Sketch by Henry Gustavson
TOP OF THE FOURTEENTH: GIANTS 8 (7) – 7 MARLINS
There’s a Corona Light ad visible on the backstop behind home at Marlins Park—“Corona Light: The light cerveza”—and I’m not sure if it’s trying to half-teach English to non-native speakers, or half-teach Spanish to all gringos. It’s that Dora The Explorer bilingualism, high-pitched and nauseating, speaking very very slowly into the educational airwaves: “I can’t find my osito anywhere!! Where’s my teddy bear??” An ad campaign written by the Bumblebee Man from The Simpsons, targeting an audience of in-betweeners, Spanglish as the primary tongue.
As for the Marlins, fighting for a final N.L. Wild Card spot, they no juegan very great this week. Giancarlo Stanton no siente well these days. It’s the baseball version of basketball’s own outreach push, when the NBA’s top players for a night throw on jerseys for Los Bulls and El Heat, with a graveyard of excluded Toros and Calor left, oddly, at the drawing board. Bilingualize it up, I say, more full-length Spanish ads and no more half-measures. No more Live Más, no more twenty-three sabores of Dr. Pepper, no más, no más, no más.
The inning starts off, in the late-night top of the 14th, with a base hit from Denard Span, bounced the opposite way past Adeiny Hechavarria, diving just short of the ball. A textbook, signature hit from Span (which can only and obviously be called Span-ish…).
A legitimate rally now in play, a man on first, Span and the Giants first-base coach stare across the diamond as if teleported into the car-wash scene from Cool Hand Luke, going on somewhere down the third-base line. Miguel Rojas joins in. A rather odd, attracted gazing at Don Mattingly, or some other member of the Marlins’ dugout, and a series of muttered comments:
“Oh man I’m dyin’ … he ain’t got nothin but a safety pin holdin’ that jersey on… C’mon safety pin, pop!”
“Hey lord… whatever I’ve done, don’t strike me blind for another couple-a minutes!!”
Mattingly, meanwhile, off-camera, squeezes a wet sponge and lives up the moment, the trio over at first squealing in subdued delight. Weird, very weird.
The daydream subsides as Angel Pagan steps to the plate, looking for a rally and following the signs—hit and run called. Pagan slaps a hard ground ball to third, to ball goes to second, one out, whips on to first in time. Two outs, one pitch. Span out by just a half-step at second, sliding in as ‘Hechy’ catches, turns, and beams the double-play finisher to first with the second-base umpire fist-pumping the call like a winning PGA putt.
Brandon Belt comes up, as a lone scream peals out from the seats in Marlins Park, echoing around the park. Wheeeeeeew!!! And an echoing round of whistles bounces around the ballpark’s upper decks and outfield, not unlike the sounds of Chase Field, Miller Park, and the other baseball domes, with a particular acoustic here that sounds almost beautiful. A dad walks down the aisle back to his seat, with a young kid in a Heat shirsey piggybacking on his shoulders. A rogue cowbell clangs somewhere in the high-up stands. The TV broadcast crew goes mostly quiet, scrolling through Twitter for material to riff on.
“If Ichiro were in the game,” one of them says, “he could come in to pitch.”
“Would that be the first 3000-hit guy to pitch an out?”
There’s a mound meeting, but Dustin McGowan stays in. Buster Posey comes up for the Giants, with a red welt printed on his jaw that’ll last for weeks—the fleshwound from a fight with third base itself in the 11th inning, Posey its harshest, latest victim.
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiantsFans) August 9, 2016
A fan behind the backstop throws up the rock-n-roll fingers, pinky and pointer in the air behind home as if the ump himself is rocking it. And the Ichiro 3,000-Hit Countdown crew still in attendance, even past the milestone, spread out in the first rows behind the home dugout. Jay Marcus and the Marlins mega-fan gang.
Posey works a long, messy at-bat, going full from an 0-2 count. And he draws a walk. Mattingly strolls out of the dugout, calls for Andrew Cashner from the bullpen, and puts in the double-switch, consulting with the umpire and his little white book, like a traffic ticket being awarded, debated back and forth. Mathis comes in to catch, and Cashner to pitch. A goofy blond mullet inhabiting his upper neck, and a forced shave removing all bearded intimidation.
Brandon Crawford comes up the plate, with six hits tonight alone. Six hits, in thirteen innings. Six for six. Looking for seven, and a piece of history. The delivery comes from Cashner. Crawford eyes it. Swings. Lines it up. And cracks a first-pitch on a rope into center, off the grass past second base. Marcell Ozuna charges, snags it, whips a throw home. Strong, to the plate, on a line straight for Mathis at home.
Belt sprints in and slides safe just ahead of the tag. 8-7. Giants lead.
And Crawford hits number one two three four five six seven, in one single game alone. Seven hits on the night, and the first player since Rennie Stennett to do so, in 1975. Seven days of the week, seven deadly sins, Las Siete Palabras, and Crawford’s seven-hit night in Miami a date to remember. August 8th, 2016.
Brandon Crawford got to meet Rennie Stennett, who also got seven hits in a game. https://t.co/zSC4r6By5r
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 11, 2016
Cashner walks off the field having made one single pitch. Fourteen innings from the team, all ended on one single pitch. He waddles back to the dugout. Shouting “DAMN!!” just as the camera cuts away.
And so, just like that, after fourteen innings and too many hours, the Giants han ganado.
See more of Henry’s artwork here: gustavgustav.com