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6/16/16: Enter At Your Own Risk (6/29/89)
You've probably seen this clip in numerous highlight/blooper/MLB Network Countdown shows—but I doubt you've ever heard any kind of elaboration.
Candlestick Park, 6/29/1989: Though Giants ace Scott Garrelts has departed after two innings (hamstring pull while legging out a triple), rookie Jeff Brantley has stepped in with 3.2 innings of strong relief leading up to Mitch Webster's 6th-inning at-bat.
Hilarity ensues when Giants RP Craig Lefferts—stationed in the SF bullpen—is slow to react to Webster's first-pitch shot down the right-field line...
Notes: SF dropped seven 2nd-inning runs on the Cubs, and led 7-1 at the time of Webster's eventual double. The laughing Giants RF is Candy Maldonado. Webster was stranded, as Domingo Ramos followed with a flyout.
The Giants added five more runs in the 7th and eventually won 12-2.
Brantley went five innings for his first MLB win in 36 career games—then strangely earned five more wins in his next six appearances! Garrelts hit the DL and was out until July 16.
This game was nationally televised, and the announcer you hear is indeed Al Michaels.
9/29/15: JaVale McGee Scampers Off (2/6/12)
In sports (well, in all of life) there's always that guy whose circuitry works a bit differently than everybody else's. They're generally good players, but they leave your head riddled with befuddled scratches in futile attempts to understand their internal wiring...or lack thereof.
In the NFL, Leon Lett was that guy. In MLB, Manny Ramirez held the title without peer for years. Today, the NBA has McGee; the young center known for tenures in Washington and Denver is a highlight-reel regular—on Shaqtin' A Fool.
For those unfamiliar, I will not detail McGee's many on-court, uh, lapses here—they'll all eventually show up here on TSR (of course, you'll probably have Googled them by then). As for this particular oops, McGee shows little confidence in the rebounding ability of his fellow Wizards.
Notes: McGee was removed at the next dead ball about 20 seconds later; he finished with eight points on 4-of-9 FG. Nick Young rebounded McGee's missed shot.
Up 16 here in the early third quarter (and 18 later), Toronto came back to tie the game late in the 4th. Washington would win in OT—improving to 5-20 on the season; 3-3 under Randy Wittman.
1/26/15: Neck-asio (8/5/2011)
Juan Nicasio was a rookie in 2011, one who'd come off a 2-2, 2.92 July which included four starts of 7+ IP with fewer than 2 ER. The last of those starts—a seven-inning, 10-K loss at San Diego—might have been the best.
Coming off that start, all signs pointed to continued excellence for Nicasio on 8/5. He was already 4-0, 1.57 in six prior home starts, and he was facing a Nationals team not fully recovered from the shocking resignation of manager Jim Riggleman six weeks prior.
Washington struck fast with three game-opening hits, capped by Ryan Zimmerman's two-run triple. (Nicasio soon stranded him.) Leading off the second, SS Ian Desmond continued the hit barrage ripping one up the middle that was—unfortunately—intercepted by Nicasio's temple.
Notes: The resulting piledriver literally broke Nicasio's neck; he'd be done until Colorado's third game of 2012.
Seen in the video are first baseman Todd Helton (#17; he was quoted as believing his young teammate was "dead" upon hitting the ground) 2B Chris Nelson (#10) SS Troy Tulowitzki (#2) and MGR Jim Tracy (#4).
The Nats won the game 5-3 behind JordanZimmermann. Desmond's 4-for-4 effort RAISED his average to .235. Edgemar Escalona threw 4.1 decent innings in relief of his fallen teammate.
2/2/15: Spider-Matthews! (7/1/06)
Gary Matthews Jr. hadn't had much major league impact before landing with the Texas Rangers in 2004. Two years later, Matthews enjoyed a breakout (walk) season in which he set career highs in most categories—and made one of the all-time great defensive plays in league history.
Facing the visiting Astros, former Ranger Mike Lamb got ahold of an 8th-inning Bryan Corey fastball, sending it deep to center field. Matthews, for his part, wasn't about to be deterred by minor inconveniences such as 10-foot walls or gravity.
Notes: Because of Matthews' effort, his Rangers lost 7-0 as opposed to 10-0; Taylor Buchholz went seven innings for the win. Lamb shouldn't have swung so hard—he only needed a single to complete the cycle in his fateful at-bat.
The catch allowed Corey to complete his 16-game Rangers career without a home run allowed to any of the 75 batters he faced.
Matthews chased free agent dollars—at least some of which this play earned—to Anaheim after the season; he declined fairly quickly and was done in MLB by 2010.
2/10/16: Lobaton's Sticky Mask (6/24/14)
With regular Nationals C Wilson Ramos recovering from (and later rehabbing) a hamstring injury, his backup Jose Lobaton saw increased playing time in June 2014. This included a 16-inning marathon at Milwaukee that gave early indication it would not be a "regular" game by any stretch.
Brewers star Carlos Gomez is leading off the second inning against Washington's Jordan Zimmermann. On a 2-2 count, hilarity ensues (since Lobaton escaped injury.)
Notes: Zimmermann is not credited with a strikeout here, though he does get Gomez on the next pitch. The Brewers led 2-1 with five outs to go, but Anthony Rendon homered against Will Smith to eventually force extras. Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run shot off Mike Fiers to win it.
Lobaton caught all 16 innings— 231 pitches thrown by eight men—and was able to take a few nights off with Ramos returning two days later. He was one of three Nationals starters to go hitless.
2/23/16: Broken-Down Ford (3/7/12)
A big-time college player (Texas) and #8 overall pick by Milwaukee in 2003, point guard T.J. Ford had the talent to star in the NBA for a long time...but not the luck.
