By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — One-hitters aren’t really things. Nobody keeps track of one-hitters. Nobody knows how many one-hitters were thrown by the pitching greats throughout history. There’s no section of the Baseball Hall of Fame dedicated to honoring some of the great one-hitters thrown on diamonds around North America.
Nobody cares about one-hitters. Except for the Minnesota Twins.
And if you pull some stunt like some uppity young catching prospect named Chance in order to counteract the Twins’ own stunt to try to prevent that same uppity young catching prospect named Chance from trying to get a hit? Whoa, buddy. The Twins are going to be mad. M-A-D, mad! And they’re not afraid to let you know about it.
In case you hadn’t heard, here’s what happened on Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards in front of literally dozens of zealous baseball fans on Easter Sunday.
Twins starter Jose Berrios took a one-hitter and a 7-0 lead into the ninth inning. It was the 40th start of his career, during which he’s won 17 games, but this was a special one. This was a one-hitter. Everyone in the world was on pins and needles to see if he’d pull it off. Folks left their family dinner tables mid-conversation to try to steal a glance at the TV. ESPN and MLB Network cut in from regular broadcasting schedules to air this baseball rarity, live and in living color. (Only the first three sentences of that paragraph are technically “true.” The latter three sentences are merely the result of some artistic license being taken.)
Berrios retired the first batter of the bottom of the ninth, Pedro Alvarez, on four pitches. Because why wouldn’t he? He was in the middle of a one-hitter.
Up stepped Chance Sisco, known to be a real hot shot among certain groups of Twins baseball players. If Sisco weren’t an overly eager beaver, then he probably wouldn’t have broken up Berro’s no-hitter in the first place. But Sisco had doubled with nobody on and two outs in the bottom of the third inning, which was frankly kind of disrespectful. But the Twins, in all of their benevolent mercy, let it slide.
Sisco should have known at that point that he had been put on notice. But the kid? The kid wasn’t paying attention.
So when Sisco stepped up to the plate with one out in the ninth and his team trailing by seven runs, he had the audacity to try to reach base. Noticing that the Twins had employed a shift against him, Sisco did what some would call a “smart baseball play” and others would call “an egregious breach of the unwritten rules” by laying down a bunt along the third-base line. The ball rolled slowly toward the bag, and with nobody there to field it, Sisco reached base easily.
Clearly rattled from seeing such an excessive transgression against his dear one-hitter, Berrios walked the next batter and then allowed a single to Manny Machado to load the bases with one out. It was almost as if, even though the Orioles had very little chance of winning the game when Sisco stepped to the plate, his ability to reach base actually gave his team a sliver of hope. (According to Baseball Reference’s win probability chart, Minnesota’s chance of winning dipped from 100 percent when Sisco was at the plate to 99 percent following Machado’s single.)
But Berrios bravely bore down and retired the final two batters to earn the win. But that win? It was a three-hitter. Yuck! Nobody likes a three-hitter. Everybody’s into the one-hitters these days. And Berrios was robbed of his.
Forget about the fact that … the Twins were in a defensive shift against Sisco. He should have just bowed down to the king and allowed him to earn that career-defining one-hitter.
As you can expect any team to be in such a situation, the Minnesota Twins were steaming mad!
“Obviously, we’re not a fan of it,” Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier said.
“He’s a young kid,” Dozier continued. “I could’ve said something at second base, but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there with Chris Davis, Adam Jones and those guys. I’m sure they’ll address it and move forward. It’s all about learning up here.”
What a hero, not saying anything, but then complaining about the dumbest of things when talking to the media and urging some players on the other team to be mad at the dumb thing for him.
It wasn’t just the players on the field who were miffed. As documented by Louie Opatz of Twinkie Town, Minnesota’s radio broadcasters were quite perturbed as well!
Provus: That is a ninth-inning, one-out, bunt single, in a 7-nothing game. Are you kidding me?
Gladden: Look at [Twins manager Paul Molitor]. He’s staring in the dugout of [Orioles manager] Buck Showalter right now.
Provus: Wow. That’s shocking. Shocking.
Gladden: That’s cheesy.
Provus: It’s not a 2-nothing game; it’s not a 3-nothing game here. It’s 7-nothing.
Gladden: You’re talking about a young kid, Chance Sisco, and maybe he doesn’t know any better, but he’s going to find out later when he comes to Target Field.
Provus: That is one you mark down for early July [when the Orioles play in Minnesota].
Yikes. Reading that transcript, you might believe that someone kicked their dogs, or at least expectorated in their Cheerios. But no; it was worse. A man had bunted in front of their eyes.
It was revolting. And frankly, those two men showed restraint in suggesting only that this young man pay his price for this CHEESY stunt by getting hit by fastballs the next time he dares to step in against the mighty Minnesota Twins. Had they called for an immediate assault on the young man’s health, they would only have been slightly out of bounds. But not by much.
Berrios, the man wronged by the bunt, spoke too.
“I don’t care if he’s bunting,” Berrios said. “I just know it’s not good for baseball in that situation. That’s it.”
Not. Good. For. Baseball.
Look, folks. When you’re right, you’re right. And the fans of baseball deserved — NAY, they NEEDED to see this one-hitter. It was all of our God-given right to witness, for the first time of this season, a pitcher complete a one-hitter in a near-empty ballpark against a team that might be very bad. We were all salivating at the thought. “This,” we all said aloud and to ourselves, “is good for baseball.”
But no. Nein. Nyet. Not on this day. On this day? We had to watch Sisco reach base. That dang whippersnapper.
What did he have to say for himself?
“Just trying to mess with the timing of the game,” Sisco sheepishly explained, per the Star Tribune. “He was kind of going through the lineup. Just trying to do what I can to get on base. They were playing the shift right there, so they kind of gave it to me. If they’re going to shift, I have to take it right there in that spot. We got bases loaded right after that. We’re a couple home runs away from tying the game.”
That sounds like a fella who’s just asking to have fastballs thrown at the small of his back until kingdom come.
Fortunately, Molitor was benevolent in choosing to remain neutral on the play.
“Some of those unwritten rules of the game are not black and white,” Molitor said magnanimously. “He did what he thought was right.”
He sure did. He tried to reach base. That punk. Fortunately, the Twins were there to (speak to the media and) let him know to never try it again.
Baseball is just the worst sometimes.