I’m always a sucker for “ballplayer gets lost in the wilderness for years but then comes back all the wiser for his experiences” stories. Today Geoff Baker has a version of that one involving former Brewers’ prospect Tom Wilhelmsen, who is now a Mariners’ minor leaguer.
Wilhelmsen is no Josh Hamilton case, but he partied a bit too hard after he got his signing bonus back in 2002, got burnt out on baseball, wandered the Earth and then wound up tending bar in Tucson, Arizona. Including doing so this past offseason because, hey, even a ballplayer has to pay the bills.
Most guys who follow that path have several decades more of tending bar and telling the regulars about what pro ball was all about. There are far worse fates than that — bartenders I know are a generally happy lot –and Wilhelmsen may still end up there, but for now he’s trying consolidate the gains he made after his improbably comeback win the Mariners’ system.
With his Astros trailing the Tigers 2-1, catcher Robinson Chirinos began his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth a triple shy of the cycle. He doubled in the second inning, singled in the fourth, and hit a solo homer in the seventh. Yordan Álvarez and Yuli Gurriel both struck out, leaving the Astros’ fate in the hands of Chirinos against Joe Jiménez. After working the count to 2-1, Chirinos slapped an 85 MPH slider to the gap in right-center field. A diving Travis Demeritte could not come up with the ball, but center fielder Harold Castro fired the ball back in to Gordon Beckham, who then made a perfect throw to Dawel Lugo at third base. Chirinos was tagged out for the final out of the game. No triple, no cycle. The Astros lost 2-1.
Chirinos was attempting to become the first Astro to hit for the cycle since Brandon Barnes on July 19, 2013 against the Mariners.
The Astros entered Wednesday’s game as the largest favorite in 15 seasons, according to ESPN’s David Purdum. The Astros were -500 per Caesars Sportsbook. Other sportsbooks had them at -550. So the Tigers’ win was quite the upset.
Justin Verlander went the distance in the loss. The only blemishes on his line were solo homers to Ronny Rodríguez in the fifth and John Hicks in the ninth. They were the only hits he allowed while walking none and striking out 11.