It was like a chess match played with nothing but pawns.
Two Phils, Regan and Garner, played the game-within-a-game in the eighth inning of the Orioles' 2-0 win over Milwaukee on Monday night. The diamond became a chessboard as the two matched wits -- and pawns.
The Phil in the black cap emerged as the clear winner. He did so despite a dangerous play that led to the toppling of Milwaukee Phil, the riverboat gambler whose big move cost him his king of swat without a swing being taken.
You have to follow this one closely, then try to rationalize the sequence of events. Jamie Moyer and Jose Valentin were the original pawns with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Orioles protecting their two-run lead.
They were quickly joined, in order, by Greg Vaughn, Terry Clark and Dave Nilsson. By the time it was over, they were all out of the game -- sacrificial pawns in the game of one-upsmanship.
It all started when the left-handed Moyer issued his third walk of the night on a borderline 3-and-2 pitch. Valentin was the next scheduled hitter, but Garner had the right-handed-hitting Vaughn lug his .196 average from the dugout to swing for the .228 hitter.
In the other dugout, Regan pondered his next move only briefly. You see, Vaughn has a .353 lifetime average against Moyer and, when used as a starter, the Orioles left-hander is not noted for his success in the late innings.
Enter Clark, the right-handed reliever who has not allowed a run since being purchased from Triple-A Rochester. And exit Vaughn, even though he's Milwaukee's leading home run hitter (seven), in favor of Nilsson, making only his eighth plate appearance of the year.
Are you still with us? Five players figured into that little parlay, which resulted in a double play. Inning over, Regan has Garner in check. Three outs from Doug Jones in the ninth and it's checkmate, game and match over.
But wait, something's missing from this intriguing puzzle. If Vaughn was the Brewers' best hope against Moyer, why wasn't he in the starting lineup so he could get three chances instead of none?
OK, so he's in a slump. What better opportunity to break out than against a pitcher who throws from the opposite side and against whom he'd had previous success? Why use him in a situation where there was at least a risk that he'd have to face a right-hander -- or nobody at all, which is how it developed?
Did Garner know something Regan didn't, such as the possibility of Vaughn being hurt? Or, was the Nilsson-Clark matchup the one he really wanted with Vaughn merely a ploy to get Moyer out of the game/match?
You probably never realized how much strategy there is in a chess match. Or how many pawns it takes to play a baseball game.