It’s no secret to any regular readers of my blog-style columns that appear in various editions of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin that my wife and I are fans of two different Major League Baseball teams, the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals.
Monday’s season opener featuring the two teams was, unfortunately, scheduled for the afternoon while both of us were at work and obviously not watching the game together in the same room.
But that may have been a good thing, too.
When Nationals slugger Bryce Harper hit a home run in his first at bat of 2016 against Atlanta Ace Julio Tehran in the first inning, I was expecting a gloating text from Arie. Instead she surprised me with a congratulatory text when Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman matched Harper by going yard in his own first at bat of the season to make it 1-1.
“Bryce and Freddie!” she messaged.
“Boo/Yes!!!” I replied.
Then in the fourth inning, Daniel Murphy put Washington up with another home run to make it 2-1. Enter Adonis Garcia in the bottom half of the frame with the fourth home run of the game to tie it at 2-each.
I guess it should come as no surpise that my wife and I regularly make innocent wagers on the outcomes of almost every Atlanta-Washington series. I’m under no illusions how lopsided the games will likely be this season — the Bravos didn’t win a game in Washington last season and are betting heavily on their top youngsters in the farm system to be elite in two or three seasons.
Let’s just say I was emotionally invested when the Braves had a really good chance in the bottom of the eighth inning as Gordon Beckham and prodigal-son-returned Jeff Francoeur drew back-to-back walks on Washington reliever Felipe Rivero before hitting Freeman to load the bases.
I excitedly chomped on sunflower seeds. Shawn Kelley replaced Rivero on the mound for the Nats and promptly threw four balls at Garcia, each at least a foot away from the strike zone, bringing Frenchy across the plate from third.
“Uh oh Arie… Braves up for the ninth inning,” I messaged her.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she replied.
Jason Grilli came on to pitch for Atlanta and I calmed down a bit. Yeah, Grilled Cheese was injured last year, but he was a great pitcher before he got hurt and no he’s back. What could go wrong?
I didn’t like when he walked the neanderthal Jayson Werth to lead off and my sunflower chomping became increasingly more nervous as Wilson Ramos singled.
It wasn’t until Danny Espinosa loaded the bases with a bunt single that I started to give up hope of Atlanta being in first place after the first game of the season.
Here comes the inevitable collapse that all my sports teams always seem to suffer, I thought. This is just like the Aggie basketball team in every NCAA tournament game I’ve ever seen. It’s the Jazz losing in the NBA finals in ’97 and ’98. It’s when I pick Oklahoma to win the championship in my March Madness bracket and they get absolutely embarrassed by Villanova in the semifinals.
But what’s this? Grilli recovered to strike out Stephen Drew for the first out. He got Michael Taylor to fly out to center for the second — and Ender Inciarte’s throw to peg Werth going home was right on the money. At least until it short-hopped A.J. Pierzynski and the Caveman tied the game anyway.
“I don’t like that Neanderthal,” I texted.
“Extra innings,” I tried again.
“I’m ready to talk about it,” came the snarky reply.
Top of the 10th brought be a Harper ground out as good as any goodies in an Easter basket, but it didn’t end up mattering on this emotional roller coaster of a game — the Nats scored anyway and won it after Jonathan Papelbon closed it in the bottom of the 10th.
I guess this means I’m doing the dishes for the rest of the week. It’s going to be a long season.
Tavin Stucki is a sports writer from Midvale, Utah, who hates the Nats more than the Yankees, Patriots, SEC and crooked politicians. Send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.