Saturday, October 22, 2016

Reliving 1991 - Game 3: The Neverending Game

Welcome to Game 3, the first World Series game ever played in Atlanta. The Twins are sitting with a 2-0 series lead, but Twins fans weren’t fully comfortable. After all, the Twins’ two previous World Series appearances both included three straight road losses.

As for this game, well … let’s just say it took three separate sittings to watch the whole thing. It took 4 hours and 4 minutes to play, and 42 of the 50 available players appeared in the game at some point. It’s one of the best World Series games ever played, but it’s largely forgotten nationally because of what happened in games 6 and 7. But it shouldn’t be. So if you’re watching (YouTube link here), buckle up.

(Play-by-play and box score are here.)

Top 1 – Twins 0, Braves 0

Steve Avery pitching.

Steve Avery pitched twice in the NLCS against the Pirates. The Braves won both games 1-0. So the guy knew how to show up for big games. The Braves’ other choice for starting this game was John Smoltz, who threw a game 7 shutout in the NLCS, so they really couldn’t go wrong with either choice.

And now they show the lineups, and it’s Hrbek batting 3rd (against a lefty!) and Puckett batting 4th. It’s only the fourth time all season Hrbek batted 3rd and the third time Puckett batted 4th. I wonder why Kelly switched them around? You’d think you’d want Hrbek protecting Puckett since Chili Davis was out of the lineup. Maybe it’s so lefties can’t intentionally walk Puckett to get to Hrbek.
Dan Gladden triples to right center.

Wow what a downer for the Braves. The first batter in the first World Series game ever played in Atlanta, and it’s a “triple.” I put that in quotes because it was hit exactly between Gant and Justice and neither touched it. They got lucky they didn’t crash into each other. Should have been caught. Instead, The Gladdenstach is on third.

Chuck Knoblauch flies to right, Gladden scores. One out. 1-0 Twins.

Knoblauch gives Justice another chance. He had no chance of getting Gladden’s mullet at home there. And its’ the first run Avery allowed this postseason.

And now the boos for Hrbek, and the Braves are openly chanting “cheater” at him. Sure as hell beats the Tomahawk Chop. You know, let’s see that play from game 2 again just to piss off the Braves fans. 

Kent Hrbek grounds to short. Two outs.

And now cleanup hitter Kirby Puckett, which just doesn’t sound right. He’s a three hitter. I know Chili Davis isn’t starting because National League rules, but still. It should be Puckett followed by Hrbek, now and forever.

Kirby Puckett strikes out looking. Three outs.

Struck out looking. Very un-Kirby like.

Bottom 1 – Twins 1, Braves 0

Scott Erickson pitching.

Here’s a 20-game winner who Twins fans had very little confidence in for this series. Didn’t help that he fell apart in the second half of the season. He went 12-3 in the first half of the season and was named starting pitcher of the All Star Game. He didn’t get to pitch that game, though, because of injury, and his second half was bad, mostly because his strikeout rate plummeted. He also gave up 20 more runs in the second half than in the first half, in 40 fewer innings (but the same number of starts).  

Sorry, I had to stop giving Scott Erickson’s stats because the goddamn Tomahawk Chop just started. I’ll probably have to mute these games before too long.

And in case you were wondering, Tim McCarver just said that the “only” pitcher you can compare Erickson to is Roger Clemens, because of course. He’s saying something about how his motion starts or something, but it makes no sense, as usual.

Lonnie Smith strikes out looking.

Terry Pendleton lines to right. Two outs.

It sucks that Chili couldn’t start in this game, but he was a crappy fielder. He probably wouldn’t have caught that one.

Ron Gant grounds to short. Three outs.

The Twins made two very good plays that inning, making the Braves bumbling of Gladden’s hit look even worse.

Top 2 – Twins 1, Braves 0

Shane Mack strikes out looking. One out.

Three pitches. No prayer.

Scott Leius strikes out swinging. Two outs.

