Al: And obviously you didn’t die when the doc slapped you.
Al: So including last night, that’s three fucking damage incidents that didn’t kill you. Pain or damage don’t end the world, or despair or fucking beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man, and give some back.
-- Deadwood, Season 2
I'll take back everything I said in my previous post. Buddy Bell, you're not all that bad. Jason Standridge, you're a nice guy, you would've been a great quarterback at Auburn, and judging by your minor league numbers, you can yet be a serviceable reliever. I was confused earlier today. I lacked sleep (woke up at the hideous hour of 9 a.m.). I was stressed. I spoke rashly, and for that, you have my mea culpa.
About Bell: my criticism was unfair. The truth is, if Joakim Soria hadn't allowed three runs, the Royals might have rallied in the ninth -- they were scrappy all game -- and if they had made it 9-7, we would've all praised Bell for believing in his team. Maybe it's easier to believe when you're at field level, looking into the eyes of your players and seeing signs everywhere that make it impossible to accept that they'd ever let you down. I don't know. But for his belief, I'm 100 percent behind him, even if my last post made it seem otherwise.
Now onto present matters.
Al Swearengen and Gil Meche: it's in the jowls
If you play this game long enough, the breaks will go your way eventually. Gil Meche pitched himself into a bases loaded jam in the 6th -- abetted by an Alex Gordon throwing error -- and all kinds of worse-case scenarios flashed through my head. Considering the Royals have already served up three grand slams this season, this possibility registered distinctly as probable. Statistically, it was. But Meche made a good pitch on Sean Casey, who popped out to first, then -- after a Craig Monroe single -- embarrassed Marcus Thames on a slow 3-2 curve to escape with minimal damage. The best news? After that three-run 6th, Meche bounced back with two scoreless innings. That's the sign of an ace: a pitcher who'll buckle down no matter the situation, take his punishment, then deliver some of his own.
In the 9th, the Royals finally found grace's favor. With runners on first and third and one out, down one (Tigers' play-by-play Dan Dickerson: "And the Royal uprising continues"), Ross Gload, who was 0-for-3 with two ground outs, chopped one to short. Carlos Guillen stepped back, received the ball flat-footed, plodded to second and threw a weak one-hopper to Casey at first. The confluence of these events allowed Gload to beat the throw by inches and the tying run to score. By the time John Buck absolutely destroyed Fernando Rodney's fastball in the 10th to put KC ahead 4-3, I was so giddy I didn't even care if we saw David Riske or Todd Wellemeyer to replace Soria, who tossed a scoreless ninth.
But wait! Bell -- and credit where it's due here -- left Soria in to finish the game. The 22-year-old blew a fastball by Gary Sheffield for strike three after setting him up with two curveballs for strikes, then polished off the Tigers by throwing a dart past Guillen. The kid has what you'd call "life" on his pitches. And that, folks, is how baseball games are won.
I'm going to savor this for a while now.
Gil Meche: 8 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 2.22 season ERA
Joakim Soria (W, 1-0): 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 3.24 season ERA