photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
Once upon a time there was a starting pitcher. He was a young lad, ‘though of elongated stature. He ventured into a land familiar to him, for ‘though it was not his homeland, it was a land he had visited many a time. It was a land of many fountains and much barbecue. T’was the land of Kansas City.
The starting pitcher, whom we will call Justin Verlander, for that is indeed his name, entered unto the land, where before he had known success, and lo! He did again succeed, for verily did he throw 7 innings, and he did pitch to two men in the 8th, which is a lot of innings to pitch. In these 7-and-a-little-bit-innings, Verlander did allow but 7 hits, none of which left the ballpark.
Alas, that little bit of an 8th inning was to be his downfall. For Verlander did put two men on and was removed without getting an out, and he was annoyed by his failure. But he knew that he must have faith. Faith in his loyal bullpen, those hardy vassals who would march on in his stead, as indeed they must do nearly every game. Such is baseball, and sad ‘though Verlander was that he could not complete the battle, he calmed himself with mental reassurances that all was well in the hands of the relievers.
First in was young Bobby Seay, a decidedly mediocre page, useful however for the oddity of his lefthandedness. Verlander watched from the bench, confident and assured. After all, the Tigers had 6 runs, and the Royals had not a single run to their name…. and it was already the 8th inning. Visions of pretty boxscores with zeros in the run columns danced before his eyes.
Mark the Tea Hen was sent flying out by Seay’s pitches, and Verlander did feel better, for the Hen of Tea could hit on occasion and was not to be trifled with. A Sweeney came to the plate next, though, and Seay trembled where he stood, and gave up a booming double the likes of which Verlander could not have imagined.
Both of Verlander’s baserunners scored, causing Verlander to rend at his own hair and garments. There would be no shut-out for him tonight. The air was filled with curses rained down upon Seay’s head.
Because Seay could not finish the inning cleanly, Jason Grilli was brought on (and promptly gave up Seay’s run), followed by Fernando Rodney, who mercifully slayed the inning.
“This reliever be the devil himself,” Verlander thought, fuming in rage. “He is smoke and mirrors with nothing but disruption and mischief behind him.”
With the Tigers’ lead cut right in half, a Royal comeback no longer seemed so futile a concept.
Salvation came in the form of a portly avenging angel with the mustaches of a walrus and one sleeve tugged up. Todd Jones did enter into the game, and breath was held up and down the bench, but outs were made and the game was won. Todd Jones could have made things torturous and stressful, but Todd Jones did his job with grace and aplomb.
“This reliever be an angel,” Verlander thought. “For he has saved us all. And also the game. Literally.”
So it came to be that the masterful outing of Justin Verlander did not have the fate of many a Bonderman start befall it, and the win remained with the most deserving pitcher, despite the very best efforts of his bullpen nemesis. And all was well in the world.