Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sweet Dreams Are Made of These

In early September, I was reading articles about the lack of excitement in the baseball pennant races.  Every position in the post season was practically sown up.  In the AL, it was going to be the Tigers, Rangers, Yankees and BoSox.  In the NL, we were prepared for the Phillies, Braves, Diamondbacks and Brewers.  If there was going to be any doubt about those entrants into the fall tournament, it would come from the Angels in the AL West or the Giants in the NL West.  What happened was something else altogether, and I stayed up to watch the final chapter of the 2011 regular season unfold last night, furiously flipping the pages of baseball history back and forth with my trusty remote control.

3 games, 1 TV.  ( St. Louis’ shellacking of the Astros 8-0 was fortunately not televised or my remote control batteries might have failed).  Thank goodness the flurry of late night/early morning game ending dramas didn’t occur concurrently so I would have time to change channels and witness all the action. 
I won’t replay the entire evening of baseball for you.  That’s why God invented ESPN.  Check in with any of their 25 paid baseball analysts on any one of the myriad of ESPN stations (even ESPN 8 – the Ocho – has the highlights) and you’ll find a detailed video history of what went down while most of you slept.

The final regularly scheduled day of the season began with hope and anxiety in St. Louis, Tampa, Boston, and Atlanta.  Boston and Atlanta were collapsing while Tampa and St. Louis were rising, but their respective records met in the middle and were dead even after 161 games.  4 teams, but only one from each league would qualify for the playoffs.  Losers go home.  Hope and anxiety reigned in all 4 locales, and given the last 3 weeks of baseball, who could blame them? 
Anxiety and hope were replaced with disappointment and rejoicing after 4+ hours of baseball madness, all concluding in a matter of minutes.  For a game that prides itself on not having a clock, I couldn’t stop watching the clock as my bedtime kept pushing later and later and later.  In the 11th inning of the Yankees-Rays game, I resigned myself to staying up as long as it would take to reach a verdict.  Time was something to worry about in the morning.  At that moment, time was irrelevant.  I was awake and would remain so.  I was alone, but was certain that I wasn’t alone.  It was a shared experience.

I have to write out a brief recap of what transpired (and trust me, this is the short version).  This is as much for the readers as it is for me.  I won’t be able to believe it if I don’t write it down.
  • Red Sox have a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 9th against one of the worst teams in the American League, the Baltimore Orioles.  2 outs, 2 strikes on the hitter, no one on base, and the Sox have their All-Star closer on the hill.  Sox lose 4-3 after 3 straight hits.
  • Tampa Bay Rays are losing 7-0 in the 8th inning to the Yankees.  The Rays storm back with 6 in the 8th to make it a one run game.  Bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, no one on base, 2 strikes on the hitter.  Sound familiar?  Pinch hitter drills a line drive home run to tie the game and send it into extra frames.  Rays win on walk off homer in the bottom of the 12th, minutes after the Sox choke.  (Kinda of an Aaron Boone moment, in reverse – home run causes Yankees lose which causes Red Sox to be eliminated).
  • Braves know that St. Louis has won, and must win to force a one game playoff the following day.  Leading the Phillies 3-2 in the 9th, they hand the ball to their All-Star closer.  He gives up the tying run in the 9th and the Phillies force extra innings.  Braves blow it, and lose in 13 innings, 4-3.
On this same day in baseball, the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg provided a glimmer of hope for a fan base ready to cheer a local contender here in DC.  He threw 6 scoreless innings and sprinkled in 10 Ks, a performance that reminded me to buy Opening Day tickets for 2012.  While I wrapped myself in the late night September drama of other teams last night, I went to bed wondering if next year, it would be the local team playing with purpose on September 28, 2012.

Sweet dreams. 

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