In the real world, MLB is considering the possibility of having tie games in whatever regular season might be salvaged in 2020.
In the fantasy world of the TCB Astros Dream Draft Tournament, we know what Highlander has always known: There can be only one.
And sometimes to determine that one, it takes seven hours and twenty-one minutes.
Coming into the game
The Hatter Colt 45’s came into the matchup against the Hammer H’s, having bested the Theta Rainbows 3-1 at Colt Stadium, limiting the Rainbows to just four hits over nine innings. While the Colt 45’s were confident of their ability to stack up against anyone in the tournament, the result was met with surprise.
“That was a shocking loss,” said Trav, who came down from San Antonio to take in the tournament. Joe, who made the trip from Birmingham, remarked that it was “an example of why I shouldn’t gamble. I picked (the Rainbows) to win this tournament.” John, coming all the way down from Wisconsin, couldn’t believe what he’d just witnessed, “Seventeen strikeouts? Who was pitching? Kevin Brown?”
Colt Stadium attendee JLH saw little of the game. “Impossible to watch the game with that many mosquitos. I think I sat in the ‘standing-pools-of-water’ section of the stadium.” Calls have been made for the Colt 45’s to implement mosquito netting throughout the stands for fan safety.
The Hammer H’s, on the other hand, came into the tournament overwhelming favorites, having won the pre-tournament TCB reader poll handily. The H’s defeated the Bilbos Brick Red in a tightly contested 3-2 victory at Enron Field on the back of a Richard Hidalgo 6th inning solo shot, in a rivalry to determine whose players were replacement players and whose players were above replacement players.
Innings 1-6: The “starting” pitchers
The game took place at Minute Maid Park with the roof closed, in front of a capacity crowd with a first pitch time of 7:05 p.m. It was the H’s first home game of the tournament.
Gerrit Cole started on the mound for the H’s, and allowed a run in the first inning for the second consecutive game, as Colt 45 right fielder Terry Puhl smacked a 3-2 pitch just inside the right foul pole to give Hatter a 1-0 early lead. HAT 1 - HAM 0
The H’s answered right back in the bottom of the first. Jeff Kent capitalized on a Luke scott single by tagging Hatter starting pitcher Mike Scott for a 2-run homer into the Crawford Boxes, to put Hammer ahead 2-1. HAT 1 - HAM 2
Both Cole and Scott settled down in their second innings. Cole worked a 1-2-3 2nd inning with 2 punchouts. Scott worked around a baffling throwing error by first baseman Glenn Davis who sailed a ball over Scott’s head, in what should have been a routine soft toss to the covering pitcher. Scott would finish his outing with 5 strikeouts to match the 5 he racked up against the Rainbows.
Cole then yielded to Justin Verlander in the top of the third. Verlander worked around a Michael Bourn leadoff single in the third, but could not duplicate the escape act in the fourth. Glenn Davis led off with a 4th inning single, and then advanced to third on a screaming Dickie Thon double down the third base line past a diving Geoff Blum. Designated hitter Doug Rader grounded out to bring Davis home and tie the game at 2. HAT 2 - HAM 2
Verlander finished the inning with no further damage by striking out Luis Gonzalez, and with the assistance of a diving catch in shallow center field by five-time Gold Glove winner Cesar Cedeno on a Brian McCann blooper that looked like it might land in no man’s land.
Scott was succeeded by Nolan Ryan who , pitched hitless and scoreless third and fourth innings. The MLB all time strikeout leader notched five more in his two inning stint, including striking out the side in the fourth.
Lance McCullers, Jr. followed Verlander in the H’s pitching order, taking the ball in the fifth inning. Bourn started McCullers’ outing by managing another leadoff single, but McCullers would strand him by the frame’s end. McCullers also had some help from the H’s excellent defense, as Terry Puhl ripped a ball towards left field, but was robbed by defensive wizard Adam Everett ranging to his right.
For the Colt 45’s, Andy Pettitte relieved Ryan in the fifth. The lefty began by allowing a leadoff walk to Geoff Blum. But what Adam Everett’s defense gives, Adam Everett’s offense takes away, and the walk was erased with an Everett GIDP, allowing Pettitte to then induce a Cedeno groundout to retire the side.
