Thursday, October 31, 2013

Coronation at Fenway: The Stumbling of a Prodigy and the Culmination of a Comeback

Matt Carpenter swung free at Koji Uehara's last offering. In a way, the game was already over. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Boston Red Sox led by five runs. Uehara had been nearly unhittable for the better part of the year. Perhaps in the back of Carpenter's mind, his at bat was merely delaying the inevitable. The eighty-one miles per hour slider was beyond his grasp. As the baseball halted within the glove of David Ross, it was all over. The St. Louis Cardinals, for all of their stellar young pitching and clutch hitting, had been felled by the better team.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Of Pins and Needles: Dueling Aces and the Last Night in St. Louis

David Ross was out at the plate. Yadier Molina had caught a near perfect throw from outfielder Shane Robinson to apply the tag in time. The out ended the top of the seventh inning. It ended the Boston rally that gave them a two run lead late in the crucial game five, and it ended the night for St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright. What the back pages will see is the three runs he allowed, Wainwright's performance Monday night was nothing short of masterful. But as he rested in the dugout, his team could not reciprocate his efforts.  Wainwright's counterpart, Red Sox stalwart Jon Lester, had been nearly his equal. Lester had given up only one run and punched only seven strikeouts, but in the end it was deemed plenty by the Red Sox offense.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Sleight of Hand: The Home Run, the Pickoff, and Another Enigmatic Ending

In an instant, game four was over. First baseman Mike Napoli showed his glove to the nearest umpire, then raised it in victory. Koji Uehara had picked-off pinch runner Kolten Wong to seal the win for Boston. At the plate, with the tying run on, was Carlos Beltran. There would be no clutch two-run home run from an October legend, only stunned silenced. For the second straight night, a World Series game ended in a way none had in history. Despite the history of the moment, the defining image from this game likely will not be Uehara's quick-thinking toss to first, but the home run that put the Red Sox up for good.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Immaculate Obstruction: A Game for the Ages and the Twelve Seconds of Infamy

When Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught the ball for the last time Saturday night, the game was tied. He applied the tag before the baserunner touched home plate. For a moment, there was confusion. Four seconds before Allen Craig was tagged out at the plate, he tripped over Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who had attempted to make a play to send the game to extra innings. Whether intentional or not, Middlebrooks was called for obstruction, as he was in the path of Craig. For the second straight game, fate turned in favor of the Cardinals on an errant throw from home to third. But while the obstruction itself will be over-analyzed for years to come, how game three even required a moment  is equally bizarre

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Simple Twise of Fate: A Fleeting Lapse in Judgment and the Sea Change of Red October

As the ball jostled in Jarrod Saltalamacchia's glove, he withdrew his attempt at picking off the runner stealing second base. It was a double steal. Jon Jay took second and Pete Kozma took third. In an instant, the double-play chance was gone. Kozma darted home following a Matt Carpenter sacrifice fly to left. Johnny Gomes made the catch and threw a dart toward home plate. Saltalamacchia lunged for the ball, with hope he could swing around and tag the sliding Kozma. The ball dribbled away. Pitcher Craig Breslow fielded the ball and whipped it to third as Jay was sliding. The throw was out of shortstop Stephen Drew's reach and sailed into the crowd. With two out in the seventh inning, Jay took home on Breslow's error. The St. Louis Cardinals now had a lead to which they would not relent, and wiped away the drubbing of game one.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Margin of Error: The St. Louis Amateur Hour and the Gift of Another Day

As the ball rested lifeless near their feet, pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina rested their hands on their knees in anguish. It was the easiest of outs, but mis-communication allowed the ball to plop dead between the battery. The Boston lead would grow in that inning from an unpleasant three runs to a daunting five. Before the night was through, the Cardinals would trail by as many as eight runs. The fall classic had begun in the form of a landslide for the home team. But while the Cardinals may have been beaten in an overwhelming fashion in game one, they still possess baseball's greatest gift- tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Rites of Autumn: The Boston Red Sox, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the 2013 World Series

The proverbial dust has settled. Baseball was never meant to be a sprint, but an agonizing marathon of struggle and resiliency. As the daylight wanes, so goes the relevancy of baseball teams. What remains is two. Boston and St. Louis, the champions of the American and National Leagues, will now play deep into the frigid cavern of late October. Alone in the gradually impatient nightfall of Autumn, only the best remain in a way that is almost unprecedented in recent years. For the first time since 1999, the top regular-season teams in each league have made the game's greatest stage. While it may be seen as the prevailing of the status quo, the 2013 World Series can also be viewed as a throwback to a time long before this writer was alive. In a game so hellbent on respecting the history of generations past, the current versions of the Red Sox and Cardinals represent their respective histories in a remarkably serendipitous fashion.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ten Years in Purgatory: Blame, Heartache and the Consequence of Presumption

If you ask a Cubs fan to recall October 14, 2003, the immediate reaction is always a look away, a head shake, and a deep sigh. I was two months away from seventeen years of age that night. Now as I near twenty-seven, the wounds are long past the point of divine healing. Five outs from glory, five outs from breaking the "curse," the Cubs fell apart in a way that could not be replicated if anyone was sick enough to try.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Take This To Your Grave: Max Scherzer, David Ortiz, and the Death of the Foregone Conclusion

Whenever the baseball rolls kind to one, it rolls cruel to another. In a moment, everything can change. As Detroit steamrolled toward a dominant victory and two game lead in the American League Championship Series, fate intervened. Despite allowing only one hit in the first fourteen innings of the series, a splinter in the Tigers' armor was found and exploited. In an instant, the tide moved in a sea change as a Boston legend perhaps sealed his legacy more than he ever had before tonight.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fate is Just a Red Herring: The Best Divisional Round Ever and Finding Beauty in the Inevitability of the Status Quo

The underdog is a fickle beast. Though strides from irrelevance to infamy will create hallowed legends for a franchise, seldom is the winner of this sort. Conventional reasoning will say that through proper management, those quirky exceptions will someday become standards of success, but for now they are relegated to the mire of thanking fans for their support that year. Detroit, Boston, St. Louis, and Los Angeles were supposed to be here. Be it via high payroll, player development, a winning culture, or all of the above, the finest teams now sit atop the baseball mountain. While many will find fault in the lack of an underdog legend team to cheer for, what awaits those close to the heart of the game is baseball at its highest level.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

For One Night Only, pt. 2: The End of Ohio and the Art of Hesitation

Sunday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Rays played a must-win game in Toronto. Monday night, they played another must-win in Arlington. Wednesday, the Rays played yet one more in Cleveland. Even for a team accustomed to late-season pressure, the idea of winning three straight road games against increasingly tougher opponents seemed a bit daunting. Yet by the end of the night, they had won all three, and booked a date with the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series on Friday night.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

For One Night Only, pt. 1: The Steel City Blackout and the Forsaking of the Cincinnati Reds

It ended as it had begun- loud. The more than forty-thousand in attendance at PNC Park would not relent their cries from first pitch to the final out. It had been twenty-one years since the Pittsburgh Pirates won a playoff game. On the arm of a journeyman with a seemingly-possessed slider, the packed house on the Allegheny River, nearly all clad in black, set the stage for a moment more than two decades in the making. The drama never climaxed past the fourth inning, but in the end the game had presented itself as another brilliantly crafted page of prose in an already classic tale of redemption.

Carpe Noctem: The Geoff Blum Story

A baseball season can seem so long that a single plate appearance can seem largely insignificant. As summer's long days turn cold and th...