A lot happened in tonight’s game. Jarred Cosart left the game after one inning with an inflamed elbow. Madison Bumgarner managed not to start any fights despite giving up five runs. Hunter Renfroe hit is first big league homer, and Manuel Margot picked up his first hit. Dodger fans reportedly chanted “Lets Go Padres” at Chavez Ravine, and Kevin Quackenbush collapsed in extra innings. It was a pretty exciting, if ultimately disappointing game. But unless you’re a fan of a team in the National League wild card race, it’s not a match that truly mattered.
Tonight, as fans, and as human beings, was about something bigger than baseball. When some fan decades from now is digging through box scores researching the 2016 playoff race, they’ll see a line in the seventh inning. “Pinch hitter Yangervis Solarte replaces Carlos Villanueva.” It’s perfectly normal, rational, everyday substitution that wouldn’t make anyone bat an eye. But what the box score won’t tell you is that a week ago, his wife Yuliette passed away. Baseball Reference won’t make note of the standing ovation Solarte received on his return.
The records will note that he took two balls before hitting a line drive into left field for a single. That hit will be filed alongside the other forty thousand major league hits this season. That number will join the annals of the great book of baseball. But it’s just a number. It won’t tell you that when he reached first base, he pointed skyward before celebrating with his signature clap (as teammate Adam Rosales did in his absence).
Baseball is a game of numbers, perhaps more than any other major professional sport. We focus on averages and velocities and launch angles, develop complex mathematical models to determine if a player is worthy of praise or scorn. But there are no numbers to describe the empathy and compassion in Petco Park on Saturday night, no model that explains the trio of standing ovations for a middling third baseman on a fourth place team.
The Padres lost to the Giants in 10 innings on Saturday, September 24, 2016. The score was 9-6. Kevin Quackenbush took the loss. Will Smith received the win, and Sergio Romo recorded the save. And none of that matters. Yangervis Solarte is back in San Diego, and San Diego was there to welcome him with open arms.