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How To Come From Behind

There’s no such thing as a bad come-from-behind rally to win in a walkoff, but I think Oakland’s version [1] late Wednesday night may be my favorite of the genre.

• Josh Reddick singles on the fourth pitch he sees.
• Josh Donaldson doubles on the first pitch he sees; Reddick goes to third.
• Seth Smith doubles on the third pitch he sees; Reddick and Donaldson score.
• George Kottaras fouls out on the first pitch he sees.
• Cliff Pennington strikes out looking at the fourth pitch he sees.
• Coco Crisp singles on the first pitch he sees; Smith scores.

From down, 3-1, the A’s almost literally stormed back against Jose Valverde to beat the Tigers, 4-3. It wasn’t methodical. It wasn’t even tense, exactly. It was thrilling is what it was, and I have very little rooting interest between these two teams. Truthfully, I’m in the same position with the A’s as that Indians fan construction worker in Major League who asked when he perused his team’s roster prior to Opening Day, “Who’re these fuckin’ guys?” I know who Crisp is (he robbed the Mets as a Red Sock in 2006). I remember Smith from the Rockies. Just about everybody else of an Athletic nature is being introduced to me all at once.

But what a way to make an impression. I have nothing against the Tigers except I wanted nine more innings from them and their opponents and I got it. I got it in as exciting a way as one could get it, offensively speaking. Maybe the four hits and two outs gathered on all of 14 pitches seemed so novel because the Mets, when they come from behind to win in a walkoff, never do it like that.

Small sample size, but the Mets effected two victories similar in form to that which Oakland managed in ALDS Game Four, yet they were far more excruciating to experience…excruciatingly delightful in the end, but 180 degrees removed from last night’s machine gun attack.

On April 26, the Mets required approximately a thousand minutes of nicking and pecking Heath Bell to pieces to score the two runs they needed to pull out a 3-2 victory over the Marlins. The centerpiece of the torture was Justin Turner’s 13-pitch walk, the fourth walk of the ninth inning, the one that tied the game at two. There was one called strike, eight fouls and four balls to one batter and it worked to the Mets’ advantage. Overall, the Mets made Bell pitch to them 46 times just so he could surrender two runs.

It was thrilling in its own way. It just wasn’t as visceral as what the A’s did to Valverde in one fewer pitch with five more batters.

The Mets’ other come-from-behind walkoff rally came against another lovable National League East closer, Phillie Jonathan Papelbon, on July 5. That one encompassed 28 pitches, which resulted in: a double; a sac bunt; a strikeout; a hit batsman; a stolen base; a walk; a liner off the pitcher’s leg to tie the score at five; and a dunker that fell into short right to win it, 6-5. It was also thrilling in its own way. Like the refusal to let up on Bell, the pitiless pinging of Papelbon demonstrated dogged determination at its count-nagging best.

But, man, that Oakland ninth was something else. If Jerry Manuel were on hand, he’d call it gangsta and be right about it.

Great note to wind up a lightning-in-a-bottle four-game postseason day that I’d call as close to October’s version of March Madness as could be, except if it had a catchy nickname, then Bud Selig would insist on codifying it, watering it down and adding six more playoff teams in a misguided attempt to guarantee what might happen sometimes definitely happen annually.

With another four games taking place in the next twelve hours and any luck at all, maybe it will happen again today. You can’t guarantee outstanding finishes, however — you just count yourself fortunate that baseball keeps on going, and ya take it from there.

Meanwhile, take yourself to Sports on Earth [2] for Jason’s take on Wednesday’s Giants-Reds affair, why don’tcha?