down. The ball hit the wall, ricocheted hard, and hit Upton in the left temple. Upton, recovering from a mild concussion after being beaned by Tim Lincecum the other night, was obviously hurt, but still found enough strength and clarity of mind to get the ball back in before squatting on the ground and waiting for medical help. He was removed from the game as a precaution, but initial reports said he would be all right. Scott and I were literally RIGHT THERE when it happened, and it definitely sounded painful. In the screen grab below, Upton had just been hit by the ball, and he's below the "S" in the State Farm sign. The ball is to the right of his head below the "a" and Scott and I were sitting in the yellow circle.

I really hope Justin's going to be okay. Two head injuries in a lifetime would be two too many but a pair in a week is excessive. I did hear tell that he had a headache but felt all right, but obviously I wish him well anyway. I was extremely impressed at his strength of will to stay composed after the ricochet and get the ball back in to the infield. He saved a potential inside the park home run and held the runner to just a triple. If it were me, I might have said screw the run and just laid down on the grass. Upton's the man.

In the bottom of the 10th, everyone thought the club would be just going through the motions. After all, down by 5 with three outs remaining, at 10:30pm in a game that technically doesn't really matter aside from keeping you in the race for home field advantage in the NLDS.... It would have been easy to just say screw it. Indeed, Willie Bloomquist and Gerardo Parra quickly grounded out. With two outs, Cole Gillespie, who came in for Upton, singled to the first baseman and beat the throw. Miguel Montero smacked on up the middle, and Chris Young walked. Bases loaded, two out. A fielding error on the Dodger third baseman Aaron Miles allowed a run to score, leaving the bases loaded again during John McDonald's at-bat. After a pitching change, Aaron Hill walked, driving in another run, which left the Diamondbacks down by three runs with the bases loaded and Ryan Roberts coming to bat. Roberts had had an 0-for-4 night at the plate with two strikeouts. But you can't keep him or this team down... on the very first pitch he saw at 9:26pm he connected, sending a scorching line drive to deep left field, and over the wall!

A WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM FOR RYAN ROBERTS! That's the first walk-off grand slam for the Diamondbacks organization since May, 2000, and only the fourth time it has ever been done in extra innings EVER (including once by Babe Ruth)!

Ryan Roberts had said that if he were ever to hit a walk-off home run, he'd do the Kirk Gibson fist pump from the 1988 World Series... you know the one. And he did... it was awesome! (I'm not kidding... you MUST click this link to watch the video: http://www.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=19748777&partnerId=aw-5143649194975279678-996) Immediately after the game, Roberts (@RRoberts14) tweeted to his followers, "Thanku [sic] to everyone for sticking around and having that moment with me! Wow wow wow!"

It truly was incredible. It was without a doubt the best moment of the year for this club. It makes you believe that this really, truly, might just be our year again.

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