Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Slammer: Fifth Inning: Chapter Five.Six

The implosion was mutual on both ends. All of the suspensions between both the Red Sox and the Yankees placed them in a firm tie for second place, and the Blue Jays were living large with a seven game lead. It didn’t help that Jack completely fell apart in his last start before his suspension. They were wrong to assume that he could handle a different catcher easier than the other pitchers, and aside from the fact that Barceló still gave a stellar performance in his one to zero loss, the six game losing streak was a showplace for how wrong John was too. Their disgruntled catcher completely rolled over and played dead. His enjoyment at watching the team fall apart was so obvious that when Tug sent him down to AAA hoping he would get taken on waivers, nobody did. The final straw was cast on the last day of Lily and Jay’s suspension, when the Blue Jays torched the rookie on the mound and the rookie behind the plate for a twenty eight to one blow out, which saw all of Toronto’s rookies on the field for six of the nine innings.

Now of course the only thing that the Red Sox had going for them which the Yankees didn’t was that all of their West Coast visits were over for the year. The Yankees still had all of their nine west coast games to go, and Toronto still had a sixe game swing out there. In baseball terminology, that is what you call a “pray for five hundred” or just hope you win half of the games. The Red Sox still have more home games than the other two teams, which helps out a bit too, but even with Lily and Jay coming back on this night, they have to gain seven games with twenty one left. The next two are against the Blue Jays though with Jay pitching tonight and Barceló pitching tomorrow night. Jack will come back on Tuesday but against an unusually bad Orioles team. By that time the entire team will be back again, so hopefully there will be more defenses for him, or so Lily tried to convince herself.

Lily couldn’t have had a worse warm up actually, because she couldn’t get her mind off of how bad Jack pitched five nights ago. That’s saying something if she is still dwelling on it, but she had been doing everything she could to protect him for a month, and now he had been completely exposed. Her brother was completely nonplussed as he threw warm up pitches to her for the first time in seven days himself. You actually couldn’t ask for a better time for Jay to pitch, so that might have had a lot to do with why Lily’s mind was wandering. A losing streak usually kills a pitcher because they can think themselves out of the game through the desperation to get a win. Jay wasn’t going to think himself out of the game, and it was the furthest thing from Lily’s mind. Who knew what was on Jay’s mind?

Jay didn’t even make a fuss about being suspended. Lily assumed that he may because he is such a creature of habit. He knew it was his night to pitch on Wednesday, but technically he was only five games into his seven game suspensions. Jay showed up to the ball park and started his usual routines like he was going to pitch that day despite the fact that Lily tried to explain the suspension to him. He was in the “mode” as she always called it. Every other sentence was “I have to pitch today,” and nothing was changing that. She hadn’t noticed how much better he was about getting into the “mode” over the last few years until he had fallen completely back into it. She finally gave up and took him into the park to let him be all “mode” on everyone else for a while.

He was in the bullpen waiting to warm up and Lily was sitting back in the locker room telling everyone how he would get sick of standing out there sooner or later. Tug then told her that he technically wasn’t allowed to be out there during a suspension, but she shrugged him off, obviously sick of dealing with it the whole day anyway. Tug in turn thundered down the tunnel towards the outfield bullpens barking out obscenities the whole way. At that point they had lost four straight and the Blue Jays had of course won four, so this foolishness was not sitting well at all. Lily was pissed off that Jack hadn’t shown up for the second day in a row. Jay had come walking into the clubhouse a bit later with Tug patting him on the back. He was now on a different track, “I got suspended for fighting, can’t pitch until Saturday.”

He had been acting so strange for Jay for this whole season, so it had taken Lily by surprise when he was acting normal for Jay. She was starting to notice more often when he was acting normal for Jay and not normal for Jay at the same time now a days too. She had been told a lot that he can grow out of a lot of his autistic traits, and around twenty five years into it she started believing that it was a pile of crap. Here he is at twenty eight years and he appears to be growing out of some things so fast that she is finding it charming when he grows back into them. He hadn’t had a burst of free will like the night he went out to the movies with Jack and John, but then again that was so far out in left field she hasn’t completely recovered from it yet. Then there is Chris, who she had been spending more time with alone, and Jay had been accommodating that which in and of itself was rather strange for Jay. Strange for Jay may become a common term in Boston folklore if the Red Sox make it back into the hunt for October that they had no business being in as far as July.

Here it is Saturday night and Jay is taking his warm up pitches and Lily is thinking about Jack. She should be paying more attention to Jay though because his pitches are looking weak and wide. The team’s pitching coach had to point this out to her and it was almost startling. Lily gave Jay an actual signal for a pitch hard and inside. One finger inside thigh, and Jay of course nodded and wound up to throw a pitch outside and not very fast. Trotting over to Jay, she asked him if he felt alright and he ignored her. Well that’s back to normal, she thought as she trotted back to the warm up plate and called for four fingers down and wiggling. Jay wound up and sailed a pitch so far over her head that it went flying into the stands. At least it wasn’t very hard and the kid that caught it with his bare hands even waved a “thank you” back at Jay. This can’t be a good sign.

