Chris Snelling – Something Cool
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on May 11, 2006
Yeah, I know, This was supposed to be a discussion on potential trade partners for the M's with Gil Meche and Joel Pineiro.
But since Chris Snelling is back, and let me assure you, he's back, he's most definitely back, how can I ignore his performance on Wednesday afternoon?
What I saw yesterday was pretty sensational. Not just the fact that Snelling is back on the field but the manner in which everything unfolded on Wednesday at Cheney Stadium.
I arrived early, as usual, and sat and scoured the media notes and situational statistics packets in the press box and saw a few key stats and interesting notables.
But the lineup card is what really caught my eye; something cool was in the air and it wasn't the coastal air blowing in from the narrows.
In his first game versus legitimate pitching, Snelling was hitting third in the Rainiers lineup versus the hottest team in the PCL. Round Rock had won 11 straight and 13 of 14 and posted a team ERA of 3.08 in that span.
Apparently, Snelling just doesn't care how good the Express were supposed to be.
His first AB ended in a strikeout, a swinging whiff versus rehabbing southpaw Trever Miller.
But as the game moved on – and stayed close – somehow you could just tell something cool was going to happen.
The Express tied the game at 1 in the sixth inning and the score remained at a standstill until something "cool" strolled to the plate four innings later.
In the bottom of the ninth, and after a brutal eight and a half innings of home plate umpiring by another inept replacement umpire, Hunter Brown was called out on strikes and that was the start of a tirade by Tacoma players and staff.
The first called strike on Brown was "10-12 inches outside," according to Clint Nageotte who was charting pitches in the first row behind the plate. "That pitch was the worst call I have ever seen."
Brown had fanned looking earlier in the game and immediately turned around to tell the umpire he was wrong.
Literally simultaneous to the call, Brown turned around and hollered "that pitch is not a strike, it's NOT!"
He was right, these pitches were pretty brutal and TJ Bohn was getting the same ridiculous treatment.
In the ninth, Brown was called out on a pitch six inches inside, forcing him to hop back out of the way. He immediately disputed the call and as he started to walk away from the plate he continued barking at the ump.
It was time for someone to stand up to these umpires who haven't learned how to call balls and strikes.
Brown made it back to the dugout but was thrown out of the game shortly after he began yelling out to the field again. As Brown made his way to the clubhouse, hitting coach Terry Pollreisz began to speak in a general voice to the HP ump. When the Umpire spouted back in anger, the 66-year-old Pollreisz, replaced hip and all, sprinted to the plate to shred the umpire a new rear end.
"THE STRIKE ZONE IS TOO [BLEEPING] WIDE!" shouted Pollreisz as he drew lines in the dirt with his feet around the plate creating a strike zone about 36 inches wide.
Pollreisz was ejected. Manager Dave Brundage was also ejected after he jumped in the umpires face, but apparently he was angry at something different altogether.
"I was upset that he used that kind of language with one my staff members," said Brundage. "It was unsolicited and Polls had every right to be miffed."
That was fun to see, but the fun had just began.
A scoreless bottom of the ninth and a 1-2-3 top of the 10th set up the fitting end to the RETURN OF THE JEDI.
Catcher Guillermo Quiroz led off the inning with a single to left field and infielder Jack Arroyo pinch ran for him. Second baseman Scott Youngbauer sacrificed Arroyo to second.
With right-hander Travis Driskill on the hill, the Express intentionally walked the left-handed bat of Shin-soo Choo to set up a possible double play, and a match up with the right-handed bat of the struggling TJ Bohn – he of the .226 batting average versus righthanders.
"He'll get a hit here," said Nageotte after I joined him in the box seats behind the plate. "If this guy had a 95 mph fastball and a hard slider, maybe not. But TJ kills these types of guys."
Two pitches later, Bohn rifled a liner into center field to load the bases and bring up something very, very cool – Chris Snelling.
Snelling was 1-for-3 with a strikeout and a walk at that point and Round Rock brought in former Mariners' left-hander Steve Kent to face Doyle.
"This game is pretty much over," said Nageotte. "It's not going to go to 11."
His confidence in Snelling was not surprising, but he wasn't done praising his teammate.
The count quickly went to 3-0 as Snelling let two close pitches go by and watched ball three sail high and away.
"He'll have the bat on his shoulders now, probably," said Nageotte. "He can fight off anyone so he can wait for 3-2."
He did watch strike one go by, a fastball right down the middle, but Brundage gave Snelling the green light on the 3-1 fastball and Snelling swung right through it.
"That won't happen again," said Nageotte.
In between the 3-1 and 3-2 pitches, I asked Nags how amazing he thought it was that Snelling can sit out for so long prior to last season and then come up and hit .370 and then attempt it again this season. His answer came after the 3-2 pitch.
The 3-2 pitch was a fastball middle-in and Snelling crushed it deep to right-center field. It hit off the wall about five feet up, easily scoring Arroyo from third to win the game for Tacoma and securing a triumphant return for the Jedi Knight.
"It's like riding a bike for him," said Nageotte. "He'll never forget how to hit."
Photo Credits –
Chris Snelling: Out of the Park Images