October 12, 2012: Storen Letting Yadi Go Dancing Still Stings Two Years Later
Game 5. All Washington Nationals fans remember. An epic collapse in the Nats’ first playoff series, losing a 6 run lead to the Cardinals including a 4-run swing, from from 2 up to 2 down, in one devastating, soul-crushing, monumental 9th inning meltdown.
I was in standing room, right up from 1st base, at the back of section 130. I was with my brother, back here in our hometown from Houston on business. My brother Jon.
The Cardinals fan.
I used to be a Cardinals fan, too. Growing up in Arlington in the 1970s and ’80s, we had no local baseball team. And don’t try to say the Orioles count, because they clearly didn’t; even with 70’s traffic, going to Memorial Stadium for a 7:00 game was a two-hour proposition. So having no local team, we could pick whatever team we wanted. As my dad’s from southern Illinois, adopting his team made sense, so after brief affairs with other teams (Jon with the Reds in the ’70s and me with the Royals in the ’80s), we both became Cardinals fans.
When the Nats came in 2005, I was torn, but not for long. At the first game the Nats hosted against the Cardinals, which Dad and I attended in the Diamond Club, it quickly became clear to me that I was a Nats fan. But when the team’s management under Stan Kasten screwed me in the seat migration to the new stadium (long story for another day), the Nats lost me. Then, as my grudge diminished with time, I eased onto the bandwagon as the 2012 season progressed. By the playoffs, I was all-in.
And so I was watching the last game with my brother (who’s said it’s too bad Dad will have to disinherit me for abandoning his team). We were there the night before with Dad when Jayson Werth smashed a 9th inning tiebreaking homer to erase the Cards’ 2 games to 1 lead (Dad and I have a long history of causing the Cardinals to lose). Having whooped it up then, I actually felt bad for Jon and toned down my celebration when Michael Morse made it 6-0 in Game 5.
In that last awful inning of Game 5, with two out and Carlos Bertran on third base, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina walked. Then David Freese battled Nats’ closer Drew Storen to a full count. Adam Laroche moved to play behind Yadi, who would be running on the pitch, Yadi took a lead. Then I watched as he took another step. And then he crept some more. As he came to his set position I wondered when Storen would make Molina stop. But then Yadi danced all the way to second base.
I couldn’t believe it. But then, as Storen delivered to the plate, I rationalized the move away, thinking that focusing on the batter was all that mattered. But this is crazy. Molina was the tying run. If, when he reached his set position, Storen noticed that he couldn’t see Molina and stepped off, Molina may not have been able to reach a base before the Nats could make a play on him.
Such a play could have ended the game, with Molina going down as one of the game’s historic boneheads. It could also have ended with the ball thrown into the outfield, allowing Beltran to score from third– with a run that didn’t matter.
The correct play, as TBS announcer Bob Brenly said at the time, was to hold Molina on. His was the run that mattered, and Freese was unlikely to hit a ball to Nats’ 1B Laroche. Keeping the slow-footed Molina close might have prevented him from going to third on a single or scoring on a double. Really, slowing Molina’s advance around the bases should have been the only priority. [Note, the Nationals weren’t the only team with coaches making errors; rookie manager Mike Matheny should have replaced Molina with a faster and better baserunner as soon as he walked.]
But Molina danced to second base, Storen walked Freese, and hits by nobodies David Descalso and Pete Kozma flipped everything.
Wouldn’t be the last time baseball hated me.