The Lovable Losers test the limits of improbability
By Christopher Heun
Of course the Birds would fight back from a 9-6 ninth-inning deficit against Yankees übercloser Mariano Rivera last night. Of course Melvin Mora would bunt home the winning run – bunt! – in the tenth. Of course Tike Redman would score three runs and knock out four hits, including a double to start the winning rally.
This is why the Birds, with a season record of 69-91 and 26 games behind first-place Boston, are Lovable Losers. The more improbable the victory, the harder they fight.
I love the bases-loaded, two-out bunt. It’s so Melvin Mora. Just a week ago we harped on his faults (primarily, his tendency to run the bases in crucial situations like a headstrong Little Leaguer), but let’s push that under the rug.
Actually, the surprise bunt is a familiar weapon in his arsenal. Back in late April, Mora tried a ninth-inning bunt, this time with one out and the tying run on third. But the ball didn’t make it past Oakland closer Huston Street, who held the runner and eventually earned the save.
But this time, it worked. And the Orioles won a game they trailed 4-1 in the third, 7-2 in the fifth and then 9-6 in the ninth.
Best Mora post-game quote: "Like I was telling my friend, I've been involved in so many playoffs and nobody's expecting that."
For the record, as a 27-year-old rookie for the 1999 Mets, Mora played in 9 postseason games, with 6 hits in 15 at bats. It’s his only taste of October baseball. Am I wrong, or does Mora have the habit of reflecting on his playoff days as if they are a vast reservoir of experience?
One more thing about Tike Redman: He’s this year’s version of David Newhan. In 2004, Newhan had a .361 on-base percentage in 373 at bats, was 11 for 12 in stolen base attempts, and generally seemed to slash the ball to all fields and scurry around the bases with the energy of a squirrel.
This year, Redman has put up similar numbers in just 125 at bats: a .359 on-base percentage and 7 stolen bases in 8 attempts. He’s played well substituting for the injured Corey Patterson and would be a nice extra outfielder next year, but let’s hope he’s not expected to be an everyday player.
Also, for what it’s worth, I really despise the phrase “walk-off” to describe a game-winning hit. (And “walk-off bunt” sounds simply ridiculous.) Anybody agree? Perhaps we should research the origin of this phrase, but I suspect we should blame ESPN and be done with it.