The Colt 45’s broke the tie in the sixth inning, as Glenn Davis led the frame off with a blast to dead straightaway center off a McCullers fastball, striking the batter’s eye for a 439 foot solo home run, putting Hatter up 3-2. HAT 3 - HAM 2
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Director of Promotions & Events Brianna Hughes dropped by to tell us about some upcoming promotions fans could look forward to during the rest of the tournament.
Hi guys! It’s been a great tournament so far, and after this matchup, which looks to be a classic, tomorrow we have another big game between the Bilbos Brick Red and the Cody Blue & Gold. It’ll be the second home game in the Astrodome for the Blue & Gold, so we have special treat for the first 25 fans who decide to call in sick to work to come eight hours before first pitch so that they can receive this Hunter Pence Bobblehead valued at $15.82.
There’s more great promotions coming up, as well. On Thursday, fans will be able to bring their dogs to the ballpark. All you need is to do is bring documentation from a veterinarian that the dog’s shots are up to date, a letter from the city showing your dog is registered, and a notarized letter of recommendation from your state’s U.S. senator. (Oklahoma senators will not be accepted.) Once you do that, your dog is free to sit in the stands and look at a giant park with lots of open space where humans are running and playing with a ball, but that the dogs are not allowed to go on. Your dog is going to love it.
Thanks, Crawfish Boxes! Now back to the recap!
And while Brianna was talking, the Hammer H’s made short work of Hatter’s lead as Jeff Kent hit his second home run of the night (and third of the tournament) off Pettitte in the sixth, again into the Crawford Boxes. The lefty looks up at the broadcast booth and mouths, “Thanks, Brianna.” HAT 3 - HAM 3
With each of the teams’ 3 starting pitchers having contributed their 2 innings apiece, Hammer and Hatter entered the seventh inning knotted up a 3-3.
Innings 7-9: The “relief” pitchers
Will Harris took the hill for Hammer in the seventh and promptly gave up a leadoff single to Michael Bourn. This was Bourn’s third leadoff single in the game, and he added a stolen base for good measure. However, just like Bourn’s previous two leadoff singles, he would be stranded, as Harris would get strikeouts on Craig Biggio, Alex Bregman, and Glenn Davis.
Joe Niekro worked the seventh for Hatter and pitched a scoreless inning working around a leadoff walk by Lee May with the help of a diving catch in right by Puhl to retire Adam Everett for the third out.
Ken Giles got to work for the H’s in the eighth, quickly getting Thon to strike out and Rader to fly out. But Giles found himself in trouble, allowing consecutive singles to Luis Gonzalez and Brian McCann. This brought Michael Bourn to the plate, 3-3 for on the night from the 9-hole. But in his first at bat not leading off an inning, Bourn struck out to end the threat.
Darryl Kile needed just 12 pitches to complete a 1-2-3 inning for the Colt 45’s in the bottom of the eighth.
Hammer’s ace reliever Billy Wagner took the ball in his familiar ninth inning. After allowing a leadoff walk by Biggio, Wagner sent Puhl, Bregman and Davis down in order.
Turk Farrell, who had earned the save against the Theta Rainbows with a 1-2-3 inning, picked up where he left off and struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.
For the first time in the tournament, we were going into extra innings.
Extra Innings: Billy Wagner vs. Turk Farrell
Per the rules of the tournament, if a game goes into extra innings, since there are no other pitchers on the roster, the pitcher who pitches the ninth inning continues pitching until the game is over. Hatter’s closer Farrell, usually a starting pitcher, was comfortable pitching for an extended period of time, even if he’d only been used in short stints recently. Wagner, on the other hand, brought some concerns about how many innings he could last if the game could not be resolved quickly.
The extra innings are best broken down inning by inning:
Top of the 10th: Billy Wagner gets 3 more strikeouts and works around a Doug Rader double into the left field corner, where the home plate camera can’t see. Wagner has no trouble with a second inning of work.
