The Science of a Rally
When it rains, it pours.
The Blue Wahoos smacked a season-high 14 hits en route to a resounding 7-4 victory, but they didn’t come by the win easily. Fortune favored the Montgomery Biscuits, who sent seven batters to the plate in the first inning, before Pensacola pulled even and eventually ahead. But just how did they do it?
Last night’s game could be boiled down to four turning points, rallies on both sides that contributed to the final outcome. The exact science of this phenomenon is subjective, but it’s simple enough to spot. Baserunners emerge where once there were none, and one team methodically picks apart their defensive opponent to score. A well-executed rally isn’t spontaneous, but rather the product of several factors. With that said, let’s examine the methods that generated momentum last night:
Biscuits 1-0, Top 1st.
The Biscuits begin with a bang as Ryan Brett wallops a leadoff double. The line drive sneaks past Donald Lutz in left field, who swiftly fields the ball on a bounce and rockets it towards the infield. It’s the only hit Wahoos pitcher Daniel Corcino would allow that inning, but Montgomery still found ways to reach.
The lineup is patient, fouling off close pitches but otherwise waiting for Corcino to settle down. Half of the 28 pitches he threw were out of the strike zone, and the Biscuits managed to load the bases without swinging the bat. Two batters reached on walks, the latter of which gave Montgomery an early advantage, while Alejandro Segovia was hit on Corcino’s 1-0 offering. Juan Duran tracks down a long fly ball to end the threat.
Blue Wahoos 5-1, Bottom 3rd.
Pensacola nearly runs through the lineup as hitters pick apart Dylan Floro. Rey Navarro walks to first and advances to second on a Bryson Smith single. Lutz likes what he sees and swings at the first pitch, but it’s an easy catch for Biscuits center fielder Taylor Motter. After a throwing error on Steve Selsky‘s infield single, Bryan Anderson has the upper hand. With the Wahoos’ first lead of the night and two runners in scoring position, Anderson comes up big with a two-run triple. A no-doubt knock by Duran scores the catcher, and the Fish plate four in a monster inning.
What was working in the third? For one, Pensacola led off with the top of the order, a combination that has been spot-on as of late. They created opportunities with big hits, but luck played a role in Selsky taking two bags. Anderson’s triple scored an easy two runs, but the Biscuits may have chanced a throw home if Selsky started at first base.
Blue Wahoos 7-1, Bottom 5th.
Floro threw nine pitches in the fourth and the Wahoos swung at all but two. They keep making contact as Selsky leads off with a single, scoring as Juan Silverio swats a single right down Broadway. Devin Lohman steps in with two aboard, and the designated hitter uses that situation to his advantage. The Montgomery infield, trying to cut off the homebound Anderson, is playing shallow on the grass. That’s where Lohman drops a short fly ball just behind the shortstop, a difficult catch to make and one the Biscuits couldn’t complete. Reliever Braulio Lara cinches up the final two outs.
The Wahoos had a chance to put the Biscuits away, but Floro was pulled midway through the frame with 84 pitches to his name. He likely had a few more throws in him, but Montgomery manager Brady Williams saw the leadoff hitters coming around and needed to limit the damage.
Blue Wahoos 7-4, Top 8th.
Hurler Sean Black was effective in the seventh, but Montgomery roared out of the gate. The Biscuits tack on three hits, and not a moment too soon; held to two hits by Corcino, they reel off a double, RBI triple, and one-run single. Mikey O’Brien is stirred into action, but his arm struggles to warm up on the frigid field. Two walks juice the bags for Jake Hager, who adds a tally with a sacrifice fly.
The Biscuits were aggressive in their fourth trip through the lineup, fouling off pitches and hitting the jackpot on improbable two-strike counts.
Rallies can be initiated by a multitude of different events, and they certainly don’t happen by accident. But at the end of the day, starting (and especially ending) a rally is contingent upon timing. Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver said it best:
You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the d— plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.