More than three pitches, but again, no prayer. Avery can start sucking any time now.

Greg Gagne pops to catcher. Three outs.

Well that was fun. Enjoy that first inning run, everybody. That might be all the offense we get (hint: not true).

Bottom 2 – Twins 1, Braves 0

Buck and McCarver just outlined the Braves’ rotation for the rest of the series: Smoltz, Glavine, Avery, Smoltz. That … that’s scary. Two hall-of-famers in Smoltz and Glavine, plus a pitcher who was just as good as them that year.

Related, I looked at the Braves’ stats, and they essentially used a four-man rotation that year. Smoltz, Glavine, Avery, and Leibrandt. That was it. They only used a fifth starter 19 times, which is amazing to me.

Plus, the Twins only had nine pitchers on their World Series roster, which seems impossible. I guess 25 years is a pretty long time.

David Justice strikes out. One out.

Somehow I just learned today (as in, 2016, not 1991) that Justice used to be married to Halle Berry. (He wasn’t married to her in 1991 though. She apparently first saw him while playing an MTV celebrity baseball game in February 1992. The more you know.)

Sid Bream lines to first. Two outs.

I can’t confirm, but I do not think Bream was formerly married to Halle Berry.

Greg Olson walks.

Nothing I love more than 4-pitch, two out walks to a light-hitting catcher.

Jack Buck just said Mark Lemke is only in the lineup for defense and doesn’t pack much of a wallop. Just you wait, Jack. Just. You. Wait.

Mark Lemke singles to right, Olson to second.

It begins.

(Seriously, I had Lemke-related PTSD for like 7 years after this series. It gets worse.)

Erickson was all over the damn place that at bat, further proving why Twins fans had very little faith in him in the playoffs. He’s making a mess of the bottom of the Braves order so far.

Rafael Belliard singles to left, Olson scores, Lemke to second; Lemke to third, Olson to second on throw. Braves 1, Twins 1.

Great. The two light-hitting middle infielders combine for the first run. Gladdenstache made a mess of that throw – he might have gotten Olson, but the throw was up the line. Ortiz couldn’t stop it, and the runners moved up.

Avery grounds to second. Three outs.

Top 3 – Twins 1, Braves 1

Junior Ortiz flies to short. One out.

I love this lineup. Chili Davis is already out of the game because of no DH in NL parks. Then Brian Harper is out of the lineup because Erickson needed Ortiz as his personal catcher for some reason. You’d think they’d make an exception for the World Series, but no.

Scott Erickson strikes out swinging. Two outs.

No, really, it’s “pure” to let pitchers flail away at the plate in the World Series. It’s true baseball.
(Seriously, though, has any AL manager ever tried a bullpen game in an NL park? Just bring in pitchers, tell them they’ll only pitch at most three innings, and always have a pinch-hitter go when the pitcher’s turn is up. Would that work? Eh, probably not.)

Now Gladden’s mullet is doing some sportsmanship by pretending he couldn’t get the weight off his bat in the on-deck circle, when really he was giving Erickson some extra time to recover in the dugout.

I just learned that the 1955 Dodgers were the first team to win the World Series after being down 2-0. I knew they came from a 2-0 hole, but I’m disappointed I didn’t know they were the first.


Dan Gladden strikes out swinging. Three outs.

Bottom 3 – Twins 1, Braves 1

This exchange actually just happened.

Jim Kaat: “This is the first Twins’ series in a month on natural grass, and their infielders aren’t used to the slower grounders.”
Tim McCarver: “You’re right, Jim. Bobby Cox said this grass was actually faster than natural grass.”

I’m so happy.

And now we get the picturesque overhead view of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which is, impossibly, now two stadiums ago for Atlanta. They go through stadiums quickly down there apparently. Although I can see why they replaced this donut-shaped monstrosity.

Smith pops to right. One out.

