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One That Got Away

If Democratic success in this year's elections hinges on closing out a lead and not choking in the clutch, then last night's 47th annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game was not a good omen.

To set the scene: After a five-run outburst in the bottom of the sixth, the GOP took a seemingly insurmountable 8-4 lead into the top of the seventh and final inning. But luckily for the Democrats, the Republicans sent Nevada Senator John Ensign to the mound. Ensign is apparently even worse at pitching than he is at fundraising. After four walks (!) and an infield single, Democrats had cut the lead to 8-6 and the GOP sent its starting pitcher, Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, back into the game. Shimkus quickly notched two strikeouts, bringing the Democrats down to their last out. But then Rep. Joe Baca of California blooped a two-run single to right to tie it up, and as the chant of "Yes We Can" echoed among the Democratic partisans in the crowd, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington grounded a seeing-eye single into center field to score two more, for a 10-8 Democratic lead.

But Republicans rallied off of the Democratic relief pitcher, Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, in the bottom of the seventh, quickly loading the bases (thanks in part to a failed, illegal Democratic attempt at the hidden ball trick). The Dems then sent their starting pitcher, Baca, back into the game. After a wild pitch, a popout, and an intentional walk, Democrats clung to a 10-9 lead with one out. Baca (a former semi-pro shortstop who, at 61, turned in a very impressive performance) then got Rep. Connie Mack IV of Florida (who was, appropriately, sporting a Philadelphia Athletics jersey) to hit a weak comebacker. Baca threw home for the second out, and the Democratic catcher, Rep. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, had plenty of time to throw to first to complete the game-ending double play. But Murphy's throw sailed into right field; the tying run scored easily and speedy pinch-runner Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida raced home ahead of the relay with the winning run for the GOP. Republicans 11, Democrats 10--and the Dems still haven't won since 2000. Not quite change we can believe in.

--Josh Patashnik 

*National Journal photo from 2007 game