Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Yu Darvish and the Twitter phenomenon

I follow 1,067 people on Twitter. Probably a thousand of them are baseball people making me pretty much a one-trick pony. I follow beat writers, baseball analysts, writers and fans. Following them all is hugely entertaining. Last night was a typical night on my timeline. Some were following the baseball games in their area, but it was a short schedule with only seven games on tap. Others were watching basketball and hockey. And then someone mentioned that Yu Darvish was perfect through six innings against the Astros. The next hour and a half was pretty close to Twitter nirvana.

Yu Darvish is still the Number Two trending topic on Twitter today. And I thought that Sunday night's first game of the season where the Rangers opened against the Astros in the latter team's American League debut was as pretty close to perfect as Twitter could get. After all, most of us were watching the same game and it was like all of us were in this same vortex all around the country. But as good as that was, nothing was like last night.

For an hour and a half, my timeline was full of corny "Yu" jokes, jokes at the expense of the Astros, jokes about Ron Washington's managerial style. You name it, it was said as we all flipped to the game to see if history would be made. After all, there have only been 21 perfect games in the history of Major League Baseball.

And Darvish has been a focus of attention ever since he went in the bidding zone before the 2012 season after some very flashy years pitching in Japan. Many picked him as the instant Rookie of the Year and possible Cy Young Award winner. But his 2012 was uneven and some struggles occurred along with some flashes of brilliance. Needless to say, he is an interesting player.

So when he finished six innings of perfect baseball, he instantly got everyone's attention. Darvish had never thrown a no-hitter in Japan and in this country, he had never even thrown a game where he did not walk anyone. So all of this was doubly interesting.

Then he finished the seventh without a blemish. Everyone was hanging on every pitch.

In the top of the eighth, the Rangers, already up, 3-0, rallied for a couple of runs. It was excruciating and people were rooting for the Rangers to make outs. The Astros made a mid-inning pitching change. Arrgh! Hurry up already!

Darvish started the eighth inning with a 3-2 count against Chris Carter. Uh oh. Don't walk him! Carter fouled off two hanging sliders. Whew! But then Carter swung at ball four on a tight slider just off the outside corner for the first out. Rick Ankiel looked like meat as he struck out meekly for the second out. It was Yu Davish's fourteenth and of the evening. His pitch count was climbing. But Justin Maxwell's silver hammer was silenced for the third out and my Twitter feed went nuts. Darvish was perfect through eight.

The Rangers rallied again in the top of the ninth! "Stop hitting!" I tweeted. Several people retweeted me. Rangers' fans and writers were imploring their team to make outs. We wanted to watch history.

Eventually, in what seemed like an eternity, the Rangers finally made their third out and we were three outs away. Houston's first batter, Jason Castro, grounded out to short. It was hit hard, but Elvis Andrus scooped it up easily and threw Castro out.  Two outs away.

On the next pitch (or so it seemed), Carlos Corporan grounded out to Ian Kinsler at second. This was perfect as Darvish did not have to use a lot of pitches to get the first two outs. We were now one out away from perfection and history.

And then Marwin Gonzalez stepped to the plate. Gonzalez is the only "Marwin" who has ever played Major League Baseball. Someone--I forget who--actually called it in the eighth inning that Gonzalez would break up the perfect game. I wish I could shoot that Nostradamus. Because sure enough, Darvish left a fastball a little up and out over the plate and Gonzalez hit the ball through Darvish's legs and past a diving Andrus and into center field.

My tweet, "Crap," said it all. All through the stands in Houston, fans had their hands over their heads in shock and disappointment. Some of those in my timeline exploded in anger--some in anguish. Some were happy.

For an hour an a half, we were all in this event together. That is the magic of this Twitter phenomenon. Fans and writers all over the country were tuned into the same event and shared it in real time through pixels on our screens. We live in a day an age where we can watch baseball, report on it and talk about it all at the same time. It is all mind-boggling.

Then, of course, we all abuzz after for some time to come. My lame tweet joke was, "It's pretty safe to say that none of us got our Darwish." Hey, it doesn't matter. We were all doing the same thing. We all had a collective blast. In the end, we were disappointed. But it was an evening we won't forget for a while.

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