by Joshua Worley
I think all baseball fans would agree that Sunday's Dodger win was one of the goofiest ways you can win a baseball game. Except Cubs fans, who would likely just sputter and curse if asked about it. And Lou Pinella. I'm really going to miss the shots of him after inexplicable things happen; the shot of him after Barret tried to steal third and after Ethier's homer on a 0-2 pitch were hilarious. Poor guy. This can't be worse than being the Tampa Bay manager or working alongside those Fox broadcast clowns, though, right?
I wish Torre had been fired from the Yankees and Pinella hired to replace him before the season, as some rumors said might happen. Pinella would have been so entertaining during this Yankee start.
After Pierre's anti-climactic RKI, I starting thinking about the best and worst ways to win a tie game in the bottom of an inning. Not that there's really any bad way to win, but there's a big aesthetic difference between seeing a double score the winning run from first and seeing Juan Pierre poke out his knee into the path of the ball on a check swing to get on base with bases loaded. It's even hard to describe what happened; what an awkward sentence that was!
I thought it would be fun to make a ranking of ways to win a game in the bottom of the ninth or later from a tie game. It's all about putting little Juan Pierre's heroics into perspective!
1. Inside-the-park home run
Obviously no one is on base when this happens, because if there was the batter could stop running once the man on base scored and secured the win. An inside-the-park home run is already the most exciting play in baseball; just add the possibility of the game-winning run to it and it gets even better. And if the batter ( or third base coach ) is wrong in his guess that he'll be safe at the plate, then everything is lost.
2. Runner on second scores on wild-pitch or passed ball
Without Kirk Gibson in 1988 I wouldn't even know this was possible. It's the sheer audacity of going for two bases on a wild pitch that makes this so great.
3. Runner on third steals home
Again, it's the unexpectedness of it, the sheer audacity.
4. Runner on first scores on extra-base hit
The more realistic version of the first place entry. The ball is still hit hard and far, and a runner still has to come almost all the way around to score with most likely an exciting, desperate play at the plate.
5. Runner on third scores on shallow fly ball
Twice the Astros were denied the winning run by the Dodgers on shallow fly balls in the 22 inning game these teams played. Both times Mike Scioscia blocked the plate perfectly to deny the winning run. This is the classic race between thrown ball and runner at its purest, because they each start the race at the same time ( because the runner has to tag up ).
6. Runner on third scores when batter beats out double play attempt
Another race between runner and throw.
7. Runner on second scores on single
You'll always have a desperation throw home in this situation. You never really know for certain until you see the throw coming in if the runner will be safe or not, even if it seems likely he will be safe based on where the ball was hit. There's nothing like seeing the single fall in and think that the game will be won, then worrying for a moment about the throw home, then seeing that it's not quite in time as the winning run slides home.
8. Home run
Home runs are great, but once they're over the wall the drama is gone.
9. Runner on third scores on base hit
Once the ball gets by the infield and falls safely in it's over.
10. Runner on third scores on wild pitch or passed ball
Usually there isn't a close play at the plate in this situation.
11. Runner on third scores on deep fly ball
If the fly out is deep enough there isn't any drama. Often in this situation the ball won't even be caught because the outfielder was so shallow.
12. Run scores on error
This could be more exciting, I suppose, depending on how it happens. There are so many ways for runs to score on errors that I decided to put them all in one category.
13. Run scores on bases loaded walk
At least the excitement builds with each ball thrown, until the crowd is going crazy with the three ball count. The look on the visiting manager's face when the count reaches three balls is always great too. And then when ball four comes, you get that rare situation when the winning run just walks home.
14. Run scores on bases loaded catcher's interference
It's always anti-climactic when the winning run walks in based on an umpires decision, rather than a ball hit by the batter.
15. Run scores on balk with man on third
I remember the Dodgers winning a few times this way. Again the game ends with an umpire's decision.
16. Run scores on bases-loaded hit by pitch
Welcome to last place, Pierre! This doesn't have the build-up of a walk or the sudden drama of an unusual umpire decision. Poor Pierre, even when he does well he's trod upon. At least you checked your swing and prevented yourself from striking out. I don't know what the ruling would have been, but my feeling is that if he had struck out then it would not have been a wild pitch because I believe the ball is dead once it hits the batter. I know that a man on third ( with no one on first or second ) wouldn't be allowed to score on a ball that hit a batter that got away; why should that change just because the batter swung at the pitch?