Wade Pulls 'Stros Into First!

added 6/6/2003 by Mike Nixon

My wife Keri and I treated her dad and littlest bro to dinner and club level seats for Tuesday’s Astros-Orioles game. We ate at the restaurant out beyond centerfield called 9 Amigos, used to be Ruggles but apparently Drayton McLane wasn't getting a big enough cut from sales of their tasty variety of comestibles, so this offseason the place was re-christened and the unique menu was converted to a few run-of-the-mill Tex-Mex dishes, though of course the sporty prices remain. The ribs and tortilla wrap thingies we had were OK, though for some reason when I hear "entree" I don't expect 90% fries by volume. Wade (the 3-year old) barely touched his hot dog, insisting he was full and wanting to "go see what Bagwell and Biggio are doing." In my ongoing efforts to broaden his baseball horizons, I told him that the Astros pitcher was named Wade just like he was, to which he replied, totally straight-faced, "Does he suck?" I have no clue where he got that one, honest, and Keri still hasn't stopped chuckling over it.

Wade (the pitcher) Miller started and went 7 strong innings, but ageless Pat Hentgen nearly matched him zero for zero. Wade (the 3-year old) has the hang of this whole attending baseball games thing, he’s got 4 games under his belt now after all, and knows when to clap and yell and sing and watch the video board, and I suspect that when the time comes, picking up on the nuances of beer drinking will not be a challenge. The kid’s white, but he’s got rhythm, he’s better at the clap, clap, clap-clap-clap than half of the adults in the crowd already. He’s still a little impatient at the pace of the game, when Wade (the pitcher) went through the first with three strikeouts and a walk, Wade (the 3-year old) kept asking why they weren’t hitting the ball and why they weren’t running; we tried to explain how that was the idea seeing as how it was the other team batting, but I don’t think he bought it. The ‘Stros got a pair in the second on a Berkman double followed by a drive over the fence in right by Vizcaino, sending the replica train on its run much to Wade (the 3-year old)’s delight. He loves that train.

The O’s took the lead with a 3-spot in the sixth on a bases-loaded double by Jay Gibbons. I decided to beat the seventh-inning crowd and headed out to the smoking section with the father-in-law, where we discussed possible ways to motivate his eldest who is in the process of screwing up college and will shortly be moving back home complete with girlfriend, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story; suffice it to say eldest’s life will not be getting any easier (not that it could) any time soon. It was on the way back to our seats that the moment to which I alluded in the subject occurred. After a Vizcaino groundout, Brad Ausmus had surprised everybody and gotten a hit for a change. Morgan Ensberg was sent up to pinch-hit for Wade (the pitcher) and walked, bringing up none other than Craig Biggio at the top of the order. It was obviously a game situation, with the tension in the crowd building. Ball. Yea. Strike. Oooh. Ball. Yea. I had just come through the door from the enclosed concourse toward the seats, and the crowd noise was hushing in anticipation of the next pitch when it happened. Wade (the 3-year old) had several innings ago decided he wasn’t full after all, not when it came to cotton candy and diet Coke, anyway, and was riding a sugar high off in his own little world, though with the buzz no doubt enhanced by the permeable excitement all around him. From at least 30 feet away, just as the pitch was delivered, just as the crowd quieted, I heard this high-pitched yell of “Let’s go Biggio!”, and in the next tenth of a second recognized the voice, thought it funny that he was yelling just as everyone else was holding their breath and the whole section could hear him, even wondered if he could be heard on the field. These musings were abruptly ended in the next tenth of a second by the crack of the bat and the surging roar from 25000+ watching the ball arc deep toward our bullpen in right-center, over the right-fielder’s desperate leap and short-hopping off the fence for a double to tie the game and put the go-ahead run at third. There ensued much rejoicing as the Orioles’ manager came out to get Hentgen, one batter too late and to the hometown chant of “Bi-gee-O! Bi-gee-O!” that tends to break out on such occasions. On the field, Bidge took a few steps back toward first, unstrapped and handed his arm and foot guards to Jose Cruz, then stood back on second and I will swear to the day I die grinned right up at Wade (the 3-year old), clapping in perfect time and leading the cheer, as if thanking him for that last little bit of encouragement.

The rest is history. The O’s reliever’s first pitch went to the backstop and Ensberg beat his tag at the plate to put us ahead. Gregg Zaun brought Biggio home with a soft liner to center. Later we saw a true rarity - Billy Wagner not only batted because he’d had to come in unexpectedly to get the last out of the eighth, but he scored his first run ever in his 8-year career. Gave it right back when Tony Batista popped a solo shot off of him before he nailed down the save, but it was worth watching him run the bases. Good guys win 6-4, and while everyone was out inspecting Sammy’s bats the Cubs were getting beat by Tampa, so say hello to a virtual tie for first in the division. Wade (the pitcher) has now had several starts in a row in which he has most definitely not sucked, and if Oswalt looks as good tonight in polishing off the sweep, the word will officially be out that the ‘Stros appear to be putting it together. Should the team continue to play well, get out to a lead, win the NL Central, make the playoffs, and perhaps even advance, I’ll remind y’all that Wade (the 3-year old) gets the credit for getting it started with one little cheer at just the right time.

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