Staring at the cold reality of elimination right in the face, Cody’s Blue and Gold (hey, that’s me) and Theta’s Rainbow teams were determined to avoid that upsetting fate on the Astrodome field. But in a reversal of the first few games in the tournament, both lineup’s decided to make their presence known.
The first inning saw Theta’s Rainbows get on the board early with a pair of runs against J.R. Richard. First, Joe Morgan drew the leadoff walk followed by Jimmy Wynn’s double, which gave Theta’s team a second and third situation with no outs. Jose Cruz would then groundout followed by a quick strikeout from Lance Berkman. Rusty Staub would draw blood, however, when he hit a single to drive in Morgan. Wynn then made the gutsy decision to head for home and beat the throw from Derek Bell in center field to make it an early 2-0 lead for the Rainbows. Morgan Ensberg unceremoniously strikes out looking for the last out of the half inning, but the damage was already done.
With Roy Oswalt starting for Theta, the longtime Astros’ ace got Jeff Bagwell to strike out looking. For the record, Bagwell is still hitless with four strikeouts in his first six plate appearances of this simulation series. But Moises Alou cranks a home run measured at 456 feet on the fourth pitch of the at-bat to halve Theta’s early lead. Alou’s home run is longer than any dinger hit by the 2019 A’s, Nationals, and Tigers. Oswalt would then strike out the next two hitters, Hunter Pence and Carlos Correa, to finish the first inning.
Richard would stumble into a bit more trouble in the second inning, when he issued a one-out walk to Marwin Gonzalez immediately followed by a first pitch single to Alan Ashby. However, the Astros’ legend would strike out both Morgan and Wynn to conclude his day. Oswalt then made short work of Carlos Lee (single), Jason Castro (double play), and Ken Caminiti (fly out) on nine pitches to finish the second inning.
Dallas Keuchel and Don Wilson would keep the third inning uneventful with the only hit in the entire frame being another Staub single.
The fourth inning, however, is when the fireworks really started. Following a fly out from Yuli Gurriel, consecutive hits from Gonzalez (double), Ashby (single), Morgan (single), Wynn (single), and Jose Cruz (double) would drive in three runs to increase Theta’s lead to 5-1. It didn’t look good for my team at the moment.
However, the Blue and Gold squad would make a comeback in the grandest fashion in the bottom half of the frame. Following a hit-by-pitch in the first at-bat to Alou, Pence, Correa, and Lee would get on-base as well to cut the lead down to 5-2. Jason Castro then comes up to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs. This is obviously the key moment of the game for the Blue and Gold. And, by golly, does Castro deliver with a grand slam to hand his team a 6-5 lead. Caminiti would then follow up with a solo home run of his own to expand the lead to 7-5 before Wilson settles down to finish off the inning. A rally that started with Alou hit-by-pitch concludes with a strike out from Alou.
Most of the subsequent middle innings distinctly lacked the drama of the fourth. Charlie Morton for Cody and Mike Cuellar for Theta keeps the game relatively quiet. Joe Sambito and Ken Forsch do the same in the seventh inning. But things get a bit more interesting in the eighth inning when Gurriel takes advantage of a couple of fielding blunders to trim the deficit to one run.
Thankfully for the Blue and Gold, Bell capitalizes on a situation with Castro on second base to hit a two-run dinger measured at 431 feet to drive the lead up to three runs, now a 9-6 advantage for Cody.
Dave Smith closes things out for the Blue and Gold squad, even though the inning itself was without its fair share of tension. Cruz got a double out of the gate and Staub would later follow with a one-out single, which was his third hit of the game. Ensberg and Gurriel came to the plate as the tying runs, but the former strikes out looking for the second time of the game while the latter harmlessly grounds out.
The MVP of the game is obviously Castro, who hit the grand slam in the fourth inning to change the tide of the affair. While Theta’s lineup posted 12 hits, the Blue and Gold squad scored three more runs on five fewer hits. The latter just happened to capitalize on situations with baserunners present. Hey, that’s baseball; just look at the 2019 postseason. On the flip side, Bagwell’s struggles only continue in the simulation league. He is now 1-for-10 with seven strikeouts. It is nice (no, not really) to see that postseason Bagwell is alive and well, even in simulation games.
The Blue and Gold squad will next meet Bilbos’ Brick Red in the next round of the loser bracket in a first round rematch to see who advances and who goes home for good. The upcoming Game 5 is between Hatter’s Colt .45’s and the Hammer H’s. Be sure to check that out.