- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

The Potential Pleasures of the Eight-Inning Game

Here’s a new proposal for shortening the length of baseball games: shorten the length of baseball games. Or shorten the length of one baseball game in particular by one inning. Let us retroactively by 24 hours implement such a rule so it is applicable only to Saturday evening Interleague contests conducted in facilities constructed after 2008 yet before 2010 between National League franchises founded in 1962 that have never switched leagues and American League franchises founded in 1961 that have never switched time zones. Let us also stipulate that the rule has a sunset provision so we can say it was for one night and one night only.

The eight-inning baseball game would thus apply only to the most recent Saturday night affair that involved the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Angels of wherever. Consider it an experiment like the designated hitter was supposed to be an experiment, but in this case we don’t let a shaky idea take root. In this spirit, imagine a fairly fundamental summary of the game as it happened, changing nothing about the pertinent details except for treating the bottom of the eighth and the top of the ninth as if they never happened:

In the regulation eight-inning baseball game at Citi Field on Saturday night, May 20, 2017, the New York Mets defeated the Los Angeles Angels 4-2. Jose Reyes [1] recorded the 2,000th hit of his career in the bottom of the first. Michael Conforto [2], the Mets’ hottest hitter of late, continued to reach base at an impressive rate. Zack Wheeler [3] (3-2) got the win, assisted by solid relief work from Fernando Salas [4] and Robert Gsellman [5]. Gsellman, until recently a starter, recorded his first major league save. The loss went to Alex Meyer [6] (2-2), who could take solace in getting his first hit in the big leagues, even as superstar teammate Mike Trout [7] went hitless. The game was Terry Collins’s 1,013th as Mets manager, earning him the franchise mark for longest tenure, passing Davey Johnson [8].

That would have been a lovely Saturday night in the Meadows of Flushing. Everybody would have gotten all the essentials that we know occurred in our nine-inning universe. The winners won, the losers lost, the noteworthy milestones were gathered, the highlights that led to a two-run victory by the hosts would be as they ever were. By calling it absolutely official and done once the home team retired the visitors in the top of the eighth, all we don’t get is:

a) The piling on and statistical embellishment in the bottom of the eighth that extended the Mets’ lead to 7-2 and had us feeling extra confident about the state of the game and the season; and

b) A thousand pounds of angst because OHMIGOD WE NEARLY BLEW THAT GAME!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE WHAT ALMOST HAPPENED? HOW DID IT GET TO THAT POINT? ALL THEY NEEDED TO DO WAS GET THREE OUTS BEFORE GIVING UP FIVE RUNS AND IT WAS LIKE THEY DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO DO THAT! NEIL RAMIREZ SUCKS! ADDISON REED…WHAT KIND OF SURGERY IS HE GOING TO NEED? TROUT…HOW DO YOU PITCH TO TROUT IN THAT SITUATION? WALK HIM WITH THE BASES LOADED NEXT TIME! THEY GOT LUCKY HE ONLY GOT A SACRIFICE FLY AND DANNY ESPINOSA SUCKS JUST A LITTLE MORE THAN REED AND WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH THEM? CRIPES!!!

Under the actual rules of baseball, the Mets won by a score of 7-5 [9] instead of 4-2 and the save went to Reed instead of Gsellman. Gsellman had been pitching with a two-run lead and held it with no drama in his improvised setup role. Once the Mets extended their advantage to five runs — a rally in progress made pinch-hitting Wilmer Flores [10] for Gsellman a routine move and Flores doubled to commence the pleasing addition of insurance runs — it seemed unlikely Reed would have to pitch. Ramirez, acquired earlier this week based solely on availability, went in to mop up.

Some mop. The Angels loaded the bases in three hitters’ time. Reed needed to be recharged. Even though the Mets still led by five, Addison was entering a save situation, as the potential tying run stood on-deck (my eight-inning idea is no dumber than the save rule). Our post-Familia closer didn’t have his “A” through “Y” game. He walked Cameron Maybin [11] to make it 7-3. He gave up a single to Kole Calhoun [12] to make it 7-4. He was tasked with pitching to Mike Trout as the go-ahead run with the bases loaded and still nobody out.

Oh geez.

Trout didn’t kill him, merely filleted him a bit, launching a fly to right deep enough to score the runner from third to make it 7-5. If that’s the worst thing that happens when you play the Angels, then you’re doing all right, except there were worse possibilities looming and Reed wasn’t doing all right at all, yet his “Z” game continued apace. He induced Luis Valbuena [13] to foul out but walked Andrelton Simmons [14] on a full count to reload the bases. Espinosa, having the kind of year Reyes was having before Jose (3-for-4, 2 RBIs, now batting .205) remembered he’s not done, also got to a full count. Finally, Danny (.147) swung through strike three for the third out, letting the Mets get away with a less simple, less satisfying two-run win.

Same basic result, far different process. But, we must stress, same basic result. The Mets won. By two. In nine. Somehow.