Another nice play by Mack, another one that Davis wouldn’t have caught. He was good enough that it wasn’t SO painful that Chili was out of the lineup. Plus, they could save Chili for a pinch-hitting appearance in the 8th inning or so. (HINT).

Pendleton grounds to short. Two outs.

They’re showing how Pendleton got hurt in Game 2 by sliding into first base. Proving once again you should never slide into first. (Unless it’s a bad throw where the first baseman will have to make a swipe tag at you, and if you as a runner are paying enough attention to the throw to be able to recognize such a situation, good for you.)

Gant flies to right. Three outs.

Top 4 – Twins 1, Braves 1

Knoblauch grounds to first. One out.

First-pitch swinging that time. Working the count hasn’t worked so well, so why not?

Hrbek flies to center. Two outs.

Another first pitch. Clearly they changed their game plan against Avery. And with good reason. He’s been great.

Puckett lines to right. Three outs.

Great sliding catch by Justice there. Really nice. And now 12 straight Twins have gotten out – with the only baserunner getting on because of a terrible defensive play, and I sorta hate Avery now.

Bottom 4 – Twins 1, Braves 1

That Tomahawk chanting sounds fake. Did they amplify the crowd noise during that? It’s OK to admit it – the Vikings did it in the Dome whenever they played Welcome to the Jungle. I won’t tell.

Justice homers to right. Braves 2-1.

The outfield walls were 10 feet high in Fulton County stadium. That ball was probably never more than 12 feet off the ground. And now with Avery on cruise control it looks like it’s game over.

Bream doubles to right.

Bream missed a home run by about three feet there. I don’t like how the bottom of the 4th is going here.

“Let’s tune in.” (CBS broadcasts a crowd of 60,000 people doing a racist chant with no announcers talking over the top without a hint of irony.)

Olson grounds to short. One out.

Great play by Gagne. Deep in the hole, and all arm on the throw. Couldn’t use his legs at all. He was so smooth as a shortstop.

Lemke grounds to first, pitcher covering, Bream to third. Two outs.

Hrbek with the diving stop! The big man could really move around the bag there. Is Erickson actually going to get out of this with only one run?

Belliard grounds to second. Three outs.

Top 5 – Twins 1, Braves 2

Mack flies to right. One out.

First pitch again. Avery’s gonna throw 17 innings tonight at this rate.

Leius flies to second. Two outs.

Gagne grounds to short. Three outs.

Avery is at 15 batters retired in a row. If it hadn’t been for Gant and Justice being idiots, he’d have a perfect game going. And yet, it’s still just a one-run game.

Bottom 5 – Twins 1, Braves 2

Avery strikes out. One out.

At least there’s something Avery isn’t doing well tonight.

Smith homers to left. Braves 3-1.

That about landed right on top of the Hank Aaron “715” sign, and the Twins aren’t going to win, are they. Have I mentioned they’ve never won a World Series road game? I did, right?

Pendleton walks.

Gant flies to second. Two outs.

Gant was very angry after that one. Maybe because he knows Erickson is sucking and he should have done better.

Two lefties coming up here. In today’s game, the lefty reliever would be in here, but it’s 1991, and it’s Tom Kelly, who loved riding his starters. So Erickson stays in. But Kelly looks pained about this decision. (He always looked pained, though.)

Pendleton to second on a wild pitch.

Great baserunning. That ball was never more than like five feet away from Ortiz there, but Pendleton got to second easily.

Justice to first, Pendleton to third, on error by second.

Oof. Erickson should have been out of the inning there. There was no reason for Knoblauch to screw that one up. Just flat out dropped the ball. It was going to be just a simple underhand toss, too.

David West pitching.

Weird that West is in the game considering Terry Leach was the one warming up. But it’s the lefty West, who has the longest neck I’ve ever seen, who gets the call.

David West's freakish giraffe neck
Bream walks, Justice to second.

Seriously, though. Longest neck ever. And I’ve seen Randy Johnson.

