Yesterday may have been the best day of April baseball I’ve ever seen. It started off innocuously enough with a few, not-out-of-the-ordinary early afternoon games. The Rangers scored eight in the first inning against the Tigers, which is only out of the ordinary if you don’t regularly watch the Rangers hit baseballs and the Nationals continue to get great pitching as Stephen Strasburg shut down the Miami Marlins in a 3-2 win.
The Giants and Mets had a matinee rendezvous at CitiField and all seemed to be going as normal for most of the game. Brandon Belt was sitting firmly on the bench, most certainly reflecting on just how awesome it would be to be a Toronto Blue Jay, his Giants were losing 4-1 heading into the top-of-the-ninth. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then the baseball gods shone their warm glow down on all of us so that we may bask in the unintentional comedy and sheer amazement that was about to take place in the coming hours.
After managing his way into a corner, Giants bench-boss Bruce Bochy decided his only course of action with a short bench, an intentionally burned Brett Pill and a sick Ryan Theriot, was to trot poor Aubrey Huff out to play second base for the very first time in his career. You see, Huff has only ever played in the four corner positions, and he’s never been a world-beater at any of them. Slotting him in at a position that he has not only not played, but a position that requires a lot more intuitiveness than a corner position was bound to have disastrous results. What happened will most assuredly become a long-running punch line that has the potential to break out of the shackles of the baseball-watching community and into the wider culture.
Allow The Scott Lewis to GIF you through the events:
And, of course, the reaction of shortstop Manny Burriss who can’t quite believe that even Aubrey Huff would be that absent-minded:
Had Huff covered second, the inning would have ended and the Giants would have lived to see another inning, but instead, the bases were loaded and the Mets would go on to win the game 5-4 after a Buster Posey throwing error.
The whole thing was remarkably entertaining and equally dumbfounding.
With almost no time to let it sink in, the late afternoon games got underway. There were two of them: The Yankees and Red Sox at Fenway and the White Sox and Mariners at Safeco in the Pacific Northwest. Our own fearless leader thought it an excellent opportunity to unleash some of his legendary snark:
Glad that’s over with. Now we can focus on the most important game of the weekend: Chicago White Sox vs. Seattle Mariners.
— Dustin Parkes (@dustinparkes) April 21, 2012
Little did he know that this harmless display of sarcasm would exhibit shocking fortune-telling qualities.
Journeyman righthander Philip Humber took the hill for the White Sox and proceeded to do what many are capable of doing to the Mariners, he shut them down. But with a little luck and a curveball that would make even young Barry Zito swoon, Humber retired all 27 batters he faced with just 96 pitches while striking out nine. It was just the 21st perfect game in big-league history.
The game ended on a somewhat controversial play with Seattle shortstop Brendan Ryan trying to hold up on a wild slider from Humber on a 3-2 count. While Ryan was complaining that he checked said swing, which he didn’t, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski picked up the ball and calmly threw it to first to end the game.
Meanwhile, the other four-o’clock game had its own excitement. The Red Sox jumped out to an early 9-0 lead on the Bronx Bombers after five innings. The Yankees scored one run in the sixth, but everything in Red Sox Nation was still rosy (or at least, as rosy as they could be). Then the world came crashing down. The Yankees posted back-to-back seven-run innings and sent as many hitters to the plate in the sixth, seventh and eighth as Philip Humber faced in his entire nine-inning start.
Things are unravelling quickly in Beantown. The fans are already calling for Bobby Valentine’s head, and bless his dim little heart, he’s not doing anything to quell that anger. Although Buster Olney of ESPN would very much like you to leave Bobby alone.
But hey, everything’s going to be fine, because they’ve traded from a position of strength (read: the Red Sox have an awesome bullpen. For surius, you guys), sending Michael Bowden and a player to be named later to Theo’s Cubs for Marlon Byrd and the cash to cover most of his 2011 salary.
And according to Ken Rosenthal, Boston has renewed interest in free agent righthander Roy Oswalt who you have to admit, they kind of need right now. The Cardinals are also in the conversation.
Finally, Pirates righthander A.J. Burnett returned from his stint on the DL due to a broken orbital bone in his face after taking a baseball in the cheek during a Spring Training bunting drill (seriously, two things that make no sense, bunting and pitchers hitting; they never lead to anything good). He dominated the World Champion Cardinals, throwing seven shutout innings, striking out seven, walking just two and giving up just three hits. What’s perhaps most impressive is that he did it on just 76 pitches, 53 of which were strikes. Oh, to be out of the AL East.
And the Rest:
The Phillies may be trouble: Cliff Lee has hit the DL with a left oblique strain [Matt Gelb, Twitter]. Old people problems.
In other sucky news, Blue Jays closer Sergio Santos has also landed on the 15-day DL with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. The injury is not expected to be serious and Santos should be back when the 15 days are up. Toronto has recalled Evan Crawford to take his place on the roster [Vinnie Duber, MLB.com].
Today in ‘not surprising’: Matt Kemp hit another home run last night in the Dodgers’ 5-1 win over the Astros [Kristie Rieken, AP]. The homer is Kemp’s ninth of the season and sets a record for most homeruns by a Dodger through the first 15 games of a season. Not to diminish his (or his team’s) accomplishments so far this season, but wake me up when they face a team that can’t be considered ‘Quad-A’.
The Diamondbacks have placed righthander Daniel Hudson on the DL with a sore shoulder [AP].
More injury news: Adrian Beltre will have an MRI on his strained left hamstring [Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram]. He suffered the injury legging out a double in yesterday’s beatdown of the Tigers.
Welcome to The Show: Wily Peralta [Marc Hulet, FanGraphs].
Speaking of prospects, Keith Law saw a lot of them in Charleston, South Carolina on Friday [ESPN Insider].
Michael Baumann attempts to delineate an economic theory of fandom over at Crashburn Alley.
Homophobia in sports once again rears its ugly, ignorant and downright repugnant head [Sean Newell, Deadspin].