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WILD CARD RACE LEAVES MOBSTERS – BOTTLE ROCKETS SCRAMBLED

For Immediate Release
September 28, 2003

TIJUANA MEXICO (AP) — Neither got much sleep. Neither acted like it mattered.
The wild, wild race to the A.L. Wild Card was to conclude Monday night. The way the Tijuana Bottle Rockets and Chicago Mobsters got there will be remembered as much as the outcome.
“I’m more excited than nervous,” Mobsters first baseman Carlos Delgado said, his expressionless face showing the effects of the short night. “We’ve played so many important games. It’s just another one.”
Not really. The 24 hours leading up to it were an about as odd as they come.
The Mobsters did their part in forcing the first one-game playoff in Mid-West Baseball League history by beating Detroit 11-2 on Sunday afternoon.
What was next? No one knew. A nearly six-hour power outage in Hollywood kept the Bottle Rockets game on hold and prompted the Mobsters to wait around the airport not knowing where their next flight was headed. Where the to fly home to Chicago, or on to Tijuana to face the traffic in the one game playoff?.
The Mobsters finally arrived at their hotel around 3:45 a.m. EDT, four hours after the Werewolves finally polished off Bottle Rockets 13-7, to force the one game playoff. The Bottle Rockets got back to Tijuana around 2:45 a.m., then headed for bed and a few forced hours of sleep.
“It was kind of hard to sleep,” Bottle Rocket starter Russ Ortiz said. “You’ve got to find a way to sleep, just like you’ve got to find a way to win each game.”
The short night showed a little more on the Mobsters when they reported for batting practice Monday on a cool, drizzly afternoon. Piles of plastic were draped across the tops of their dressing cubicles, there in case a champagne celebration would be called for later on.
Otherwise, it looked pretty much like any other game coming off an early morning return flight, with a few yawns thrown in.
“I slept till noon, got up, sat around a little bit, got a bowl of rice and beans and a bottled water and was ready to go,” Delgado said. “When we take the field, I’m not going to be thinking that we didn’t get to sleep until 5 o’clock.”
Rookie third baseman Eric Hinske walked around the clubhouse with a video camera, capturing the moments leading up to regular season game No. 163.
“I’ve brought it along several times to film different ball parks,” Hinske said. “I wanted to capture the activity in here.”
In the manager’s office, Stray Corrado sat back in his chair with his right foot propped up on the edge of his desk. He occasionally looked like he was going to doze off, rubbed the back of his head and yawned. He had only four hours’ sleep and it showed.
“I got up at 9 a.m., and brewed some coffee in the room, using bottled water”
He said the flight from Detroit was typical of any other this season.
“You ain’t done anything yet, so why get carried away?” Corrado told his players. “You look and see 97 wins and you both ought to be in the playoffs and one of you is not.
Over in the Bottle Rockets’ clubhouse, the mood was lighter. Three players were engrossed in a video golf game in the corner of the same room.
A dozen players reveled in card and other games in the middle of the room. Some salsa music played at a reasonable volume, prompting catcher Javy Lopez to do a little dance. They looked a little more rested, and they were. But they knew it probably didn’t matter.
“I don’t know if a couple of hours’ sleep is going to be the deciding factor,” manager Dave Myers said. In a way, the Bottle Rockets looked like a team that had gotten a reprieve after blowing a big lead in the playoff chase, which they had. They had one chance left to save themselves.
“It’s not going to be easy,” shortstop Miguel Tejeda said “It’s a shame somebody is going to have to go home. Whichever team goes home shouldn’t be ashamed because they’ve had a great year.”