Olson walks, Pendleton scores, Justice to third, Bream to second. Braves 4-1.

Tom Kelly gets to the mound before Pendleton crosses home plate. I’m surprised David West is still alive. Guess Kelly must have been less angry in his younger days.

Terry Leach pitching.

Lemke strikes out. Three outs.

Top 6 – Twins 1, Braves 4

Man Avery is working fast. Way faster than any pitcher does today. I love it. I wish more pitchers did this.

Ortiz singles to center.

Of course it’s Junior Ortiz who breaks the streak after 15 straight outs.

Gene Larkin hitting.

Here note that it’s the top of the sixth, and the Twins have just made their third substitution: Two pitchers and now a hitter. Please also note that my DVD says there are 2 hours and 8 minutes left to go in this game … and that’s not counting commercials. There might be some insanity coming.

Larkin singles to left, Ortiz to second.

This is not the last time this season that Larkin will single to left field with a runner on base in this series.

Gladden flies to left, Ortiz to third. One out.

And good baserunning by Ortiz to advance there. So many little things done well in this series – it’s like there’s a reason these are the two World Series teams.

Knoblauch pops to Bream. Two outs.

It’s down to Hrbek. It would have been so awesome for him to shut up those annoying Braves fans here. But …

Hrbek flies to center. Three outs.

Missed it by about a foot. Damn.

Bottom 6 – Twins 1, Braves 4

Steve Bedrosian pitching.

Steve Bedrosian has an awesome beard and rocks the high stirrups like God intended. Also, he ended up pitching for the Braves from 1993-1995, but never pitched in the playoffs for them, which doesn’t seem possible.

Belliard grounds to short. One out.

McCarver mentions that Bedrosian won the Cy Young Award in 1987. Now, he was a perfectly fine pitcher in 1987 – probably a top 5 reliever that year. But there is nothing in his numbers that makes it seem like he should have gotten a single Cy Young vote, much less win the damn award. The voters in 1987 must have been sniffing glue.

Avery strikes out. Two outs.

We’re just killing time here right now. The craziness is about an inning or so away.

Smith grounds to pitcher. Three outs.

And now we’re halfway done with this game!

Top 7 – Twins 1, Braves 4

Keith Mitchell playing left.

Puckett homers to left. 4-2 Braves.

Kirby has joined the World Series. His first hit of the series, and that ball looked like it was at his ankles. Homered right over Keith Mitchell’s head in left. Again, foreshadowing.

Mack grounds to third. One out.

They showed a crowd in the Metrodome watching the Twins. I mean, I kinda get wanting the postseason party atmosphere, but you’d think watching it from a random bar would be just as fun. The Metrodome was a depressing place unless it was a World Series game. Watching a road World Series game with only 8,000 other people does not sound like a good time.

Leius flies to right. Two outs.

ALERT. ALERT. Tim McCarver just compared Steve Avery to Macauley Culkin, by saying that Avery is certainly not “home alone.” Those were actual words that came out of his mouth while he was an analyst during a World Series game. WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Gagne flies to second. Three outs.

Jesus, they went live to the behind-the-plate camera during Gagne’s at bat, and he fouled one straight back, and I flinched like I was going to die. I’m not proud of this.

Bottom 7 – Twins 2, Braves 4

Pendleton flies to third. One out.

They showed a sleeping Braves fan. I’m assuming it was a child, but this was 1991, and the glasses were huge, so I can’t be sure.

Gant lines to left. Two outs.

And Jim Kaat just used the phrase “the joy spot.” We’ve clearly devolved into … something. Into what, I don’t know.

Justice grounds to first, unassisted.

Top 8 – Twins 2, Braves 4

Brian Harper hitting.

Junior Ortiz is gone, and I didn’t get a chance to tell you that although his birth name was Adalberto, he named his kid “Junior,” which made his son Junior Ortiz Jr.

Wait. I got a chance to tell you. I win?

