All the diamond’s a stage, and all the men merely players. They have their outs and their base hits, and one man in his time plays many positions, his acts being nine innings. Not even Shakespeare can grip a person’s heart with comforting joy or wrathful cruelty like the way this great game can do it. The beauty of baseball comes from its ability to hold tragedy and catharsis in one swing.
The Toronto Blue Jays and their fans felt this to be true all too well.
Last night, the stage was set. R.A. Dickey, the wise sage of the knuckler, ascended the mound and commanded the attention of the Detroit Tigers and over 36,000 people in attendance. Dickey warmed up the crowd with pitches that danced over the plate, mystifying the audience and the Tigers. Danny Valencia singled to left field and scored Jose Bautista to end the first act strong.
The rising action continued, as Detroit challenged a call that Ryan Goins was safe at first by bunting a single to the Tigers’ pitcher, Anibal Sanchez. The call was upheld and Munenori Kawasaki scored on the play. After Melky Cabrera singled to left field, scoring the questioned Goins, Bautista exclaimed with his bat that the Blue Jays were a tough team to beat that night, singling to right field and scoring Jose Reyes.
Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista connects. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Then, the drama thickened, as it often does in the third act of any good play. The Tigers found their courage and struck back at the Jays. Eugenio Suarez and Rajai Davis benefited from Ian Kinsler’s lash into center field, scoring in the top of the third inning.
But the small victory was short-lived. Sanchez, on holding Kawasaki close to first base, injured himself on the throw. He tried continuing the battle with a practice throw only to be disappointed and turned to his dugout immediately in disgust. Sanchez exited stage left, giving up four runs, a walk, and ten hits. His honour was in the three strikeouts he made while keeping his team very much in the battle.
Dickey left the stage before the intermission let the audience stretch their legs. He bowed out after giving up two runs, four walks, and five hits. Dickey’s six strikeouts made the Tigers chase their dreams back into their dugout and made Jays fans happy with his performance. Dustin McGowan and Brett Cecil also pitched well to support Dickey’s chances for victory.
Cue the pathos. The quality that brings out pity or sadness. The real question is whether it was the Tiger fans or Blue Jay fans who were feeling it.
It was the ninth inning, one batter was out by Casey Janssen, and it seemed all the Tigers’ players had already strut and fret their hour upon the Rogers Centre stage, to be heard no more. Little did they know that the tale was being told by the baseball gods: full of sound and fury in the first eight innings, signifying nothing.
Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Casey Janssen reacts after giving up a home run in the ninth inning of the Jays 5-4 loss to Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
With a vicious swing by Nick Castellanos, the Tigers’ fans were relieved of their struggling emotions by watching the ball fly over the left field wall. J.D. Martinez was on base, meaning that the game was tied. Eugenio Suarez met the next pitch in kind by launching a home run to center field. Just like that, the Tigers were ahead and the climax exploded in awes and tears from the Toronto faithful.
In the final act of any tragic play, or close baseball game, the main characters will come to understand that the downfall came from their own fatal flaws or errors in themselves. With this perspective, one could argue that the Blue Jays fans felt pathos throughout the game. It was too good to be true. They were beating the A.L. Central leaders with relative ease. They will find some way to blow this lead. You can’t be comfortable and be a Blue Jays fan these days.
If the catharsis, the release of strong and repressed emotions, for Jays fans did not come in the top of the ninth inning, the bottom half finished the play. Bautista and Dioner Navarro have carried their team offensively, as others have been either struggling on the field or getting off of the disabled list. As the great leader he has shown to be throughout the season, Bautista starts the falling action with a single. Navarro almost renames the Blue Jays to become the phoenix, rising from the ashes by smashing a ball to right field to win the game, only for the ball and the fans’ hopes to fall short to Torii Hunter.
The pressure was still on Joe Nathan, the Tigers’ closer, who was pouring with sweat. He proceeded to walk the bases loaded. He grimaced with every pitch. His every movement suggested fear and loathing in the Toronto night. Would this be, in fact, his tragedy? Josh Thole comes to the plate with a .188 batting average with runners in this type of scoring position. Would this be his heroic moment?
Crack! With three quarters of a swing, Thole hit the ball into the direction of left field… curving into foul territory. And, like a prodigal son returning from his banishment, Rajai Davis pounced and slid to catch the ball, ending the game and the torture. The emotional release was complete for both teams.
The Greeks felt that tragedies were the most beautiful to watch because they taught us the most about ourselves. We learned that the Detroit Tigers are winning their division for a reason. We also learned that the Toronto Blue Jays win and lose as a team. No one player caused their downfall.
Janssen could be considered the scapegoat. There will be no joy in Torontoville, as Mighty Casey did not strike those Tigers out. Yet nobody is upset with the two runs Dickey gave up. What about the other eight innings where players were left on base? What about Bautista and Navarro? They must think that it would be nice for others to score some RBIs for a change.
This tragedy is beautiful because it spurs us to want another at-bat. It drives us to steal that next base. It burns us to the core to want to strike out the next opposing bat. The Blue Jays need to use this game and come back for more each and every time, win or lose. Until then, the play is resolved, the curtain is drawn, and the players have left the stage.