Temperature in mid-70’s – Low humidity. Scattered clouds that provided brief relief from hot sunshine.
When we decided the HDL could provide plenty of playing time for each team member under the 5 team format, we knew when each team’s roster was reduced to 12 or 13 or 14 players that there would be games where a team would need to borrow a player. We never thought this would happen in the 3rd week of new season.
For the early game between the Orioles and Dodgers I was surprised the Dodgers would be short but they only had 8 roster-ed players show up. The Orioles were much better, they had 10 to start the game so they temporarily loaned Sherman Edgerson to the Dodgers to make the sides even. Then after the game started, O’s player, Cesar Roman, arrived to give them 10 players.
This turned out to be a good game. On paper. the Orioles were in a situation where they could match the Dodgers with a stronger lineup. But when Jake Hatchett started for Dodgers, any advantage the O’s thought they had swung back in Dodger’s favor.
The Dodger’s first 6 players were solid going 10 for 19 and 7 RBI’s. Patrick Belote led the Dodgers with 3 hits and 3 runs scored. For the first 2 innings, Jake was very effective and kept Orioles scoreless. Behind by 2-0 in top of 3rd inning, the Orioles tied the game on a Dodger error and Sac fly by James Skinner. But Dodger’s came right back in bottom of 3rd putting 3 runs on the board to re-take the lead. The key hit of the inning was a base hit by Tony Lomax. The Orioles continued to scratch for runs and re-tied the score 5-5 in top of the 5th but stranded 2 runners on 2nd/3rd with Paul Baioni’s Fly-out to left field.
In bottom of the 5th the Dodgers went wild when Caesar Roman relieved Oriole starter, Casey Engan. Caesar allowed 3 runs on 4 hits, but helped his team with 2 K’s before Jocko made the last out of the inning. Another impressive performance by Brett Delk in relief prevented any rally by the Orioles in last inning.Delk was helped by a clutch catch in center-field by Jason Nilsen on a looping fly ball by Bo McMinn when O’s had runners on 1st & 2nd. Final score: O’s 6 – Dodgers 8
Can you say “NO Hitter?” – “ALMOST”
The second game of the day between Tigers and A’s was a total surprise. Both teams was affected by a poor turn-out of players. The Tigers actually had 10 players to start the game while the A’s only had 7 rostered players and were allowed to borrow Juan Blanco and Ramon Moretta to help them have enough to play a game.
The Athletics were missing 8 of their starting players. But with the players they had, they played a good game. Especially with the formidable starting pitcher, Juan-Jose Castillo. Juan-Jose has been the victim in earlier season games of not having his best stuff or not getting much defensive support. But on this Sunday, Juan was not messing around. Juan had all of his pitches working and you know he was in command when he invented a few new pitches that many hitters had not seen before. His off-speed curveball was dropping in (strike zone) like an “old girlfriend”.
On the Tigers side, team manager, Don Hinkle, gave Terry Terrell his call to the mound in hopes a stronger defense would keep the game close. Terry Terrell’s off-speed pitches were working in the first inning as he only gave up one run.
In 2nd inning, the wheels started to fall apart as the Tiger’s infield had difficulty throwing accurately to their big first base target (Lee Nixon). Lee was leaping, jumping and digging out wild throws all over the place. It was nota pretty sight. When the smoke cleared, the A’s had struck for 4 runs and had a 5-0 lead.
In the 3rd inning, Terry’s control went wild and poor Ricky Duggar was chasing more pitches than he was catching. When it was over, the A’s added 3 more runs to their total. Meanwhile, Juan-Jose was cruising. Three-Up/Three-down was routine. Juan was perfect through 2-1/3 innings before HDL’s newest player, Ryan VanDinter’s at bat.
Ryan VanDinter was making his debut on this first week in June but he had put in his application to play in the HDL back in March. Ryan contacted Larry Rutledge via email when he was living in Jackson, TN and notified LR he would arrive in Memphis in June. With limited opportunities to work on defensive routines while in Jackson, Ryan’s only practice was in Batting Cages.
From Ryan’s first at-bat for HDL I could tell Ryan had a pretty good eye for strike zone. His eye-hand coordination provided him ability to consistently get the bat on the ball and add to Juan’s pitch count.
During Ryan’s first AB against the hard throwing Castillo, he caused Juan-Jose to throw more pitches than he likely imagined. Ryan fouled-off several 2 strike pitches to stay alive before Juan ended up walking him for the Tiger’s first base-runner. Even though Juan-Jose allowed his 1st base-runner, he had not allowed a hit.
In the 4th inning the Tiger’s Catcher, Rick Duggar, walked which allowed Tim Harris to courtesy run for Rick. When Tim took a big lead off first base, Castillo tried to pick him off but his throw was wild and Tim advanced to 2nd base. Once on second, Tim again drew a pick-off throw from Juan that was wild and rolled into centerfield. Before Oscar Zamudio could retrieve the ball, Tim Harris crossed the plate for an un-earned run.
Now the score was 8-1. In the bottom of the 4th inning, Don Hinkle surprised everyone by allowing Ryan VanDinter a chance to relieve Terrell on the Mound. Even though Ryan had never pitched in a baseball game since his younger days, he was excited to get a chance to experience the thrill of being a “thrower”. Ryan did his best to throw strikes so he could entice the A’s hitters to put the ball in-play for defensive outs. Unfortunately, Ryan found out pitching is not as easy as it looks. His line score was: 2/3 inning; 8 BF; “0” hits; “0” K’s; 4 walks; 1 HBP; 4 ER. After facing 5 batters he had allowed no runs and had two outs before he hit Johnny Gonzales to force in a run. The inning ended with Travis Hill taking over to face 3 batters.
Going into the top of the 5th inning and leading 12-1, this was going to be the last inning of the game because the Tigers had run out of pitching. Juan-Jose was in position to record the first HDL “No Hitter” since before 1980. Juan retired the first 2 batters he faced. One more out and history would be his. His last foe: Ryan VanDinter.
Ryan was looking for any pitch he could put the bat on. With 2 strikes, Juan threw a fastball that Ryan “ripped” into left field where Carlos Varela made an outstanding attempt to catch, but the ball hit the ground as Carlos dove for the ball. The “no hitter” was a matter of inches away. Juan-Jose was disappointed but he showed great respect for the batter and his teammates for supporting his great afternoon on the mound.
Congratulation to Juan-Jose, Ryan VanDinter and Carlos Varela for being part of this special moment in a game that a lot of observers might look at and think nothing about it being something very special. But that is one of the things that makes baseball such a great game. You must look at performances and efforts that make it special, not necessarily the final results.(score)
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