Harper wal…

Wait! Harper started to run to first, threw has bat aside, and THEN the umpire said “strike.” That was a very late call. And a very bad one.

Harper to first on error by third.

Knowing he absolutely had to swing at any pitch because of his actions on the last play, Harper grounds it to Pendleton, who bobbles it and makes a bad throw for an error. Then McCarver starts talking:
“Because he backhanded the ball, they may give him a base hit, but because Terry Pendleton is such a good fielder, they’re gonna give him an error. Sometimes you’re penalized by your ability. Pendleton is such a slick fielder, two gold gloves to his credit, and this is an error, but for some third basement it could have been ruled a hit.”
We’re long past anybody making sense here. McCarver’s just trying to survive the game at this point. Considering we still have almost five full innings to go, it’s not looking good.

Alejandro Pena pitching.

Chili Davis hitting.

Alejandro Pena will have a very important role later in this series. For now, he’s being sent up as a sacrifice to the Chili Davis gods. Because the Chili is red hot.

Red hot Chili.

(I’m just killing time here.)

Davis homers to left, Harper scores. Tied 4-4.

I had forgotten this ball was hit out the other way. What a shot, though. At this exact moment in time, this series probably felt like it would be a Twins sweep. To be tied in this game after how well Avery pitched is amazing. And there’s still no outs in the eight.

Gladden grounds to third. One out.

There’s still only one out in the eighth.

McCarver is saying how this was Pena’s first blown save as a member of the Braves. Then they show the 8,000 people watching the game in the Dome, and they appear to have dragged projector screens out onto the field for the fans’ viewing enjoyment. That’s probably the tackiest thing that ever happened in that stadium, and this is a place that had a giant inflatable milk carton down the right field line for years. How was that fun watching that?

Knoblauch singles to right.

Man Knoblauch has been so good this series. He just became the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. He’s acting like anything but a rookie. Of course, that’s back when the Twins were actually capable of developing their young players. That ended sometime in the last decade.

Hrbek singles to center, Knoblauch to third.

And now Kirby. He absolutely could have ended the World Series right here at this moment. McCarver is again telling us how Puckett led the league in double plays this year, but that’s just a personification of CBS producers hoping beyond hope that this thing doesn’t end up as a sweep.
Oof, Olson just made a great, great stop on a bad pitch that would have easily scored Knoblauch. That’s a sneaky big play in this game and series. Because…

Puckett strikes out. Two outs.

Puckett chased a pitch at his eyes. Further proving that if you got Kirby to two strikes, there’s no reason to ever throw him a pitch in the strike zone.

Jack Buck just wondered if the Twins would send Hrbek. McCarver scoffed at that as if it was idiotic. Then they sent Hrbek on the next pitch. I laughed.

Mack strikes out. Three outs.

Same pitch Puckett struck out on. And now things are really starting to get interesting.

Bottom 8 – Twins 4, Braves 4.

Carl Willis pitching, batting fifth.

Jarvis Brown playing right field, batting ninth.

Harper catching.

I don’t get this double switch. Kelly’s probably going to pinch-hit for Brown when his spot in the lineup comes up, right? I guess he’s planning on Willis having to pitch multiple innings.

I now know two things about Jarvis Brown. One is that he played in this game. The other is that he’ll be the answer to a great Game 7-related trivia question.

Bream flies out to center. One out.

Olson grounds to third. Two outs.

Great diving stop by former shortstop Leius. Full extension on the dive.

Lemke flies to third. Three outs.

Top 9 – Twins 4, Braves 4.

They just showed Carl Willis’ spitball move. He literally spit on the ball while it was in his glove. We’re up to two or three spitballers on the Twins nine-man staff so far. And the announcers are just laughing about it. I have a feeling Joe Buck would be outraged at what he was seeing. Or Twitter would be. But Jack Buck laughed at it.

Mike Pagliarulo hitting.