A half hour of absolutely nothing working for Jay as Lily called it, and she was starting to get really worried. His mechanics were just fine, and his arm was doing all the right motioning for what she was calling, it just appeared that he was fingering the ball wrong. His fast ball wasn’t that fast, his curve ball didn’t fall, his slammer had turned into a sailor, and his slider could probably pass for a splitter that went wild. After she called the ball boy over with the radar gun she gasped to see his “all out” which is signaled by one finger motioned to the ground, came in at a paltry eighty seven. Lily sighed.

“The last thing I wanted to do was have to rely on Barceló to end a losing streak, but aside from the shock of swinging too early for a few innings, Jay might not get far,” Lily said to Tug as they were sitting in the dugout, before the National Anthem. She looked down the bench where Jay was sitting all alone, since the only person that still attempted to talk to him while he is on the bench wasn’t here. The absence of Jack made Lily a bit more pissed off then she had been days previous, and she started wondering if Jay was in a funk because of that as well.

Lily was also not impressed when she ran back into the dugout to grab Jay and make him come out for the National Anthem. There were a few murmurs of laughter as a lot of the fans noticed this Abbott and Costello like performance coming from the teams starts. It was shrugged off by most of them as it almost always is because the Red Sox fans are so used to watching a nutty pitcher giving extra performances. At the end of the performance she didn’t even want to go and walk him out to the mound, but did all the same. This is probably going to get ugly really fast.

This also wasn’t the best time for Jay to start acting human, and stranger than normal because Christian was walking to the plate waving his bat back and forth, still flirting with four hundred at the end of August which means that he is no fluke. One of those terrible Jay pitches is going to be hit by this guy, and he rarely ends up on first. On the off chance that he does, then he is going to create chaos for her struggling brother on the bases. She didn’t exactly know how to approach it all because she couldn’t get under his skin if she wanted to, so perhaps if she was quiet he would just start thinking himself. It didn’t work though as he walked to the plate and said, “Missed you guys last night.”

“Yeah we had to get all the Yankees players off the field so you could sweep them earlier in the week,” and then she looked up to him and then added, “Where’s my thank you?”

“I’ll save that for hoping your brother lost a step this week,” he chirped back down at her, “Dare to dream you know?”

Lily had to think about what to do next because it appeared that Christian was expecting a drop off, and since she was quite positive he was going to get it, she needed to think. She pondered the ramifications of just about every single placement issue he was having, and then decided that the best thing to do was beg fast and hope Christian thinks he’s getting change up. She lowered her finger and then darted it towards the ground. Jay didn’t nod. Jay didn’t do anything; he just stood there looking out into the crowd over her shoulder.

“Oh God, here we go again,” she muttered under her breath which made Christian ask her what she had said. She responded to him with a “Nothing,” and then noted that Jay was looking at her again. Christian signaled time out, and the umpire granted it and then reprimanded Lily for taking so long. She then stood up and held her hands out in supplication to her brother who had gone back to looking in the stands, so she turned around to see John and Chris sitting in their usual places with Jack sitting next to them.

Lily turned around to look at Jay again, and that was when she heard the unmistakable voice of Jack who yelled out, “Throw the ball kid, I’m suspended!”

After another reprimand from the umpire Lily crouched down behind the plate. Christian was muttering to himself, but that was normal for him, if someone broke his stride, which was exactly what was going on here, but Jay was looking in for the signal. She figured that her first idea was her only idea, and she pointed one finger to the ground and then darted it down.

The visor of Jay’s cap pointed down to the ground, as she could see him tightening his grip on the ball in front of him, and inside his glove. She was thinking that his mechanics were still good. Ever slowly Jay started leaning back as his knee lifted off the ground. As he pulled the his leg upward the arm span started fanning out in that fluid catapult that really brings the fear out in the batters. Christian started muttering a bit again. The body of Jay Franklin seemed to reach further back than it ever had, and Lily was starting to worry that he is going to overbalance as his leg started straightening out in a “Warren Spawn like” strait weight downward, which made Lily gasp to look upon it. She was confused to see what was going to come next as Jay’s entire body rolled over itself with the ball’s release towards the plate. She could hear it. Christian could hear it.

SLLLLAAAAAAAAAMM! Like Thunder echoed through the whole park followed quickly by the obscenity that Christian threw out after swinging at a ball that was already in the glove. Lily’s eyes started tearing up from the pain that at first made her think he had broken every bone in her hand. She looked up at the scoreboard to see the radar reading which was merely flashing “ERR” over and over again. She took the ball from her mitt and tossed it back to Jay who snatched it out of the air like he was furious.

Christian stood next to the batter’s box looking out at the mound to Jay and then looked down at Lily before he said to her, “He knows that I like you two doesn’t he?” … to be continued