June 17, 2012
"It just comes natural."
--------------- GEORGE STRAIT
OK, let's see a show of hands. Who all thought that Ray Tanner had lost his cotton-pickin' mind when he told Chase Vergason to bunt, and then pinch-hit Grayson Greiner while already trailing 2-0 and leaving a village on the basepaths?
(You can't see mine, or really relate to it since I had to type these using my hands, but I briefly raised both of mine).
Sure, I thought it. I Tweeted about it, in so many words. I wrote it down as potentially the turning point in my running game story, knowing I might have to re-visit it.
I quickly shut up after the game ended with the Gamecocks winning yet again in Omaha. True, those particular moves didn't work — but the other major move that Tanner made, putting Erik Payne at designated hitter, worked very well.
Payne had the biggest hit of the game, launching a three-run triple into the right-center gap that turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead, and began a five-run inning. I've long said that Tanner ought to moonlight as a casino patron during his off days, since he always seems to gamble and win, and Saturday was the latest proof.
Connor Bright has been the most-used DH lately. Kyle Martin has the best power stroke. Payne had done well in the early season, but that was the early season, and with power arm Brian Johnson opposing him, Tanner figured to give Florida a bit of a surprise.
It worked. Again. And although Greiner was an afterthought at the plate, he did record the last out by recovering a dropped ball and throwing to first base.
We all learn the hard way — you can second-guess Tanner all you like, but at the end of the day, he's got two rings and we all don't. Won't stop us from doing it, of course, but perhaps we'll feel even more foolish next time and at least heavily consider stopping it.
* MARZ-ELOUS: Not sure how Evan Marzilli's magnificent leaping catch didn't make SportsCenter No. 1, but I know the four-letter network has other things to consider — like those 1-1 soccer slugfest scoring bonanzas and NBA press conferences, plus every time Tim Tebow plucks an eyebrow hair. Either way, his contribution didn't go un-noticed — it gave Matt Price all the ammunition he needed to get the job done after Marzilli saved his bacon.
I've said several times that Marzilli hardly ever gets credit as an outstanding center fielder because of all the plays he makes, they're great hustle plays. Predecessor Jackie Bradley Jr. made everything look so simple that it's hard to go back to appreciating the hustle plays.
"He's he and I'm me," Marzilli said on Saturday. "I like the comparison, but we're two different players. I'm just trying to play my best."
"Jackie, you know, is a cut above," Tanner said, stating the obvious. "But we knew how good Marzilli was in the fall practice. We met and said, 'We're not really losing anything here.'"
* Another win added to the streak. It will end sometime, but it won't be today. Enjoy it and also wish your daddies a happy Father's Day. We'll talk at'cha from practice this afternoon and then from the game on Monday.
P.S. Bookmark this page. It's GamecockCentral's new blog!