2012: A Chiefs Odyssey – Kevin’s #11
Wait, I mentioned “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”?
#11: Suspension of Belief
Today’s pick may be a bit of an oddball choice, since it involves a game where nothing of substance really happened. The game was a 3-0 Chiefs loss to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, that 2012 traveling road show of a team without a home park for the year. The game featured only 11 combined hits, 10 walks, 12 strikeouts and no home runs. On first glance, there’s nothing to see here. But on second glance, there’s everything to see. (Just like in the following video.)
Our story begins on an overcast, rainy April day in Syracuse – and yes, you should try exceedingly hard to visualize this, seeing as it never happens. How rainy was April 10? Rainy enough that after four innings, the game was called with the Yankees up 2-0. Not to worry – the homeless Scrantonians would return to Alliance Bank Stadium in three days, and the teams would surely pick it up then. Simple enough, right?
There was just one chink in that solution’s armor: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was the “home” team in the team’s next series since, again, the Yankees had no 2012 home. PNC Field underwent renovations during the course of the season, and the Baby Bombers were forced to play “home” games in Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, Fargo, Allentown, Pawtucket, Batavia and Prague. (Two of those are made up. Batavia is not one of them.) The International League didn’t want to finish the suspended game – a Chiefs home game – on the same day as a Yankees home game, for logistical purposes. However, the next time the Chiefs would play Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a Syracuse home game was on July 12, the day after the All-Star Break.
So, almost three months to the start of this Syracuse/Scranton duel, the teams took the field for the top of the fifth inning with a pair of wildly different lineups. Consider the play-by-play below:
How different, exactly, was the Chiefs’ April lineup for their July one? Let’s go through April’s…
- Batting third: Xavier Paul. On July 12: A valuable bench member of the eventual NL Central-winning Cincinnati Reds.
- Batting fourth: Tyler Moore. On July 12: 31 games into his rookie season with Washington, never to return to Syracuse.
- Batting fifth: Bryce Harper. On July 12: Heh.
- Batting eighth: Jason Michaels. On July 12: A Syracuse coach. Just call him Bill Russell.
- Batting ninth: Chris McConnell. On July 12: Out of baseball, after being released from the Nationals’ Double-A team. We love you, Mac.
Three other starters (Corey Brown, Seth Bynum and Mark Teahen) switched positions, leaving only one starting position player in his original spot – catcher Carlos Maldonado. I might as well have thrown blotches of paint at my scorebook.
But the game’s MVP truly belonged to starting pitcher Mitch Atkins, who’s now appeared in the first two moments of my countdown. Coincidence? (Yes.) Atkins tossed the first four innings of the April game before Tony Beasley decided to send him back out to the hill. On 92 days’ rest, Atkins gamely accepted the assignment, and tossed a gem that Roy Halladay would have been proud of. He worked the full nine innings, scattering five hits and six walks to allow just three runs (one earned), while throwing a superhuman 151 pitches, 94 for strikes. That’s right – 151 pitches! After the game, Atkins was seen soaking his right arm in a bathtub filled with a mixture of herbal tea, whipped cream and unicorns. And that is moment #11 on this magical countdown.
Postscript: There may have been a chance that Atkins actually threw the 151 pitches over TWO separate days, leading to a mere statistical quirk. I can neither confirm nor deny this, however. I can also neither confirm nor deny the existence of unicorns.