Monday night’s baseball game at Frontier Field wasn’t real. It was a Hollywood script. You would have to have seen this one to believe it.
Things started out fairly normal. Boof Bonser was mowing down the Pawsox with precision regularity. Meanwhile, the Red Wings were scoring early against Pawtucket starter Marc Deschenes. After 3 innings it was 4-0 Wings. The Pawsox got their first hit in the fifth inning, and they didn’t score their first run until the seventh, when Bonser finally ran out of gas.
Then came the fateful eighth inning, when the Red Wing bullpen and the Rochester defense fell apart. Terry Tiffee, who hit a solo homerun back in the third , had trouble on a couple of ground balls down the line, and he also had difficulty throwing the ball to first. These miscues led to an ugly five-run outburst by Pawtucket, highlighted by a bases clearing double by Tyler Minges, turning a 4-3 Wings lead into a 6-4 Sox advantage. Tiffee’s throwing error allowed the seventh run to score. Neither Kevin Cameron nor Robert Korecky were effective in that disastrous eighth, and Korecky made matters worse when he allowed a two-out solo homerun to Willie Harris in the top of the ninth to give the Pawsox a comfortable 8-4 lead.
The Wings had the lower third of their lineup coming to bat in the bottom of the ninth to face Sox closer Jermaine Van Buren. Alexander Romero got things started with a single, and then took second on a passed ball. Shawn Wooten worked a walk. With a potential rally starting, Van Buren bore down and got Watkins to pop out to right field and he struck out Lew Ford for the second out.
The game then entered the Twilight Zone. Andres Torres hit a soft grounder to second, which was easily relayed to first to end the game. Players began to file off the field. But wait!
The home plate umpire is waving his arms frantically, signaling catchers interference on Alberto Concepcion. Could this be? The game wasn’t over yet. Torres was awarded 1st and the bases were loaded for, who else, the goat of the game Terry Tiffee.
All one needs to know about Tiffee’s minor league career is his David Ortiz-like ability to come thru with the bases loaded. He is practically legendary with the Red Wings in this regard. Among his many key hits with the sacks juiced were 4 grand slams.
Tiffee looked at two pitches. Then he launched one, high and deep into the Rochester night for his FIFTH grand slam as a Red Wing and the game, which only moments earlier had seemingly ended, was now tied 8-8!
Even Hollywood might have had trouble making the storyline to this game plausible enough to make into a movie. But the job wasn’t done.
Garrett Jones then struck out to send the game into extra innings. Korecky gave up a leadoff single and he was out of there, another poor performance for the rookie. Beau Kemp came in and got the side out with no damage, pushing the contest to the bottom of the 10th.
Chris Heintz hit a soft liner back to the pitcher Brad Baker, who couldn’t handle it for an error. Baker, losing his concentration then wild pitched Heintz to second. Glenn Williams followed with a foul pop out. Baker then walked Romero intentionally to set up the double play. With recently off the disabled list Gilbert Velazquez due up, manager Stan Cliburn sent Quinton McCracken up to pinch hit. McCracken then sent a fly ball to deep center that Adam Stern tried in vain to track down. Heintz had to wait to see if the ball was caught, and when it bounced up against the wall, he lumbered around 3rd and headed for the plate with the winning run to cap a surreal baseball game.
Wings win it 9-8 and all 8,000+ in attendance probably still can’t believe what they had just witnessed. For Terry Tiffee, it was quite a night of emotional highs and lows. He finished with two homeruns and five runs driven in. He will probably choose not to remember all the problems he had at 3rd base, and it’s likely the fans won’t remind him either.
Suffice to say, it was a huge victory and an exciting way to start the home stand. With Scranton winning also, the two teams remain in a virtual tie for 1st place in the North.
An excellent Monday night crowd of 8,441 looked on. Beau Kemp picked up the victory, his 7th against only 2 losses. His ERA is a very excellent 2.01.
How does one top a game like this? Remember back one year and Red Wing fans might recall two games in a row against Pawtucket where they managed huge last inning rallies to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. Josh Rabe hit a grand slam in one of those games. So with these 2 teams, you just never know.
Dave Gassner makes his 2006 Red Wing debut Tuesday night. Wednesday the Wings play their final businessman’s special...with a starting time of 11:05 a.m. All in all quite a beginning to the season’s final four weeks!