(This was originally published on The Baseball Continuum, with pictures and links to B-Ref in that version. This was written before the Wings' loss on Sunday.)
After Bobby Thomson‘s famous "Shot Heard Round the World", Red Smith perhaps wrote the greatest lede (or lead, for those of you who didn’t major in journalism) in history:
Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.
A game in the International League in early August is a long way from the events that surrounded Thomson’s shot, of course, but last night there was another example of the can-you-believe-this nature of baseball that Smith paid tribute to in that lede, and another reminder that, as the great Yogi Berra once said, it ain’t over until it’s over.
For most of the game between the Rochester Red Wings (AAA Twins) and Syracuse Chiefs (AAA Nationals), it was a pitcher’s duel, as P.J. Walters of the Wings went 5.2 giving up only one earned run and Syracuse’s Caleb Clay doing the same for seven innings. The bullpens then brought it to extra innings. And it is there that the story truly begins. Although at the time, the crowd at Rochester’s Frontier Field must have thought it was an ending, as Luis Perdomo took the mound and then, after a quick first out, allowed Eury Perez to double, walked Jeff Kobernus and then hit Danny Espinosa with a pitch. Cody Eppley came in to replace him, but with runners already on base and no room for error, the Chiefs knocked in five runs off of him, although only two of them were earned.
And so, it headed to the bottom of the tenth, with the Wings down by five. Many of the 9,000+ in attendance were likely only still there due to the fireworks scheduled for post-game, but the fireworks would come early. The Chiefs brought in Cole Kimball, a high-ERA’d mop-up guy who they probably figured they could give some work to as they recorded the final outs of the game. Early on, it looked like maybe he’d do just that, getting two outs while allowing only two small hits, hits that everyone knew were meaningless unless something big happened.
And then, the wheels came off for Cole Kimball. A wild pitch got Eric Farris and James Beresford into scoring position, and then a single from Chris Parmelee got Farris home and left runners at the corners. However, again, that run was meaningless unless something else was going to happen.
Meanwhile, in the outfield, a group of Chinese fire-balloons from a local festival appeared on the horizon.
And then, Kimball walked Deibinson Romero. Up to bat came Jeff Clement, a low-average but high-power hitter who has had stints with the Mariners and Pirates in the past, but who hadn’t been doing well lately, being without a homer since June. Now, though, the bases were loaded, but the tying run stood at the plate.
He worked a 3-1 count, and then, on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, he sent it deep into the night, a no-doubter. As soon as it was clear that it would be fair, the stadium erupted into a bonanza of high-fives, hugs and joyous screaming. Five runs down with one out left to survive, and the home team had still found a way to tie it up. Meanwhile, the Chinese Fire-Balloons faded over the Rochester Skyline.
But the inning was not over, although Kimball’s night was. Michael Crotta came in, only to walk Aaron Hicks and then give up a single to Josmil Pinto (Hicks wasn’t sent for home on the single, as he probably would have been dead meat at the plate). Crotta then was able to get Eric Farris- in his second AB of the inning- to ground out, ending the inning and sending it to 11.
The Chiefs threatened in the top of the 11th, only to have their would-be rally shushed by Shairon Martis, who came in to get the final out of the inning after the Chiefs got two men on. The Wings went down one-two-three in the bottom half. The Chiefs did the same in the top of the 12th.
And then, in the bottom of the 12th, after Chris Parmelee struck out against the Chiefs’ Jeff Mandel, Deibinson Romero walked. The speedy Eduardo Escobar was sent in as a pinch-runner. And to the plate came the hero of earlier in the night: Jeff Clement.
And again, he worked a 3-1 count.
And then, again, he sent a ball into right. It wasn’t a home run, it was just a good shot into the corner. It was close at the plate, but the throw was off, and Escobar came in to score the walk-off run of the miracle victory.
Down by five with one out left in the tenth to a walk-off in the 12th. Only in baseball do you see things like this. And when you see such a magical game, you think that Red Smith was right: only the utterly impossible can ever be plausible again.
Dan Glickman writes the Baseball Continuum blog.