Democrats drubbed Republicans 8-2 in the annual Congressional Baseball Game Thursday night, but the real loser was the game of baseball.
What else could one say about a game that included a balk, several passed balls, at least two ground balls passing between shortstops’ legs and batting strategies that could be charitably described — it was a charity game, after all — as confused at best?
It was apparent from the pre-game warmups this would be a challenge to endure, from the Lovecraftian horror of seeing portly congressmen doing pregame stretches in form-hugging baseball pants, to the sight of Arizona GOP Rep. Jeff Flake overthrowing a ball to first and nearly hitting some reporters milling about near the dugout.
Not to mention the bad ju-ju of having House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sitting behind home plate, or House Speaker John Boehner giving a pre-game pep talk to the GOP team. (His back was turned to the grandstands, so it was not entirely clear if he was crying.)
The Republicans’ woes began as soon as their starting pitcher took the mound in the bottom of the first inning — a pitcher whose sole offering seemed to be a 50 mile-per-hour ball that hung over the center of the plate like a pinata.
Democrats drove in three runs in that first inning and three more in the second. Republicans mercifully turned to their bullpen in the third and only allowed one more run.
But while Republicans staunched the bleeding, their offense remained of the kind that one would usually pay a carnival barker to watch.
Which leads us the brightest spot in the whole affair: Democrat hurler Cedric Richmond, a first-term representative from Louisiana and former college pitcher. Richmond’s high fastball left Republican batters whiffing all night — legs crossed up, tottering off balance as their bats met nothing but air.
Richmond racked up six strikeouts in the first three innings against swing-happy Republicans. And he was a powerhouse on the other side of the ball as well, notching a double, two singles and an RBI. It was no exaggeration when the Democrat fan section showered him with chants of “MVP” later in the game.
In fairness to the GOP, Rep. Flake made a few clutch throws from third. And Kentucky Senator Rand Paul had a nice cut, if only he could have made contact with the ball. (Perhaps the Senator should try imagining the ball as an energy-saving compact flourescent lightbulb next time.) There was also a fancy unassisted double play by the GOP to end the third inning.
But when this reporter left at the bottom of the fifth to drink away the horror, the Democrats had amassed seven runs and 12 hits, and Richmond still had a no-hitter going.
A single in the sixth by Minnesota GOP Representative Steve Pearce ended Richmond’s no-no. The GOP managed to finally get on board in the seventh and final inning, when a tiring Richmond walked in a run and gave up a bases-loaded single to Texas GOP Representative Kevin Brady.
The win is the third in a row for Democrats, but Republicans still lead the series overall 38-34-1.