Bottom of the 10th: Farrell is comfortable as well. Finley works a walk to lead off the inning, but it for naught as Blum grounds into a double play. An Everett popout ends the inning, and the pitchers face a 3rd inning of work.
Top of the 11th: Wagner is still cruising. He retires Bourn, Biggio and Puhl in order with just 9 pitches. Although through 3 innings of work, his pitch count has already reached 46 pitches.
Bottom of the 11th: Hammer gets a leadoff runner again, as Cedeno is hit by a pitch. Cedeno wastes no time getting into scoring position by stealing second, and the H’s have their star player in scoring position with no outs. But Farrell gets Scott and Johnson to fly out and Everett to pop out to strand Cedeno and send the game to a 12th inning.
Top of the 12th: Alex Bregman works a leadoff walk and Wagner is now reaching the limits of his pitching workload. Glenn Davis blasts his second home run of the game, a 422 foot 2-run shot to left center, and Hatter takes a 5-3 lead. HAT 5 - HAM 3
Wagner continues to labor. He gives up a single to Thon and walks Rader. There are still no outs yet.
Luis Gonzalez flies out to center. Hammer get two outs in one as McCann grounds into a double play and Wagner is spared having to pitch to another batter.
Bottom of the 12th: Farrell comes on for his fourth inning of work, with a 2-run lead and a chance to put the game away. He gets two quick outs, striking out Hidalgo and inducing a Lee May groundout.
Finley comes to bat and hits one to the left side. This is the same exact play that Adam Everett had in the fifth inning where he robbed Terry Puhl. But Dickie Thon is no Adam Everett defensively, and instead of being the game-ending play, it gets by him and Finley has a single to keep Hammer alive.
Still one out away from victory, Farrell can’t seem to get it. Blum singles. Everett comes to the plate as the go ahead run and Farrell hits him. Farrell, despite being a starter, is starting to tire as well.
Cedeno comes to the plate with the bases loaded and with 2 outs, down by 2 runs in a do-or-die situation and. Cedeno delivers. A single to right field scores 2 and ties the game at 5-5. Adam Everett is thrown out at third base trying to advance two bases on the single to end the inning, but Hammer has accomplished what they set out to do. The game will go to a thirteenth inning. HAT 5 - HAM 5
Top of the 13th: The good news is that Hammer is alive to pitch another inning. The bad news is that it is still Wagner who must pitch that inning. Wagner likely has not pitched a fifth inning since high school.
Hammer’s defense doesn’t do Wagner any favors as Hidalgo outright drops a can of corn hit by Bourn to right field to let the leadoff man reach safely. Control problems are rampant now for Wagner as he walks Biggio. Puhl unwisely offers at the first pitch and grounds into a double play, but Bourn makes it to third base. Alex Bregman doubles to score Bourn and Hatter takes the lead yet again 6-5. HAT 6 - HAM 5
Wagner can’t throw strikes to save his life, and he walks Davis and Thon to load the bases. Fortunately, Wagner limits the damage to just 1 run as Rader grounds out to end the frame.
Bottom of the 13th: With a new 1-run lead, Farrell gets yet another chance to close the door on the game. Scott grounds out. Cliff Johnson hits a 1-out single. Kent walks. Hidalgo hits a long deep fly ball to deep center that is caught for the second out. If the ball had been hit any more to the left or the right, Hidalgo would have had himself a walkoff 2-run homer.
Instead Farrell finds himself needing just 1 more out again to finish the game. And for the second inning in a row, he can’t get it. Lee May hits his own clutch single to score Cliff Johnson, and we are tied yet again 6-6. HAT 6 - HAM 6
Farrell strikes out Finley to prevent any further damage, but the Hatter dugout is disheartened at blowing an extra inning lead yet again.
Top of the 14th: Billy Wagner heads back out the mound again. He has now thrown 99 pitches in a tournament where no pitcher had thrown more than 50 coming into the game. He is running on empty.
Luis Gonzalez smacks a leadoff double.
McCann pops out to third. Wagner will take outs any way he can get them.