Ford's physical misfortune began with a spinal stenosis diagnosis in high school, continued with a tailbone injury during his NBA rookie season—the resulting spinal fusion surgery kept him out through his second year—and ended with this sequence against the Knicks in 2012 (with much more in between).
Warned by doctors to retire or risk long-term paralysis long before this play, Ford finally heeded their advice a few days later.
Notes: Knicks SG J.R. Smith was the shooter, and PG Baron Davis (#85) delivered the elbow, which both he and Ford denied was dirty. C Tiago Splitter collapses over him. Ford, posting career lows across the board, was 12 days from his 29th birthday when he retired.
The play occured with about 7:00 left in the second quarter; the host Spurs led New York 36-33 at the time, went up by 20 after three quarters, and won 118-105. Ironically, Davis—who missed all seven of his shots in this game—suffered a career-ending injury (knee) of his own just seven weeks later (although he's attempted a 2016 D-League comeback).
3/9/16: Infante Infirm (4/7/14)
After playing for a 90-loss Marlin squad in 2011, Omar Infante had to be pleased to see stars such as Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell imported via free agency.
He'd have never guessed that Bell would leave him seeing stars of a different kind just over two years later.
Despite a combined 21 major-league seasons between them—including several in the same league—Bell and Infante had squared off just once before April 7, 2014, when Infante's Royals hosted Bell's Rays.
As Infante led off the 7th, Bell—whose stock had dropped dramatically since his Miami days—unleashed a 2-2 heater which got far away from the big reliever.
Notes: Infante, who was off to a hot first week with the Royals, missed a handful of games; he returned with hits in four of five games, then after an oh-fer, started a run of three multi-hit games in four.
The Royals, up 4-0 at the time of the beaning, went on to win 4-2 behind Jason Vargas, who went eight-plus innings. Danny Valencia took over for Infante.
Bell surrendered three hits and two runs in 2.2 IP; he'd last four more difficult weeks before his Tampa—and major league—career ended.
3/28/16: David Ortiz Joins The Club (9/12/15)
Like Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and others before him, longtime Red Sox DH/1B David Ortiz picked a forgettable venue (Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field) to reach baseball immortality. But though relatively few saw Ortiz hit his 500th career home run in person—20,698 to be exact—it did happen.
Labeled an injury-prone underachiever in parts of six seasons with the Twins 1997-2002—difficult to fathom today—Ortiz began to bash with regularity after reaching the Red Sox. Who, it deserves to be said, acquired him for nothing after Minnesota dumped him.
At different points in recent years, prolonged periods of comparatively low production left many wondering if Big Papi's skillz had eroded beyond recovery. Each time, Ortiz bounced back, and before long he was turning around a Matt Moore heater and circling the bases for the 500th time—442nd with Boston.
Notes: Ortiz hit #499 earlier in the game; #500 was a 5th-inning leadoff shot that put Boston up 7-0. They went on to win 10-4 behind Rick Porcello.
Moore, a 2013 All-Star struggling badly following 2014 Tommy John surgery, allowed four home runs in five innings, upping his ERA to 8.42 in eight starts—but he'd go 2-0, 1.35 in his final four starts, including a win at Boston in which Ortiz went hitless.
4/28/16: Sean Casey Makes A Mistake (8/24/06)
Sometimes, even for very good players, one lousy moment can overshadow your whole career. What's the first thing you think of when hearing the name Mitch Williams? Bill Buckner? Salomon Torres?
Sean Casey's infamous 2006 goof, mistaking a hit for a lineout to 3B, hasn't headlined his career summary quite like the others.
But as time goes by and "The Mayor's" excellent career disappears further in the rearview mirror, one wonders if anyone will ever describe one of the most popular Reds ever as a 3x All-Star and career .302 hitter, or just "the guy who got thrown out at 1B from left field".
Casey, who'd only been acquired by Detroit (via trade with Pittsburgh) less than a month prior, mistakenly believed White Sox 3B Joe Crede snared his full-count liner off Jon Garland. He didn't, and seconds later, LF Pablo Ozuna immortalized the big first baseman.
Notes: Casey's Tigers were trailing 7-0 at the time; they'd go on to lose 10-0. All 10 runs were charged to Nate Robertson, who still gamely chewed up 6.2 innings for the weary Tiger bullpen, which had thrown 7.2 innings the day before.
Despite some trouble in the 9th—including Casey's only hit of the day—Garland went the distance on 111 pitches, his fifth of six career shutouts. Adding on to Casey's plight: Ozuna was not a natural left fielder, playing 38 of his 56 career games (over eight seasons) there in 2006.
5/25/16: EP Is A Tad Bit Short (12/3/14)
It's rare for a guard to be plagued by poor foul shooting; Orlando guard Elfrid Payton is the rarity—it's just not his strength and never has been. (61% even as a collegiate)
So when the rookie missed both freebies after a foul by Clippers guard Jamal Crawford at Staples Center, no one was terribly shocked—after all, Payton entered the game shooting 49% on FTs in his first 20 pro games.
What got the crowd, and (later) the media buzzing—how he missed them. I obviously haven't seen every minute of Payton's career, but it's hard to imagine he's been more embarrassed on-court than this.
Notes: Payton finished the game 2-for-9 from the line, but was able to up his end season percentage to .551 (though he'd shoot 59% as an NBA sophomore.) He totaled eight points in 30 minutes off the bench.
This occured with about 4:00 left in the first quarter; Orlando trailed the Clippers 24-11 at the time and eventually lost 114-86, dropping them to 7-14.
Surrounding Payton at the line are teammates Tobias Harris (12) and Channing Frye (8), plus opponents Crawford (11) Blake Griffin (32) and DeAndre Jordan (6)—the latter of whom can fully relate to Payton's pain.