The game matched up with the Bottle Rockets throwing right hander Russ Ortiz, and the Mobsters going with Mark Mulder. Both pitchers were coming off a few days of rest, and both appeared healthy, though of course somewhat tired from the long flights home.
Once they finally figured out how to hold a lead over the Mobsters, the Tijuana Bottle Rockets put themselves in the postseason for the first time on franchise history. The Mobsters got off to a quick lead with three men on and a Cliff Floyd bases clearing double, the Mobsters took a 3-0 lead after a half inning of play. Bottle Rocket Mark McLemore homered on Mark Mulder’s sixth pitch as that brought the score to 3-1 Mobsters after one.
“Any game like this, you feel the emotion, “Mulder said. “We get up 3-0 and in a game like this; I could tell some of their guys were pressing, swinging at bad pitches. But not like I was throwing smooth and easy either. A lot of this I blame on myself.”
Tijuana attempt to nickel-and-dime its way into the playoffs, started to work as Tijuana took the lead in the 5th with 3 runs of their own again off the bat of Mark McLemore as he plated two with a double and tied the game. They took the lead three batters later on a Ryan Klesko bloop double down the line that scored McLemore, and put the traffic ahead 5-4.
In the top of the sixth the game changed drastically for the Mobsters. The huge crowd was into the game, and actually may have influenced the umpire. After a leadoff walk to Todd Hundley, the eighth walk given up by Bottle Rockets starter Russ Ortiz, manager Dave Myers pulled him, all in all he gave up eight walks, four hits and four earned runs in only five innings.
On came relief pitcher Keith Foulke, who came in and struck out Shannon Stewart on a nasty slider. With one down, and Eckstein up, Hundley at first, Mobsters manager Stray Corrado started Hundley on a hit and run, but Myers had called for a pitchout from Foulke. It didn’t matter, David Eckstein threw his bat at the pitchout and hit a bleeder through the right side for a single. Hundley would have been thrown out by 20 feet if Eckstein hadn’t made contact, and now sat at third base as the tying run. That brought up the three hitter in the Mobsters line up, left fielder Chipper Jones. Jones who had a great year, (20 – 101 .305) worked the count full, and with the crowd screaming and yelling at the top of their lungs, worked it even more, as Foulke missed the plate by at least 10 inches with a sweeping curve. Jones headed down towards first base, but was called back by the home plate umpire Bill Hohn. Jones headed back, and Hohn told him that pitch was strike three, and that you sir are OUT! Jones, started yelling and saying how far outside that pitch was, he argued and was visibly upset at the call. That’s when Hohn threw him out of the game. Jones waived his arms, and even came really close to bumping the umpire, as he completely lost it. On a pitch 10 inches off the plate he was not only called out on strikes, he was tossed from the game. That’s right, one of the biggest bats in the lineup for the Mobsters was gone. Delgado who was in the on deck circle argued as well and after two more pitches that were off the plate Delgado was forced to swing at another and popped it up to left field for the third out of the inning. Mobster’s management was visibly upset at the umpiring situation. “They were just trying to go home, it was this crew’s last game of the year, and that cost us the game, and maybe a championship”.
The Mobsters scored the tying run in the 7th, with a single to right off the bat of Todd Walker which scored David Ortiz. But the Mobsters bullpen gave it back in the bottom as Octavio Dotel walked McLemore who stole second off Todd Hundley. Hundley was playing for Ivan Rodriguez, who had drank water that was not from a bottle during pre-game and had to be rushed to a local hospital for precautionary reasons. After getting the next two hitters, Ryan Klesko lined a shot to right, that Cliff Floyd had in his sight, and was just about to pull in, when a Local Tijuana fan snapped a picture with the biggest flash you have ever seen, right in the eyes of Floyd. Floyd ducked as he lost the ball in the flash, and that allowed McLemore to head home with the go ahead run. After a small argument with the umpire about this, the game continued and the Bottle Rockets had the lead. The Mobsters came close in the 8th, but Todd Hundley was thrown out at the plate by Herbert Perry.
Jorge Julio the Bottle Rocket closer came on in the 9th, and after a two out double to Cliff Floyd, pinch hitter Mark Grace grounded out to Tejeda, and the celebration began in the dirty city of Tijuana.
The Bottle Rockets finished the year at 98 – 65 and headed to the airport for another long night of flying. This time instead of flying home they were on their way to Detroit to face the Crime in the American League Division Series. The Mobsters also head to the airport for another long night of flying as well. However their flight even though a shorter distance of only going to Chicago was going to seem like a much longer flight.

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