Pags replaces Leius immediately after Leius’ diving stop. But it’s an excuse to show Pagliarulo’s go-ahead home run in the 10th inning of game 3 in Toronto, which is one of the greatest home runs in Twins history. It’s often forgotten now because of how great this series was, but that exact home run was the moment that many Twins fans started to truly believe this team was going to win the series. I specifically remember my dad flipping out when that home run landed behind the wall in Toronto. 

Pagliarulo strikes out. One out.

He didn’t homer in Game 3 of the World Series though.

Gagne flies to right. Two outs.

Harper singles to center.

Man, Harper’s been all over the basepaths so far in the first three games.

Randy Bush hitting.

Aw, Jarvis Brown looked so sad there. He really thought he was going to get a chance to bat there. And now that double switch kinda makes sense, but it also doesn’t. If you were worried about the pitchers spot coming up, why not just put Bush in there right away? I guess Kelly wanted to ensure Bush came up with a runner on base.

Anyway, Randy Bush was always pinch-hitting for the Twins. When the Twins named their 40th anniversary team a while back, Bush was named as the pinch-hitter on the team. He was invited in the broadcast booth one inning during the celebration weekend, and he asked the great question: “Who the hell am I going to pinch-hit for on this team?”

Harper to second on wild pitch.

Huge moment. Harper on first wasn’t gonna do much, but now Bush can give the Twins the lead with just a single.

Bush strikes out.

Except not.

Bottom 9 – Twins 4, Braves 4.

Pagliarulo playing third.

Bush playing right.

Belliard walks.

Jeff Treadway hitting.

Now the Braves fans are getting excited. The game-winning run is on base with nobody out. And because this is 1991 and not 2016, Cox is sending somebody up to the plate specifically to bunt.

Treadway sacrifices to first, second covering, Belliard to second. One out.

That only lowered the Braves’ win probability by 1 percent, so not a terrible decision. But it was a terrible bunt that was a few feet from being caught by Hrbek. Oh well.

Mitchell flies to center. Two outs.

Buck started announcing that as if he thought it was going to be a homer. But it died a few feet before the warning track.

Pendleton walks intentionally.

I know you have to avoid Pendleton, but pitching to Gant isn’t much better. I guess Kelly wanted the righty-righty matchup.

Gant lines to short. Three outs.

Hit it right at him. Lucky Twins (or, unlucky Braves).

Top 10 – Twins 4, Braves 4.

Mike Stanton pitching.

Gladden singles to center.

Gladden leading off the 10th with a single sounds familiar. And now Knoblauch, who has tied the all-time record for postseason hits by a rookie with 11. He would end the postseason with 15 hits. I wonder who has that record now.

Knoblauch grounds to second, Gladden to second. One out.

That was really close to a double play, but Gladden did a great job of avoiding Lemke’s tag. Now the Twins are in business. Big at bat for Hrbek, because if they get him, they’re walking Puckett to get to the pinch-hitter.

Hrbek strikes out. Two outs.

Three pitches. That was not a good at bat.

Puckett walks intentionally.

Paul Sorrento hitting.

Kelly’s only choices here were Sorrento or Al Newman. Newman was a switch-hitter, but Sorrento was a better power hitter. I guess that’s worth the lefty-lefty tradeoff. But this means that despite having 16 position players on the World Series roster, Kelly only has one left on the bench.

Sorrento strikes out.

Not a good swing. Not a good at bat. Newman couldn’t have done better than that?

Bottom 10 – Twins 4, Braves 4.

Mark Guthrie pitching.

The Twins just set a postseason record with their 21st player used in a single World Series game. Just four left – Newman, Aguilera, Morris and Tapani. And Morris and Tapani ain’t appearing in this game unless someone loses a body part.

First pitch, Justice fouls it down the leftfield line. Gladdenstache looked like he had it easily, then at the last minute reached his glove out and flat-out missed it. Very strange. And potentially very bad, as Justice now has a second chance.

Justice flies to left. One out.

