One 30-hour stretch at New Britain Stadium showed how ugly and how beautiful the game of baseball can be.
The yawn-provoking creeper between the Cats and Portland Sea Dogs on dreary Sunday afternoon took 3 hours, 51 minutes to complete. No surprise that the Boston Red Sox' farm team was involved. The painstaking marathons between the Beantowners and Yankees that often flirt with 4 hours reflect the offensive philosophy of going deep in the count.
The Sox-to-be cajoled eight walks from New Britain pitching, four of which became tallies. Meanwhile, bright Boston pitching prospects Michael Bowden and Daniel Bard had the Rock Cats hitters batting the breeze for 12 strikeouts. Walks and strikeouts, you see, take much more time than first-pitch swings that send grounders to second.
As the Sea Dogs prepared to lock down a 7-4 win, the never-say-die Cats scrapped for a couple of ninth-inning markers and had the tying run at third with one out. No, not extra innings, spare me. Portland closer Beau Vaughan got his bearings straight and retired the last two hitters to put a merciful seal on nine innings of tedium.
The sun came out on Monday with the Harrisburg Senators in town.
Rock Cats righty Jay Rainville, whose struggles were accurately reflected in his 9.00 ERA, was on the hill with pitcher, team and beat writer yearning for a well-pitched game. Rainville kept his fastball down, retired the first hitter in each of his seven innings, and (glory-be) didn't walk a soul.
Zach Ward, a starter at Fort Myers last year, used his wicked slider to continue Rainville's handiwork in the eighth and ninth innings to tie down a neatly packaged 5-1 win in 2 hours, 33 minutes.
Meanwhile, in the back of the New Britain Stadium press box, the covey of Red Sox fans that flutter around there all the time reveled in a no-hitter by Jon Lester. Two short years ago, Lester was batttling cancer. Red Sox fan or not, you have to love how destiny can sometimes play sweet music where there were once nothing but sour notes.
My faith in baseball restored, I trudged home with my backpack in tow, wondering what tomorrow would bring.