After another great weekend at the McKemie's highlighted by a few words of English that Nancy decided to share with me, I returned to the Kfar Hayarok for lunch Sunday and night game at Sportek versus Petach Tikva. It was a crazy game, with Leon giving up 7 runs and leaving the game in the 6th inning (which was determined beforehand to be the final inning due to darkness) with the bases loaded and nobody out. Against all odds, Rafael Morales came in and got the next three hitters out to save the one-run victory for the Tigers. An awesome performance, in the toughest conceivable situation in baseball.
Today, Rafael was again called upon, this time to start the game. He was throwing great until, with an 0-2 count and 2 outs in the inning, he threw an inside fastball and immediately grimaced in pain, grabbing his back. He had to come out of the game with a strained back, and from there the wheels seemed to fall off. Relief pitcher after relief pitcher came in, many being position players, and after the dust settled the Tigers fell victim to Modi'in, 15-1.
However, it was nice to see some of the position players get a taste for pitching and IBL umpiring. See, guys - it's not as easy as it looks; and, we're not just yearning for orange juice when we say that we're getting squeezed out there.
Umpiring here so far has been of the lowest quality that I have seen in some time, especially the consistency of strike zones. In baseball, it is normal and usual for an umpire to have his own strike zone that doesn't exactly agree with the rulebook. 99% of the time, a pitch thrown just below the armpits is called a ball, even though the rulebook says that it should be a strike if over the plate. To compensate, some umpires will give pitchers a few inches on either side of home plate. However, here in Israel, the umpires seem unwilling to give anything off the corners, and also have an even more constricted vertical zone. I would estimate that about a 5 inch depth exists around the knee where strikes will be called over the plate; anywhere else and it is not called. To make things worse, zones have often times changed in the middle of games. Pitches that were being called strikes early in the game are now balls, and vice versa. It changes the game and creates a lot of tension between the men in blue and the men on the field.
Rant over, let's win tomorrow