The Mattingly Below

On board the USS Dodgers (SSN-1988), somewhere lost at sea...
It's a Los Angeles Class attack submarine, obviously.
"Ducks are on the pond! Repeat, ducks are on the pond! Captain to the bridge!"

The siren sounded and the crew scurried. Another battle was underway in a season-long war. A game was on the line and decisions had to be made.

Captain Donald Arthur Mattingly strolled onto the bridge. The periscope crept down and the Skipper leaned forward for a view of the situation.

Captain Don Mattingly, USS Dodgers (SSN-1988)
Dodgers / Jon SooHoo

"How many outs are there, Mr. Hillman?" Don Mattingly asked.

"No outs in the bottom of the third, sir! Runners standing by on first and second!"

Mattingly took off his blue cap and ran his fingers through his hair. He ran the numbers through his head and reached an unavoidable conclusion.

"Rig the boat for silent running. Prepare to engage the bunt. Bring those ducks home."

"Silent running, aye sir! Preparing to bunt!"

A.J. Ellis squared around to execute his order on the battlefield. First pitch was high, 1-0.

"Shall we start the runners, sir?"

"No running, bunt again!" Mattingly ordered.

The second pitch was a little inside and fouled off. 1-1. Third pitch was low and away for ball two.

"Shall we load torpedoes and swing away sir?"

"Damn the torpedoes! Bunt!" Mattingly insisted.

The runners stayed motionless as Ellis finally laid down a bunt. The ball bounced weakly back to the pitcher, who turned around and fired a missile at the shortstop to get the force at second.

"Runners at the corners, sir, one out."

"Hillman, the sac fly, man, hurry! It's our only chance!"

"Fly! Fly! Fly!"

"After the next batter, make your depth 500 feet."

"Dive! Dive! Dive!"

The skirmish ended quietly with a pair of misfired pop-ups from crewmembers Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. The entire boat was disappointed, but it was still early in the battle and there would be other chances.

"Damage report!"

"No damage, sir. Only one casualty to report. Another pulled hamstring."

USS Dodgers crewmembers gather in the lower decks, wondering what the hell is going on.
Dodgers / JonSooHoo

It was all tied up at the beginning of the 7th inning. Matt Magill was pitching. This was his first tour of duty and he was over 100 pitches. He was beginning to get tired.

The rookie created a small leak when he walked the first batter of the inning. That leak led to minor flooding when he walked the second batter. It was time for him to get out of that compartment and seal the hatch!

"We're taking on water. Leave Magill in and get me Matt Guerrier!"

"But, sir. We have other ---"

"Dammit man," Mattingly interrupted, "call down to damage control and get Guerrier ready now!"

"Aye, sir!"

"Pitchouts and pickoffs, now! All the counter-measures you can muster, mister!"

"Aye, sir!"

The rookie was slowly drowning, but was still ordered to stall for time. He threw the ball to first. He threw to second. He had a visit with the catcher on the mound. He walked another batter.

"No effect, Captain, we're still taking on water!"

The bases were loaded and the rookie was almost out of air. One by one, the crew turned to look at their Skipper, who stood silent perched at the edge of the bridge. He stepped forward.

"You and you," he pointed at two crewmembers. "Switch places."

"You, you and you," he motioned at three others. "Go here, there and there."

"You two in the dugout," he waved back. "Take right and left."

Mattingly pointed to Juan Uribe at third base. "Juan, you're done. Get out, Luis Cruz is coming in for you and he'll bat cleanup."

"And I almost forgot. Damage control, send in Guerrier! Full speed ahead!"

Tied and ready to take on more runs, the USS Dodgers bravely fought on with Guerrier holding back those runs as best he could.
Relief pitching a la Matt Guerrier
Dodgers / Jon SooHoo
It didn't work. He instead worked himself into a 2-0 hole and was forced to throw a fastball for a strike. That fastball barely made it down the heart of the plate before it was bounced off the center field wall for a double. The Dodgers went down by three runs.

Perplexed by the discouraging turn of events, Mattingly resumed his quiet stance at the front of the dugout. He was running out of time to think six or seven steps ahead.

"What happened to the rookie?" he finally thought to ask.

Hillman looked up and paused before he quietly announced "Magill didn't make it. Had to seal the hatch behind him."

"Baseball is hell."
Matt Magill was a Mattingly casualty.
Dodgers / Jon SooHoo
The crew was mostly silent for the next couple of innings. The bottom of the 9th rolled around, the Dodgers were still down and Nick Punto led off with an infield single.

"Sir, Nick Punto has successfully led off the inning with a hit. What are your orders?"

"None at this time. Please note on the ship's log that Punto violated the basic code of baseball conduct by sliding into first," Mattingly replied.

Ethier and Kemp took their turns popping out. Cruz then somehow worked a 3-0 count. Mattingly removed a key from a chain around his neck. He inserted it into a control panel and turned it sharply to the right.

"On my authority, I give Cruz the green light," he said stoically.

"Aye sir, on your authority, Cruz has the green light!"

Cruz swung at ball four but, luckily, he fouled it off behind the plate. He took the next pitch and was rewarded with a walk. The experienced Skipper knew exactly what to do next.

"Flash override, Kershaw in to pinch run. Now!"

"But, sir, Kershaw is our --- "

"You're relieved, Mr. Hillman. Kershaw, in for Cruz, now!"

Kershaw grabbed a jacket and scrambled to first. Jerry Hairston dug in at the plate and prepared to swing away, like he always does. But instead of a lazy fly ball to the outfield, he sent a dribbler down the third base line.

The ball stayed fair. It was barehanded and fired over to second to try and end the game with a force out. Kershaw slid hard and broke up the play. He was safe, but he broke his ankle and was left wincing in pain on the field.

The crew immediately started calling for a medic, but Mattingly overruled them. Kershaw stayed in.

"It's too dangerous out there right now, we can't send anybody to get him," Mattingly concluded.

The Dodgers are down by three runs, the bases are loaded and there are two outs in the bottom of the 9th. The Skipper has only one shot to save his crew. Yasiel Puig is due up.

Puig looked at Kershaw, who was taking a small lead at second, in agony, on one foot. He drew a cross in the dirt with his bat and checked in.

The first pitch was in slow motion. Puig watched it for a full minute as it spun around and crawled toward home, belt-high. He extended his hands and guided the barrel of the bat over the heart of the plate.

Dodgers / Jon SooHoo
The bat whacked the ball, turning it into a stiched pancake for a split second at the contact point. The ball soared into the Southern California night and landed somewhere in a Southern California parking lot.

Here comes Punto, here comes Kershaw, here comes Hairston, here comes Puig and the Dodgers win it!

Puig is mobbed at home plate and thrown to the ground in a tussle of arms, legs and happy faces. Kershaw manages to hobble out before any more damage could be done. A relieved Mattingly strolled onto the field to help him off.

"Tough break kid, but we won the game," he said to Kershaw.

"But the rookie," Kershaw stammered. "And my ankle --"

"Yeah, I know kid. Baseball is hell, sometimes."

"Yeah, Donnie Baseball is hell."


Sidebar: "The Enemy Below" is an outstanding movie about wartime,
naval tactics and leadership. James Gandolfini referred to it at the beginning
of "Crimson Tide" and it was also the inspiration for the legendary
Star Trek episode "The Balance of Terror."


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