Gladden gets revenge; Justice doesn’t take advantage.

Brian Hunter hitting.

Hunter grounds to pitcher. Two outs.

Olson doubles to center.

Puckett took his time on that one, and Olson took advantage and stole the extra base. It was an awfully close play, too, but they just missed him.

And now Lemke is up with a chance to make everybody in Minnesota hate him. But they won’t hate him yet. It’s too early for his moment yet.

Lemke walks.

Guthrie didn’t really try that hard to throw him a strike. Lemke’s run doesn’t mean anything here.
Jeff Blauser hitting.

They just showed the Braves CEO pacing behind the left field wall, shaking his head and rubbing his hair. This series is going to kill everybody involved.

Olson just spent an inordinate amount of time with both his fingers at his eyes. I think he’s telling Blauser how he’ll be tipping the pitches.

(Hey, if I’m accusing my own team’s pitchers of cheating, I’m damn sure accusing the Braves of it, too.)

Blauser flies to second. Three outs.

Top 11 – Twins 4, Braves 4.

Hey! It’s the longest World Series game since 1977! Also, everybody watching has chewed off all their fingernails!

Then they drop the “longest World Series game ever” stat – Babe Ruth throwing all 14 innings of game 2 in 1916. That must have been fun.

(And if you’re wondering why didn’t Ruth just hit a home run earlier to end it, the answer is “because the baseballs were essentially wet socks and the fences were 500 feet away.”)

Hunter playing first.

Blauser playing short.

They’re telling us again about how bad Blauser has been playing short. So just hit every ball right at him, then?

Al Newman hitting.

Newman flies to second. One out.

And just like that, the Twins just used their last position player. We’re still eight spots away from the pitcher’s spot, but it’s great to be in the 11th inning of a World Series game in a National League park without an available pinch hitter.

Gagne strikes out. Two outs.

Another three pitch strike out? Or did it just seem that way? I don’t know, it’s 1:00 local time right now. (In the game. I’m not staying up until 1:00 writing this in real time.)

Harper flies to right. Three outs.

Bottom 11 – Twins 4, Braves 4.

Newman playing third.

Francisco Cabrera hitting.

It’s Francisco Cabrera! Next year, he will get one of the greatest hits in baseball history. But that will happen in 1992, not 1991.

Cabrera lines to second. One out.

Mitchell strikes out. Two outs.

Buck pointed out that the crowd is quiet, but still here. Pretty impressive, actually. Usually you’d see a lot more empty seats at 1:15 in the morning.

Pendleton grounds to first, unassisted. Three outs.

That’s more than 32 2/3 straight scoreless innings this postseason for the Twins bullpen, including 6 1/3 tonight. And with the heart of the Braves lineup coming up next inning, that streak is in serious jeopardy.

Top 12 – Twins 4, Braves 4.

Mark Wohlers pitching.

Bush flies to center. One out.

I’m really running out of things to say. I’m exhausted watching this, even though I’ve broken the viewing up over three days. This has been just a remarkable game.

Gladden singles to right.

The Gladdenstache strikes again. He didn’t always have great at bats this series, but that’s a few times already he’s gotten on base to start a rally. Or at least try to start a rally.

They show Tom Kelly’s stopwatch again. They say that the time a basestealer needs to get from first to second is apparently 3.25 seconds. But they don't tell us how long it should take a pitcher to go from his first move to the catcher's glove, which is what Kelly's actually measuring. So it goes.

Knoblauch to first, Gladden to third, on error by second.

Woah. Two guys on base, one out. Should have been out of the inning. Right now the Twins are 69% to win this game. And Lemke is so close to being the goat in this series.

And Tim McCarver just called the future. He said that if the Braves get Hrbek, they’ll walk Kirby, and Aguilera will pinch-hit for Guthrie. That’s a pretty good job by him to be that aware this deep into the night. He’s actually earning his money as a big-time analyst there.

