Dickie August -Baseball Player -Chapter 2 – Playoff Push

The boys were committed to getting the Kansas City Nine in the playoff race. The only problem that stood in their way was time. There were only 54 games left in the 2014 season and Kansas City was 9 games out of a playoff spot.

Cleveland was first up to catch and then pass – they were only 3 games ahead of Kansas City and easily within striking distance. Kansas City was opening a big 3 game series in Cleveland and team manager Barry Keeton asked to speak with Dickie before the game.

Dickie found his way in to the manager’s office in the visiting clubhouse in Cleveland. “You wanted to see me skipper?”

“Dickie I spoke with Goose (Bullpen coach, Ed Cousins) and we are thinking of using you in games one and two of the series. How many innings can you go each night?”

“Whatever you need skip. I can pitch in each game if you like?”

Barry stood up behind the desk and reached out his hand. “Excellent! Thanks for being a team player.”

Dickie shook Keeton’s hand. “No worries. By the way, I’m throwing with better stuff when Billy is behind the plate. If possible, when I come in, can you remove Cass and sub in Billy?”

Because Dickie and Cass could not both play with the Alet at the same time, Dickie tried to create a sensible reason for the manager to not play them together.

“Oh really?” Barry crossed his arms. “But he was your personal catcher – you wanted him here. You put that clause in your contract.”

“I know – but I’m just telling you this for the team. I’m fine pitching to either of them, but I wanted you to know that me and Billy are on the same page when I’m out there.”

“Ok – fine. I think I’m going to try Cass at Designated Hitter tonight anyway. That way, tonight you won’t have to throw to him.”

Dickie cornered Cass in the dugout before the team took the field. “You are starting at Designated Hitter – Billy is behind the plate.”

“Yeah I know. I looked at the lineup card Dickie.”

“No- you don’t get it. With you at DH – we both should be able to use the Alet. We won’t be on the field at the same time!”

Cass just smiled. “Great idea.” Cass’ smile quickly ran away. “But I don’t want to be a one-dimensional player – what about my defense?”

Dickie playfully slapped Cass’ ball cap off.

“This is the answer for both of us. You playing Designated Hitter and not going in the field. Don’t you see?”

Cass started to speak and noticed Billy Wild inching closer. “What are you two chatting about?” Inquired Billy.

Dickie quickly spoke. “We are pushing for a playoff spot Billy. And it starts with a win tonight.”

Billy gave Dickie a hard fist pump. “Good stuff – let’s get this one tonight.”

As usual, Dickie watched the game unfold from the bullpen. Skipper Keeton decided earlier in the year against using Dickie as a starting pitcher this season. He felt because it was Dickie’s first year in the big leagues, he did not want to put too much pressure on him.

By the fourth inning the score was 2-1 Cleveland. Cass had doubled in two at bats. He struck out the other time up and Dickie could only assume he did that on purpose. Cass had a fine line to walk from being a tremendous young up and coming hitter versus putting up just unbelievable statistics that would only invite more questions and scrutiny from the press.

As the game entered the seventh inning, the score was 3 to 1 Cleveland. Cass opened the 7th inning with a long homerun to cut the deficit to 3-2. Unfortunately, Kansas City did not further score after the home run.

Dickie had been warming up in the top of the 7th inning and was called in to the game for the bottom of the 7th. Between innings, Dickie met up with Cass in the dugout to get the Alet in his back pocket. As Dickie took the mound he was met by Manager Keeton and the Catcher, Billy Wild. Keeton leaned in close. “Ok- get out of this inning and give our guys a chance.”

As Keeton trotted back to the dugout, Billy looked Dickie in the eyes. “Show them the gas rookie.”

Dickie was about to face the numbers 3,4 and 5 hitters in the Cleveland lineup. These were the best hitters on their team. The first batter took three 95mph fastballs without offering a swing and went to sit down. One out.

The second batter, clean-up hitter and first basemen Gabe Sway lined a single to left field. Dickie, also afraid of looking too over powering, lowered his pitch speed to 90mph and Gabe crushed it for a hit.

Dickie caught Billy, out of the corner of his eye, punching his fist in to his catcher’s mitt. He also yelled something out to Dickie, but it was too loud to hear him.

Dickie shook off the pitch selection of Billy, which was a fastball, and floated a tantalizing curveball over for strike one. The batter, unable to make contact, just took the pitch. Again, Billy called for a fastball, and again, Dickie shook him off in favor of the curveball. This time, the batter offered, and missed – strike two.

Dickie then purposely tossed two balls to even the count at 2 balls and 2 strikes. The runner at first had a small lead and Dickie barely even looked at him. He was not a running threat. Pitch number 5 was a doozy. Dickie blazed in a fastball at 100 mph. The batter offered a swing, but much too late. Billy pumped his fist as he tossed the ball back to Dickie.

The fourth batter of the inning grounded out to the shortstop and the inning was over.

Dickie also pitched the bottom of the 8th inning with similar results, no runs scored on him. Kansas City scratched out a run in the top of the 9th inning.

Dickie covertly passed the Alet to Cass, who was going to hit in the ninth inning.

Billy Wild singled and advanced to second on a throwing error. Cass then doubled high off the left field wall to score Billy and tie the game. No further scoring occurred for Kansas City.

The bottom of the ninth was coming up and Barry Keeton approached Dickie as he was ready to take the field. “I’m going with JA right here, Dickie.”

The manager pulled Dickie from the game and called on the team’s closer, Joaquin Alvarez, to enter the game and pitch.

Dickie sat with Cass on the bench and cheered on their teammates.

Alvarez got the first two outs before trouble occurred. A walk and a double left Cleveland with runners on second base and third base with still two outs. Billy called timeout and went to the mound to speak with Alvarez.

Cass twitched his fingers on the bench. “What do you think, walk this guy and create a force at any base?”

Dickie grimaced. “Doing that then leaves no room for error. With the bases loaded J.A. can’t make any mistakes.”

Alvarez and Billy Wild then intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases. Thus, there was a possible force play, meaning the defender could just touch any base with possession of the ball ahead of the runner to end the inning.

Alvarez fell behind the next batter 3 balls to no strikes and Dickie covered his eyes. Failing to throw a strike right here would walk in the game winning run. As a result, Alvarez took a little off the ball and aimed it down the middle of the strike zone.

The batter was taking all the way, hoping for a walk, and watched the pitch sail in for strike one. Alvarez, now at 35 years old, did not throw nearly as hard as he once did, tossed the next pitch in at 85mph, hoping to hit the strike zone once again.

This time, the hitter exploded on the ball and deposited it far over the head of Manual Espy, the leftfielder, for a grand slam and a 7 to 3 Cleveland win.

The team slunk off the field and in to the clubhouse. Billy Wild kicked over the sport’s drink cooler on his way out of the dugout.

This loss really hurt.

Barry Keeton tugged at Dickie’s elbow in the clubhouse. “You are now the team’s closer.”

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