Michael Bourn doubles to drive in Gonzalez, his fourth hit of the night. Hatter is leading again 7-6. HAT 7 - HAM 6
Bourn tries to steal third, but Cliff Johnson gets an out for his pitcher by throwing him out.
Biggio walks. Puhl singles. It is unclear where Wagner will find his third out until the BABIP gods have mercy on him, as Bregman drills a 103.9 mph exit velocity liner to right field. . . but right at Hidalgo to end the inning.
Bottom of the 14th: Farrell heads out for his 6th inning of work, hoping that the third time is the charm to close out this game. But he’s at 82 pitches himself, and hadn’t been preparing to throw this much.
Blum grounds out. Everett strikes out.
Once again, Farrell finds himself one out away with Cesar Cedeno coming to the plate. Cedeno singles, and it’s beginning to look like this game will never end.
Farrell walks Scott and then walks Johnson. Farrell has nothing left.
Jeff Kent, who has terrorized pitchers all tournament, comes to the plate. One more out and the Colt 45’s go home winners. One hit and Kent can score two runners to walk it off for the H’s.
Farrell pitches. . . and walks him. A run comes in. It is 7-7, and if the Hatter dugout was disheartened in the bottom of the 13th, they are devastated now at blowing a third extra-inning lead. HAT 7 - HAM 7
McCann pays a visit to his pitcher after the 3 consecutive walks, and Farrell musters up enough stuff to get Hidalgo to ground out to end the inning and send the game to the fifteenth.
Top of the 15th: Wagner, weeping, slowly makes his way back to the mound. He can barely get the ball over the plate and his once 100 mph fastball is hitting just 62 on the radar gun now. It is like batting practice, but without the pitch accuracy.
Davis walks. Thon doubles to deep center and Cedeno can’t pull off the Willie Mays over the shoulder basket catch. Doug Rader steps to the plate and blasts a 3-run 463 ft home run to right. Rader, who hit the first of only 3 Astro home runs to ever reach the Astrodome’s upper deck in its history, has now done it at Minute Maid Park too.
4/3/70 Doug Rader poses with the seat where his home run landed. Jimmy Wynn (shown) hit the upper level a week later. pic.twitter.com/GjQR0xOdse— Mike Acosta (@AstrosTalk) April 4, 2014
The gold glove third baseman, relegated to designated hitter and whose manager publicly called his offensive ability “nothing special” hit the longest home run of the tournament, and longer than any home run five MLB teams hit in 2019. Hatter is up 10-7. HAT 10 - HAM 7
Luis Gonzalez singles and advances to second on a wild pitch. McCann hits a 428 foot home run of his own to right. From third base, we can hear Geoff Blum yell, “MCCANNONBALL!” Wagner shoots a cold stare to his third baseman. It is 12-7 Hatter, and there are still no outs. HAT 12- HAM 7
Bourn pops out to short for the first out, finally.
Biggio walks and steals second. Puhl singles to score Biggio, making it 13-7. HAT 13 - HAM 7
Bregman walks. Davis walks. Thon walks to drive in a run 14-7. Wagner cannot find the strike zone with two hands and a flashlight, and considering it’s now close to 2 AM in the morning, a flashlight might be handy. HAT 14 - HAM 7
Doug Rader hits a 2-RBI single to send the Colt 45’s ahead 16-7. Rader has 6 RBI this game and 5 of them have come in the fifteenth inning. HAT 16 - HAM 7
Hidalgo takes pity on Wagner and makes a diving catch in right on Luis Gonzalez for the second out. McCann flies out to left and the inning is over, Hatter having sent 14 hitters to the plate.
Bottom of the 15th: Farrell gets a fourth chance to close out the game. This time, the Colt 45’s hope a 9 run lead will be enough of a cushion. All they need is for Turk to get 3 outs before he lets 9 runners cross the plate.
May grounds out. That’s 1 out.
Finley walks. Blum singles up the middle.
Everett somehow strikes out against a shell of Farrell, and is now 0 for 6 on the night. That’s 2 outs.
Cedeno walks. The bases are loaded.
