(BaseballStL) — As far as Memorial Days go, St. Louis got a pretty entertaining one. Busch stadium played host to a celebration of days past, and celebrated walking history as Derek Jeter returned to Busch for the last time.
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The problem with games that demand such investment and carry such emotion is, sooner or later, someone has to lose. Too often, one player feels that loss more than the rest. Monday, that player was Randy Choate.
“I feel like I let the team down.” The 37-year-old stood at his locker after the game facing a small group of reporters while the rest swarmed starter Michael Wacha. “It’s just bad location, really just a bad day. I didn’t have good stuff,” he said.
After the two clubs fought to a draw through 11 innings, Choate was called upon to carry the tie through to the bottom half of the 12th. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann- both lefties- were due up, and the switch hitting Yangervis Solarte was set to follow.
“Randy’s our lefty and even with their switch hitters, the match ups looked favorable for us to give Randy a shot at it and bring in Motte when they went to the right handed pitch hitter,” Mike Matheny said.
With a leadoff walk to Ellsbury, it was apparent something was missing for the veteran lefty early. The Yankee center fielder took second in McCann's at bat, putting the winning run at second with no outs.
“After Ellsbury, I was like, ‘Ok I just missed,’” Choate said. “Then McCann, I get ahead of him and I just miss with that one that Yadi threw down on and I thought it was a pretty good pitch. I take a break and I come back and throw another good slider he fouls off.”
The next pitch ran inside to the New York catcher, hitting him and putting two on without an out. A manager’s visit would follow, and Choate remained in the game. Matheny said afterward there was never a question as to whether he would continue to pitch.
“He’s our guy. He’s the one that has to get us through that point,” he said. Choate would field a sacrifice bunt next for the first out, and intentionally walk Ichiro Suzuki to reload the bases for Brian Roberts.
A good chunk of the 47,000 paid attendance was still in the house, aware this was the defining moment of an already theatrical Memorial Day.
Choate offered an 0-1 sinker to Roberts, and it was slapped through the hole into left, giving the Yankees the lead. Another two runs would follow when Motte inherited a bases loaded mess and surrendered a sac fly and an RBI single, but Choate had already felt the sting even 14 years in the big leagues can’t numb.
“I pride myself on being able to get ground balls. I got a ground ball, but when you miss by that much on the plate, he can pull it through that 5-6 hole instead of putting it at somebody,” he said, visibly upset. “Location’s the key. You can’t try to throw a fastball away and miss inside.”
The Cards would fall 6-4, ending a historic day with a foul taste in their mouths. Despite robbed home runs, missed hits and more, it seemed no one tasted the bitterness more than Choate.
“It’s just bad location, really just a bad day. I didn’t have good stuff,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s just one of those days. I was trying to put it in spots and it just wasn’t going there.”