Kevin Cash’s line up for the Rays first playoff appearance since 2013 certainly had a few entries that left some of us scratching our heads. Yandy Diaz — the guy who was on the IL until like two days ago — leading off? And starting at second base, a position where the Rays have some depth (despite the unfortunate Eric Sogard injury), was Michael Brosseau — a rookie who debuted in Oakland only a few months ago. Were these really the best choices for a win-or-go-home game?
Diaz proved he was well worth the start, but Brosseau’s presence in the lineup was less fortuitous.
And yet there was poetry to Brosseau getting the call. He grew up high school teammates with the A’s starter Sean Manaea, and had made his major league debut in this very ballpark only a few months ago. It’s as if Brosseau’s entire season spun around this moment to come.
But in the end the decision was really all math, with Cash playing the handedness match up, Brosseau got the nod at second base, the remaining hole to fill after assigning out the right handed batters available.
In his announcement on the Wild Card roster, it struck me that Mike Brosseau is the epitome of a Rays player: unassuming and eager to learn, able to field any position but with expectations for results unchartable, young and fairly inexperienced but a gamer nonetheless, and now thrust into the spotlight few expected him to find.
And Brosseau was certainly in the spotlight.
Brosseau would make several impacts on the night, beginning with a nifty play in the second inning as a defender, stepping bravely into a throw to turn a much-needed double play, helping Charlie Morton escape from a jam. The moment, pictured above, could have been easily looked over on a typical the night, but in an era where infielders are (wisely) quick to bail out on slides into second base, Brosseau took the runner head on and got the out.
But there were some less happy moments, too.
On the first pitch of the following frame, in the bottom of the third inning when Brosseau had just shifted over to third base, the rookie received a tough grounder at the hot corner. He one hopped the subsequent throw to Yandy Diaz at first, and that went under his glove.
A better, or at least less rusty first baseman might have been able to scoop that throw, but it was clearly Brosseau’s error, and it allowed the runner to advance to third base, from where he scored on a sac fly the following at bat.
That could have been the end of Brosseau’s story on the night, but Kevin Cash chose to keep him in the game when he could have brought in a lefty hitter against the right handed reliever Yosmeiro Petit. At the plate earlier in the game he took too many pitches from Manaea and struck out looking. Given a second opportunity flew out to right field.
Fast forward to the seventh inning, and hard throwing lefty pitcher Luzardo was in the game as the A’s were facing down a four-run deficit, and the hitting match up was back in Brosseau’s favor, so in the game he stayed. Continuing to take pitches, Brosseau earned a walk on five pitches.
And that still wasn’t the end of Brosseau’s night. Yandy Diaz followed that walk with a single and was replaced by pinch runner Joey Wendle, which meant in the bottom of the frame Brosseau would be on the move again, this time to first base.
And the baseball found him again.
A blooper to short right no-man’s land got both Brosseau and Brandon Lowe running it down, with Brosseau reaching first but then taking a feet-first dive in an attempt to get out of Lowe’s way.
But Brosseau would not be shaken. The next batter grounded out to now-third baseman Wendle, and Brosseau was able to stretch to receive the ball for the out. Brosseau would remain in the game until his spot in the order came back up in the ninth.
These are the highs and lows of a rookie injury replacement on a playoff roster. Thankfully for Brosseau and the Rays, there were no costly defensive miscues (we are still hurting for the Brewer’s Trent Grisham, ouch). Brosseau’s ups and downs were on display nonetheless.
It’s unclear if Mike Brosseau will continue to hold a place on the Rays playoff roster. Prior to the Wild Card game, Cash noted that Sogard’s return was close to fruition, saying, “I think if we had another two days, there’s a chance he’s on the roster.” Adding Sogard would come at the expense of Brosseau, ending his moment in the sun.
If you wonder how much of Mike Brosseau’s night will be remembered, though, perhaps it will be as this: Brosseau was the first player ever to appear at first, second, and third base in the same post season game.
A footnote in the history books, but the epitome of a Ray.