Winning streaks are harder than they seem. We’re 9 games into the season, and while we’ve had a couple of close calls, we haven’t lost a game yet. At some point, winning starts to seem inevitable. When that happens, you get in trouble.
For game 10, we faced the Oakdale Twins. Sporting a 7-1 record, they’re in 3rd place. They got shut out in the first game of the season, but since then, they’ve only scored as few as 8 runs once. They don’t give up many runs, either. At game time, it was a sweltering 92 degrees, with no clouds and no wind. I brought a cooler full of ice and water, and Christina threw in a couple of dozen hand towels, so we could cool off.
We’re the home team, so we take the field. Alex is pitching, and the second pitch he throws sails high and slams the ump in the chest. The ump’s wearing a chest protector, but even with padding, getting hit by a fastball at 60mph is painful. The ump decides to take a few steps back and call the game from near the backstop. As we discover over the next few innings, this is disastrous for our pitchers. Alex in particular relies on being able to throw fastballs low for strikes, and throwing his curveball inside and having it break into the strike zone. With the ump 15 feet behind the plate, he can’t see the strike zone, so he’s judging the pitches based on where they are about halfway to the plate. At one point, a pitch thrown by one of the Twins pitchers bounces in the dirt two feet in front of the plate, but the ump calls it a strike.
It’s maddening, but we can’t do much about it. One of the aspects of playing at this level is that players and coaches are subject to a code of conduct – we need to behave like good sportsmen, and that means not criticizing the umpire. Even when he’s calling strikes on balls in the dirt.
Alex walked the first batter, then struck out the next two, and managed to strike out three Twins in the first, but then gave up two runs on three straight singles before getting another strikeout. We got three back in the bottom of the inning on singles, stealing and passed balls, but that was pretty much it.
With any kind of breaking ball getting called a ball, our guys need to throw straight fastballs over the plate. And as mentioned, the Twins can hit. Their coach told me mid-game that this was the best they’d hit all year. I think part of that may have been that they were getting a steady diet of fastballs over the plate. They scored two in the first, two more in the second, two more in the third, three in the fourth, three in the fifth and four in the sixth. Ouch. We managed just seven strikeouts, our lowest total of the year.
The biggest problem, though, was that we just didn’t hit. We got one more run in the fourth, but that was it. We struck out 12 times – a season high – and got just two walks.
Final score: 16-4 Twins.
Season record: 9-1. The streak is over. But we’re still in first place.