2012: A Chiefs Odyssey – Kevin’s #8

Thanks for pointing out something that’s always annoyed me, JB.  Is it Hanukkah?  Chanukah?  Hannukah?  None of the Above?  A & B Only?  At least Christmas only gets mislabeled as “XMas” occasionally, thanks to John Lennon.

Regardless, let me join Jason in welcoming all our fine readers a Happy and Healthy New Year.  (Side note: why is New Year’s the only holiday that gets a “Healthy” tag?  Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to wish people a Healthy Halloween?  Or is that just too much of a lost cause to even consider?)

#8: Nine-Win Wonders

Moment #8 of this here countdown takes place on a sticky late-June day in Durham, North Carolina, at the beginning of an eight-game road trip through Durham and Norfolk.  I didn’t make the trip last season, but this year, I gladly tagged along.  (That whole “gladly” part dissipated a bit two nights later with the 100-degree weather and a press box devoid of air conditioning, but that’s for another day.)  And I wasn’t the only happy member of the Chiefs’ traveling party on this particular trip, since Syracuse was in the midst of a season-high winning streak – an eight-game run of wins that, as it turned out, had one more game to go.

It didn’t seem like a win was in the cards for the Chiefs until the eighth inning, though.  Rehabbing right-hander Kyle Farnsworth tossed a scoreless first before previously scheduled starter Matt Torra shut down the Chiefs for 6.2 Piccaso-esque innings, striking out six while walking just one in a dominant effort.  Dominant, that was, until he ran into Corey Brown in the eighth…

Thanks largely to Brown’s blast and a strong effort from starter John Lannan, the game headed to the ninth inning in a 1-1 tie.  But after Brett Carroll ran for Chris Marrero, Tony Beasley had a defensive decision to make that neither Abbott nor Costello would have envied – who’d play first?  Mark Teahen was DHing and Tyler Moore was up in Washington – so out came backup catcher Carlos Maldonado for the bottom of the ninth inning to man the corner.

This may not seem surprising at first, as most catchers typically have played at least a bit of first base in their lives.  But Maldonado’s inclusion certainly stretched the limits of “a bit”.  In 16 years and 1,245 career games in professional baseball, Maldonado’s played a grand total of eight – count ‘em, eight - games at first.  That’s .006%.  The man doesn’t even have his license to kill at the position.

He’s certainly no Alec Trevelyan. This isn’t a spoiler 17+ years later, right?

Thankfully for “Maldy”, the action largely stayed away from his position.  Outside of a harmless ground ball back to the pitcher, he could have been Peeves the Poltergeist for his two innings in the field and it wouldn’t have made a difference.  But after a Carlos Rivero RBI single in the 11th inning put the Chiefs ahead, Beasley threw the DH position in the trash to go with his best defensive lineup, tossing Teahen out at first.  You can probably guess what happened next – a walk, a single and a sacrifice bunt tied the game at 2.  And the DH spot was due up fourth in the 12th.

Well, with runners on first and second and one out, Tony Beasley had another fun decision to make.  And in the same guy that saw Maldonado play first base for the first time in a decade, Beasley sent starting pitcher Zach Duke up – in an American League game – to pinch-bunt.  The decision worked out beautifully – Duke got the bunt down, Teahen was intentionally walked, and Jim Negrych had a chance to play the part of hero.

That would all be the Chiefs needed in a 3-2 win.  It was also the capper of their longest win streak of the season – and in typically weird fashion, Syracuse did it with a first baseman who hadn’t played the position since Year Two of the George W. Bush era and a pitcher batting in the DH spot.  OMC would have been proud.

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