And yes, he’s predicting the future.

Kent Mercker pitching.

Kent pitching to Kent. Minnesota’s Kent up with the World Series on his bat.

Knoblauch ran on the pitch, but stopped halfway through as Hrbek swung, to try to draw the throw.

Hrbek strikes out looking. Two outs. Knoblauch steals second.

Hrbek was mad at the call, but he shouldn’t have been. And the Braves made no attempt to throw out Knoblauch, as they shouldn’t have, with Gladden standing on third waiting for that throw. And some very predictable moves.

Jim Clancy pitching.

Puckett walks intentionally.

Rick Aguilera hitting.

This is remarkable. The Twins have to use their closer to pinch-hit with the bases loaded in the 12th inning of a World Series game. He’s the first pitcher to pinch-hit in a World Series game since 1965. They’re saying how Aguilera is the Twins’ best hitting pitcher, but this is really about desperation. And of course, if he doesn’t deliver, he’s on the mound until his arm falls off.


First pitch bounces. Good stop by Olson to stop Gladden from scoring. How do you not just throw strikes to Aguilera here?

He does that for the second pitch. And no, I don’t know why I’m now writing pitch-by-pitch. Let’s just say I’m nervous even though I know how this all turns out.

Aguilera flies to center. Three outs.

Damn. That was good contact. Gant had to back up a few steps. But it was always an out. And now the Twins have their closer in for … all the rest of the innings?

Bottom 12 – Twins 4, Braves 4.

Kelly has now used 23 of the Twins’ 25 players. Only Jack Morris (who is starting Game 4 and is not going to play) and Kevin Tapani (who pitched two days ago) haven’t gotten in. So, it’s Aguilera’s ballgame.

Gant flies to center. One out.

The Twins just haven’t seemed to be afraid of Gant this series. Maybe he’s psychologically scarred from losing the wrestling match to Hrbek.

Justice singles to right.

Shit. It’s happening now.

Buck and McCarver keep talking about how teams like running off the Twins. They’ve honestly been very prescient this series. After talking about it for two pitches, Justice goes on a 2-0 count, with Hunter fouling it off. I’m sure he’ll go again, too.

Hunter flies to second. Two outs.

Nope. He didn’t run. But he will in this at bat.

Justice steals second.


Sheesh. Olson has dark circles under his eyes. If he can keep them open long enough, he can win the game with a hit. Also, we’re at the four-hour mark now.

Ooh. Aguilera had him struck out and a ball over the middle and at the knees, but because Harper was set up outside and had to reach back, the ump didn’t give it to them. And also, I can’t breathe.

Olson walks.

Aguilera should be out of the inning, but instead he has two men on. Although the walk doesn’t matter too much because Justice’s run is the only one that matters, the Twins should probably be batting right now. And now Mark Lemke, the “lighter-hitting” of the Braves’ second basemen, is up. And Evil Mark Lemke is about to be born.

Lemke singles to left, Justice scores. Braves 5, Twins 4.

It’s hard to blame him, since this game was four hours long – four hours of playing baseball, of warming up between innings, of tense at bats – but that was a crappy throw by Gladden. Justice was touching third when Gladden got the ball. He should have been dead to rights. But the throw bounced twice and went way up the third base line, so Harper had to awkwardly catch it on the hop then try to dive back to get Justice. It was still close, though, and it was a great slide by Justice. 

And let me get away from the Evil Mark Lemke narrative and talk about what kind of moment that was for him. Lemke was a career .225 hitter going into that at bat. He probably would have been the Braves’ eighth choice of batters to come to the plate in that situation. Yet there he was, in the biggest at bat in the franchise’s history. And he came through.

And then you watch the celebration, and he’s barely even smiling. The biggest hit of his life, the ultimate dream come true for any kid who grew up playing baseball, and he can’t even celebrate because he’s so exhausted. That’s what that game did to these players. That’s what this series did to everybody.

And there’s still four games to go.

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