Climbing Out

Losing sucks. Losing consecutive games sucks. Losing five games in a row? You guessed right, it SUCKS. Capital letters, that’s how bad five straight losses SUCK, and that really doesn’t even begin to cover it.  After dropping our first game in Bowling Green, another game that we lead early, and proceeded to fall asleep we were all incredibly frustrated. Jose came into the locker room and gave a long speech on getting the job done.  He talked about guys missing signs, not executing in key situations (as I beat myself up for the 7th inning rally killer double play I hit into) and backing down from the fight.  We hung our heads, searching for answers and not wanting to look one another in the face.  It was a desperate, dismal feeling.

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I loved this quote, we all felt like everything we were doing was just getting more impossible every inning. Reading it, and thinking on it before I headed out to the field helped me relax, stay present, and focused.

Game two was scheduled for a 2:05 first pitch, meaning we’d have an early morning.  We hopped on the bus at 10 am and drove to the stadium.  I skipped early cage work, opting instead to have our trainer Ricky help me fit a new EvoShield ankle guard since the velcro on mine had stopped holding, and there were no hits left in it.  I sat with my leg wrapped up in what looked like a cast, as is the standard procedure for fitting those guards.  I sat by the water fountain because it had electrical outlets for me to charge my phone and Ipod and chatted on Facebook with a few friends.  I received a message that resonated with me, and sort of gave me a bit of an answer to all of the questions that we’d all been asking over the course of the losing streak.  I thought about the words, I thought about the way that we’d lost every night. It just hit home.  I headed to the field for the game with a new sense of urgency, one that wasn’t desperate, but one that was controlled and aggressive.  We jumped out to an early 3-0 when Quintana hit an absolute missile to left field for his 5th home run.  He told me before the game that he’d hit three, so he was well on his way.  As the game wore on we fell into our mid game slumber, unable to get runners on base, unable to keep the opposition from scoring.  As quickly as we had jumped out to the lead we were suddenly tied, and then behind and in a dogfight not to lose our sixth straight.

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Front page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette sports section. Gotta love when your month long slump gets written up on the cover!

Trailing 5-4 in the top of the 8th I came up with Mallex on second base.  I was facing a lefty, Molina, who we’d faced in our first series with Bowling Green.  Burkie had some good notes on him in his book, and I glanced over them before heading out to the on deck circle.  I told myself “be the guy” and thought again about my pregame quote.  “Get stronger, get more resilient, get it done” I told myself walking to the plate.  He started me off with a cut fastball down and in, located well, and I took it for a strike.  I stepped out and had a feeling he’d go right back to the same spot.  He did, and that was a mistake. I launched the 0-1 pitch deep to right center and according to Shepherd, pimped it to death, watching it go out and flipping my bat before taking my trot around the bases.  I was fired up coming back to the dugout knowing we’d taken the lead again.  I was sick of being behind, losing and felt like it was about time we broke out. We managed to get through the 8th inning, and took our 6-5 lead into the bottom of the 9th.  Roman came on and gave up a lead off single, and all of a sudden all of the doubt was right back.  We walked on egg shells trying to get that third out, but when we did smiles lit up our dugout, our line as we shook each others hands, and our clubhouse.  We had done it.  We played better, we stayed in the game late, and we pulled out what could only be called a “gut check” win.

Game three we jumped ahead 3-0 again, only to find that by the 5th inning we were again tied 4-4. We weren’t at the point yet where we could get an easy win, it was going to be another grind day.  Brian Adams had a big day for us, with 3 hits, and an RBI, Baltzy had four knocks, and Scooter picked up a game winning RBI of his own with an 8th inning SAC fly.  We again did what we needed to do to win.  We weren’t great, but when the time came, we rose to the occasion and figured out a way to get the job done.  We took the series 2-1 over Bowling Green to move to 1.5 games behind them for the Wild Card spot.  We still weren’t where we needed to be as a team, but as Jose had said after our game 1 loss, we needed to start getting better, and this was a start.  Our hitting was better, our base running was better, our pitching was better, and we managed to be far more aggressive, taking seizing our opportunities en route to the win.

Last night we played a goofy game against Lansing, in the first of our seven game home stand.  We made stupid errors, and struggled to get on base all night.  It looked as though we were right back to square one in our losing streak mode.  Magically in the 8th inning we put it all back together and scored three runs to tie the game.  We forced extra innings, where again it looked like we had made just enough mistakes to lose.  Chris Nunn, who threw really well overall, left a pitch up to the lead off guy who doubled.  A couple batters later with two on and two out a grounder got by Goris at third, allowing the go ahead run to score.  We all had that WTF moment watching the ball skitter into left field.

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Hold that finish!! Walk off wins, get some seriously pretty celebrations.

The bottom of the 10th started out poorly, two quick outs left us down to Baltzy as our last chance.  He skied a ball to short left field and they felt like recreating a play Adams and I botched earlier in the game, allowing the easy out to fall.  After a single up the middle by Phillips, Goris walked to the plate with the chance to rewrite the ending.  Boy did he come through! He absolutely CRUSHED a ball to right field on the first pitch he saw, and absolutely did not move, holding his finish before trotting to first with a walk off double off the top of the wall! We had done it again, hung around long enough to provide the most entertainment value for the fans that paid for tickets. After all, it is a spectator sport, we have to keep the fans interested.

Tonight we’re back at it against Lansing in a 7:05 game at Parkview Field.  Hopefully we don’t wait around for the last out to score some runs, but if it comes down to that, don’t count us out at home, we LOVE walk offs!

Go Tincaps!!

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