The stakes couldn’t be higher in a must-win game for both Cody’s Blue and Gold and Hammer H’s at the Astrodome. A loss sends one team packing for good while the other gets the pleasure of facing off against the Hatter Colt .45’s in the next round. Bragging rights are on the line. Well, the only thing on the line, but still worth something, right?
How did the game unfold?
With J.R. Richard on the mound to start, the Blue and Gold would soon find themselves in a quick 2-0 deficit in the first inning. Thanks to a pair of doubles from Luke Scott and Jeff Kent along with a RBI single by Richard Hidalgo, the Hammer H’s were applying the pressure early. Richard would escape the inning without further damage, though. Gerrit Cole, on the other hand, didn’t have any issues in his first inning as he sits down the top of the Blue and Gold order on only nine pitches.
1st inning: 2-0, HAM
The second inning was essentially a repeat of the first, with the Hammer H’s tallying an additional three runs thanks primarily to Cesar Cedeno’s inside the park home run. It was clearly not Richard’s day as he allowed five runs on five hits. But Cole would also run into a bit of traffic with Carlos Lee drawing a one-out walk, a double by Jason Castro, and a second walk to Ken Caminiti. With the bases loaded and one out, the Blue and Gold had an excellent opportunity to make up some ground early. However, a strikeout by Derek Bell and a fly out by Art Howe dashed any hopes of a second inning comeback.
2nd inning: 5-0, HAM
Dallas Keuchel mercifully takes over for Richard in the third inning with the goal of keeping the score as is. Thankfully, the bearded southpaw accomplished that mission, albeit with some difficulty following a one-out single to Hidalgo and a subsequent double to Lee May. The moment of the inning came when Adam Everett grounded out with the bases loaded to keep the lead at 5-0 in favor of Hammer. Much like Cole before him, however, Justin Verlander made short work of the top of the Blue and Gold order. Three outs on ten pitches to Jeff Bagwell, Moises Alou, and Hunter Pence.
3rd inning: 5-0, HAM
If the previous inning was any indication, it didn’t appear that Keuchel had his best stuff. On his second pitch of the fourth inning, Cedeno took the lefty deep for a real home run of 431 feet to drive the lead to 6-0. Hidalgo would then strike again a few batters later with a home run of his own to drive in Luke Scott from third base to increase the lead to 8-0. It may be time for the Blue and Gold to start writing up their obituary as this game appears over.
But something miraculous occurred in the the bottom of the fourth inning: Cody’s Blue and Gold somehow got to Verlander to make it a game once again. With two outs and the bases loaded, Howe redeemed himself with a grand slam to cut the deficit in half to 8-4. That blast sent Verlander reeling as he then surrendered a single to Bagwell, who was promptly driven in to score via a two-run homer by Alou in the next at-bat. Verlander would get a double play two batters later, but the damage was done. We have a game again.
4th inning: 8-6, HAM
The fifth inning was relatively tame compared to previous frame. Outside of a two-out walk to Everett, Charlie Morton kept the opposing lineup at bay. Lance McCullers Jr. did the same in the bottom half of the inning to keep the score as is.
5th inning: 8-6, HAM
Wash, rinse, and repeat for Morton in the sixth inning. McCullers Jr. ran into a bit of trouble with a leadoff single from Bell and a one-out walk to Bagwell, but he got out of the inning thanks to a pair of fly outs to end the frame.
6th inning: 8-6, HAM
The Blue and Gold’s Joe Sambito made short work of the Hammer H’s lineup in the top of the seventh with two strike outs and a ground out. The same can’t be said of Will Harris, who experienced a disastrous inning to allow Hammer’s lead to fall as he surrendered five runs in total. Thanks to a couple of scattered single and a RBI ground out, Harris saw a two-run lead evaporate quickly. But the key part of the damage occurred with Bagwell’s three-run shot to break the 8-8 tie to make it an 11-8 lead for the Blue and Gold. Talk about a comeback!
7th inning: 11-8, COD
But this game is far from over. With Brad Lidge only needing to throw one clean frame, the chances looked good for a Blue and Gold victory. But the Hammer H’s have a deep lineup capable of scoring multiple runs quickly, as we saw earlier in this game. And, like clockwork, that is exactly what happens. Although Lidge struck out Geoff Blum and Everett to gather two quick outs, the wheels fell off immediately after. Cedeno makes his presence known again as he forces a full count walk. Scott subsequently singles to put two runners on base. Catcher Cliff Johnson then hits a dagger awfully reminiscent of another Lidge incident.
8th inning: 11-11, tie
The ninth inning for Dave Smith starts off a little precariously as he allowed a one-out single and hit-by-pitch to put two runners on. Thankfully for the Blue and Gold, he was able to escape the inning without any damage allowed. Billy Wagner also worked around a one-out single to keep the game tied and send it into extra innings.
9th inning: 11-11, tie
For the tenth inning, well, things got a bit out of hand for Smith. Cedeno, who has been a thorn in the Blue and Gold’s side all game long, led things off with a triple on only the second pitch of the inning. A subsequent sacrifice fly from Scott drives him in to hand the 12-11 lead to the Hammer H’s. Smith would settle down to strike out Johnson and Jeff Kent to end the half inning, but blood was drawn.
Wagner would run into some issues of his own as he allowed a lead off walk to Alou before a force out from Pence. Correa then draws a walk of his own as the pressure starts to mount. Another fielders choice, this time from Lee moves, moves Pence to third with two outs. With the game on the line, Castro steps up to the plate and delivers a RBI single to tie the game once again! Wagner escapes the inning with no further damage allowed, however.
10th inning: 12-12, tie
The eleventh inning saw both teams get a runner in scoring position at second base before ultimately stranding them. At this point, don’t you know that both Smith and Wagner have to start feeling gassed, right?
11th inning: 12-12, tie
The Hammer H’s would threaten again in the twelfth inning, thanks to a one-out walk to Cedeno. Why am I not surprised? Smith would then allow the pressure to build following a single to Scott with Cedeno making his way to third base. On a 3-1 count to Johnson, Smith generates the double play he needed to escape the inning unscathed, but barely.
To the bottom half of the frame, Correa steps in to face Wagner. Then something akin to this happened.
Game, set, match.
12th inning: 13-12, COD
And with that one swing from the bat, the epic comeback from a 8-0 deficit in the fourth inning was complete. The Hammer H’s were vanquished while the Cody Blue and Gold’s advanced for a match with Hatter’s Colt .45’s. Let’s see if those bats have any more magic left.