Somebody up there must know that I don’t have a lot of baseball left to cover this season, because I got an extra helping last night.
The first five innings of the Charlotte Knights’ game against the Gwinnett Braves last night at Knights Stadium were nothing extraordinary and went by in a little over an hour. Then baseball happened.
By the end of six innings, the game was tied 6-6 and then, after nearly 3-1/2 hours of play, went to extra innings tied 7-7. Thankfully, because I had to meet a 9:30 class this morning, it didn’t last much longer.
The Knights’ Tyler Flowers, a 23-year-old catcher who played in the Atlanta Braves’ organization last season, ended the game close to 11:30 p.m. with a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th, giving Charlotte a 10-7 victory. Time of game, 4 hours and 4 minutes.
That makes it tough on a deadline but I did have time enough to talk with Flowers after the game. I should have been paying more attention to the game notes, as I missed the “guy beats the organization that traded him” angle. But it did come out in, I think, a more interesting way than usual.
Flowers hit his home run off a former teammate in the Braves minor league system, pitcher Juan Perez.
“I had caught him before, so I knew he had a good breaking ball and I didn’t want him to beat me with it,” Flowers said. “I wanted to get in the position to get a fastball.”
He got one on a one-ball, no-strike pitch and slammed it to right center field to end one of the International League’s longest games of the season.
In addition to describing this game, the title of tonight’s post, completely and totally stolen from one of the many wonderful books about baseball by Roger Angell of The New Yorker, is appropriate for this part of the season.
After tonight the Knights (62-69 after Wednesday night’s win) have just 12 games left and only four more home games. They’re practically, if not quite mathematically, eliminated from playoff contention. So how does a player give meaning to the last string of meaningless games?
“There’s plenty to play for,” Knights manager Chris Chambliss said after the game. “These guys are trying to position themselves well for next season, whether it’s with this organization or another one. And we play the contenders, so the schedule gives us a lot to say about who will get in the playoffs from our division.”
I’m not sure I’ve ever believed that a non-contending team gets a lot of satisfaction out of playing that “spoiler” role, unless the “spoilee” is a hated rival.
But to paraphrase John Lennon, whatever gets you through the last long nights of the season, it’s all right. It’s all right.