July 27, 2011

Superstition Journal: 19 Innings of Braves Baseball

The Braves had been on a 3-game losing streak coming into tonight, which isn't exactly Mariners material, but is extremely worrisome when you're holding onto some hope of a pennant win and the Phillies are physically incapable of losing a single game. Anyway, tonight started off badly again as Tommy Hanson gave up three runs in his first two innings of work. My dad decided to get out of his chair and stop watching the game for a moment, and the Braves immediately responded with five straight hitters reaching base in the bottom of the 3rd inning, tying the game.

No more runs would score for another 16 innings.

Over the course of 19 innings of very frustrating baseball, I had plenty of time to test out my own superstitions, so here's a play-by-play journal of my thoughts on how I was really the one affecting the Braves' play.

Until the bottom of the 9th
I simply lay on the couch and mope about the game's progress. I manage to make it an extremely long time without even thinking of shifting to a new position to change the Braves' luck.

Bottom of the 9th
Nate McLouth and Fredi Gonzalez are ejected by Jerry Meals, a home plate umpire calling a terrible game thus far. McLouth had previously struck out via two low strike calls, and was given yet another low strike call on this at bat, eventually resulting in another strikeout. The Braves proceed to do nothing in the inning, and I decide that this is my fault for staying on the couch.

Top of the 10th
I decide to move to Mom's armchair for this half-inning. Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill work a nervy inning but give up no runs. Unfortunately, Brian McCann also suffers a strained oblique injury throwing to second base on a stolen base attempt that will sideline him for several weeks. A new seat is definitely in order.

Bottom of the 10th
I know that Dad's armchair is bad luck based on his earlier experimentation. Therefore, I decide to sit in Mom's other chair at her computer desk, with a terrible side view of the television. This seat starts off with promise as Freddie Freeman singles with a sharp grounder the Pirates second baseman can't handle. Then Dan Uggla does his thing by striking out and Alex Gonzalez does his thing by grounding into a double play. New seat needed.

Top of the 11th
Cristhian Martinez comes in to pitch for the Braves and also has a very difficult first name. I am now sitting on the floor directly in front of the television. This strategy finally pays off as Martinez quickly disposes of the Pirates hitters.

Bottom of the 11th
I stay on the floor, what with its demonstrated success 'n' all. Heyward pops out, but Lugo singles, so this seat still has some success. Then a pitch hits Jordan Schafer on his semi-injured wrist and hand. In retrospect, the floor seat may have saved his wrist from real injury, as he continues to play out the rest of the game. I decide to remain on the floor and Martin Prado wastes an opportunity to win the game by grounding out.

Top of the 12th
Still on the floor, because it is the only thing allowing Martinez to pitch clean innings. It pays off again, 1-2-3 inning for Martinez.

Bottom of the 12th
The floor is a NO RUNZ ZONE so I move to Dad's seat, in spite of the risks. David Ross walks! Freddie Freeman singles!! Dan Uggla hits a SHARP LINER RIGHT OOOOOooooh no, right at the third baseman. Then Alex Gonzalez manages to only produce one out, but his above average production is all for naught as Julio Lugo grounds out to end the inning. Dad's chair fails to drive in the runners.

Top of the 13th
Back on the floor for Martinez to keep his performance up. Then Alex Gonzalez (he who apparently needs not hit due to his stellar/amazing/historic defensive capabilities) boots a grounder by Andrew McCutchen, letting him reach base with no outs. But I trust the floor to let Martinez battle it out, and this decision works out, as Martinez gets the next three hitters without issue.

Bottom of the 13th
I am now sitting in the rocking chair in the living room. Schafer strikes out, but then Martinez singles, more hopeful offensive play. Prado pops out. Ugh. Ross walks, though! Runner in scoring position for Freddie Freeman!!!!!!!! AND he strikes out swinging.

Top of the 14th
Can't give up the floor for pitching. Martinez takes about 15 pitches to retire the Pirates' backup catcher, but I'm unfazed. I have confidence in the feng shui of my criss-cross applesauce indian style seat just out of eye-ruining distance of the TV. Besides one single, Martinez upholds his great pitching.

Bottom of the 14th
Good God, why do I even try? Surely I can never succeed in managing the Braves via seat position. There are no seats left to try, so I sit in the hallway, on the floor, still theoretically in view of the television. My Beagle/Jack Russell Terrier mix dog, Tracie, takes this as a sign that I am ready to pet her and walks basically on top of me. Therefore I also decide that petting her throughout the whole half inning may help the team. It doesn't. 1-2-3 inning.

Top of the 15th
Back to the old floor spot. 1-2-3 inning, yay, I guess.

Bottom of the 15th
Maybe it's time to try the couch again? I'm at a loss. Jordan Schafer singles and is moved to second on a bunt, but Prado again fails to drive in the run from second and the inning is over.

Top of the 16th
My floor spot still cleans up the hitters, no issue.

Bottom of the 16th
I move into the dining room out of view of the TV, but where I can still hear it. I make a serious effort to focus on something besides the ballgame to change the karma. Doesn't really work.

Top of the 17th
I sit in the floor for the NO RUNZ to continue, but now Scott Proctor is in for Cristhian Martinez, which seems to signal that the Braves have given up. He walks the leadoff batter, true to form, but thanks to my seating strategy, gets out of the inning unscathed.

Bottom of the 17th
I've got nothing, so I try Mom's armchair again. A Julio Lugo single comes to nothing yet again. There were only two extra-base hits in this game, by the way, a triple and home run by the Pirates in the first two innings. This in a game with 28 hits given up. May be a record of some kind, I dunno.

Top of the 18th
Back in the floor spot, but now intentionally not looking at the TV. I pulled an old Bill James book off the back shelf and stuck my head in it, reading about the sad Braves teams of the '80s. Scott Proctor gives up a leadoff hit, yet is saved by great defense by Freddie Freeman and my successful superstition.

Bottom of the 18th
Still reading the Bill James book, now thirty pages in, and still not looking at the TV. I decide to keep in the same floor spot but face away from the television, in order to reverse its NO RUNZ effect. Alex Gonzalez spoils these plans with an inning-ending groundout.

Top of the 19th
I put the book down in frustration and keep in my NO RUNZ position, facing the correct way. Somehow, Proctor works another clean inning. He has never done this before, I swear.

Bottom of the 19th
Dad comes back into the living room, sits in his chair, and I return to my couch. We're desperate and ready for the game to end anyway. Lugo walks, Schafer singles, Scott Proctor gets a game-winning RBI on an inexplicably terrible call at home plate. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat well I guess we just had to return the feng shui to its original terrible state for some dumb reason okay now time for bed.