It’s not often my neighbor invites me up and hands me a PS3 controller, but he did yesterday. The network must have been down or maybe he needed a boost of confidence and called me as a sadistic pawn in his gaming empire.
I don’t care. I always say yes when the call comes. He recently bought MLB The Show 2013. The players were fresh in my mind since the 2013 season just ended. Video game programmers sure work fast.
He was Pittsburgh. I was Oakland and playing at home. He was A.J. Burnett. I was Tom Milone. I know about Milone’s cutter and curve ball and the vast foul territory at Oakland A’s stadium. It’s a pitcher’s dream. I have better luck as a crafty left hander like Milone than a hard throwing right hander.
By the third inning, my neighbor was flustered and said things like, “I know what’s coming…that freaking cutter. Shit, I never make such weak outs.”
He was referring to Andrew McCutchen and Russel Martin and everyone on the Pirates. They were popping up balls to the right side of the infield-exactly what batters do against a cutter that’s working.
Mariano Rivera made a living and a legend out of that pitch. It’s impossible to resist. You see it in the middle of the strike zone. You swing, but by the time your hips and hands have danced through the zone, the ball is in on your hands. You’re jammed. You pop it up. You shake your head and walk back to the dugout.
Milone pitched the entire game. He threw just under 100 pitches, but my defense or inexperience with the PS3 controller let him down. I screwed up a cut off throw from the outfield and a run scored. Another base runner stole second and third and scored on a weak ground ball. I’m still learning how to make pick off throws.
I don’t want to make excuses, but my confusion with the controller also screwed up my offense. I had a chance in the fifth inning. With Coco Crisp on second, Seth Smith hit a sharp single to right field. I tried to send Crisp all the way home, but he pulled up like a lame duck. My reflex had pushed the R1 button instead of aiming the joystick at the runner and pressing X so he would advance. Lost opportunity. New controller blues. So it goes.
I had other chances. I was trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth and facing closer Jason Grilli who threw one slider after another and they were dropping off the face of the earth, but Josh Reddick and Josh Donaldson hit seeing eye singles. Cripes, if the A’s had another Josh, but they didn’t. There was one out. I called on Chris Carter as a pinch hitter. He struck out. And then I called on Chris Young as a pinch hitter and he struck out too.
If one of Grilli’s sliders had hung over the plate and one of my Chris pinch hitters had connected, I would have freaking won that game on a walk off 3-2. Either way, I’ll most likely be invited back for another game or maybe an entire 162 game season.