Luke Scott singles to right and drives in 2. HAT 16 - HAM 9
Cliff Johnson crushes his pitch into left center for a 3-run home run, and the lead is cut down even further. 16-12 Hatter. The Hatter dugout is stunned. They cannot believe this could be happening again. HAT 16 - HAM 12
Kent walks. Hidalgo singles. Prior to that single, Hidalgo had been the only player on either team to not reach base safely whether by hit, walk, or HBP.
The Colt 45’s entered the bottom of the 15th with a NINE run lead, and now the H’s have the Steve Finley, the tying run on deck.
Finley never makes it to the plate, however, as Lee May grounds into a fielder’s choice to end the game.
FINAL SCORE: Hatter Colt 45’s 16, Hammer H’s 12 (15)
Seven hours and twenty-one minutes later, there could only be one. Hatter defeats Hammer 16-12 in 15 innings.
Billy Wagner threw 190 pitches. Turk Farrell threw 166.
It was 2:26 a.m. when the final out was recorded. Much of the capacity crowd had already left long ago.
One who stayed til the very end was Colt 45 fan Dante, who drove down from South Oklahoma Mallcop country to watch what he considers “the best squad” in the tournament. Asked why he thought Hatter was able to outlast Hammer, Dante offered, “That’s a pretty easy answer. Hammer has McCullers, and he blows. Did you see Davis knock the crap out of McCullers’ pitch?”
Selected comments from players after the game:
Doug Rader, Game 5 MVP, HAT DH, 3 for 8, 1 HR and 6 RBI : “I’m the designated hitter. So I hit. I’d much rather play third base. I feel more at ease over there, I hit better, I feel like I’m in the game more. Alex is great and all, but I have five gold gloves. I’ll stop talking now.”
From late March 1968. ABC13 is at Astros camp in Cocoa, Florida. An interview with the "Red Rooster", Doug Rader.Posted by ABC13 Sports on Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Billy Wagner, HAM P, 13 R, 12 ER, 13 H, 12 BB, 5 K in 7.0 IP: “Leave me alone.”
Nolan Ryan, HAT P: 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 5K in 2.0 IP: “Wagner threw 190 pitches? You keep saying that like it’s a lot or something.”
Gerrit Cole, HAM P: 1 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K in 2.0 IP: “It’s 2:30 in the morning, I’m trying to sleep. Why are you— What? The game JUST ended? No I’m not at Minute Maid anymore. As soon as my 2 innings were over, I put my Scott Boras hat on and got the hell out of there.”
Craig Biggio, HAT 2B: 0 for 5, 1 R, 0 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K: “So I was the only guy on my team to somehow go hitless in a fifteen inning game. So what? Baggy’s 1 for 10 and Berk’s 0 for 10! Don’t think I didn’t see the headline on your next day’s copy ‘Bumbling Bees’”
Ken Giles, HAM P: 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 2 K in 1.0 IP: “This loss hurts. It feels like someone just punched me in the face. Possibly me.”
Geoff Blum, HAM 3B: 2 for 6, 2 R, 1 BB: “Yeah that was me yelling out ‘McCannonball!” in the 15th. Force of habit. No I didn’t look at the box score. YOU look at it.”
Adam Everett, HAM SS: 0 for 6, 0, R, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K: “What are you talking about? I did get a hit. I got hit right in the ribs by Turk. Anyways, I’m in the 9-hole, I’m not supposed to provide offense. Yes, I saw what Bourn did, but he’s not the defensive player I am.”
Michael Bourn, HAT CF: 4 for 8, 1 R, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 SB: “Tell Adam I couldn’t hear him over the noise of the two gold gloves in my bag. Oh, but he probably wouldn’t understand.”
Turk Farrell, HAT P: 9 R, 9 ER, 10 H, 8 BB, 7 K in 7.0 IP: “Mommy.”
Here is the box score for the game.
The Hatter Colt 45’s advance in the winner’s bracket. Next up is an elimination game between the Bilbos Red Brick and the Cody Blue & Gold in the loser’s bracket. The winner will face the Hammer H’s.