Monday, October 14, 2013

One Pitch

Day seven of the most miserable weather in Short Pump, Virginia in recent memory happens to be Columbus Day. That means that the banks are closed, the mail doesn’t run, and the government is shutdown. No, wait, the government is already shut down. Does that mean that when it reopens, the union will demand an additional day off as compensation for missing one of their nine paid holidays?

The only thing that redeemed this past weekend was last night’s baseball game between The Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox. I watched the game, I saw what happened, and I still can’t believe it. Through the first 16 innings of this series the Tigers pitching staff had made the Red Sox look like an American Legion team. Between Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer, 30 Red Sox hitters had struck out. I can’t remember a more dominating pitching performance in the post season. Down 5-1 in the eighth inning after losing game one, the Sox were on the verge of being swept in their own ball park and looking awfully bad doing it. But there I was watching the Sox somehow load the bases. Tiger manager Jim Leyland then brings his fourth pitcher of the inning in from the bullpen, while David Ortiz strides to the plate looking bored, almost disinterested in the proceedings. Fenway was rocking, the fans were going wild, but Big Papi looks like a man who would rather be back in the clubhouse watching Breaking Bad. Reliever Joaquin Benoit decided to throw Ortiz a changeup on the first pitch, and when the ball ended up in the mitt of the Boston bullpen catcher, Fenway Park was transformed into a madhouse. Big Papi, as he’s done 15 times in the post season, rounded the bases slowly, zero emotion registering on his face, while his teammates jumped up and down like a Little League team after beating the Taiwanese. One inning later, The Sox win on a walk off single by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who no one will remember twenty years from now. This night was about Big Papi and the magic of one swing, a grand slam home run that brought Boston back from the dead.

Yes, I know that most of America was watching the Cowboys and the Redskins playing a meaningless football game. Yes, I get it that baseball is a shell of its former self, that it has fallen far behind football and maybe even basketball in the imaginations of American sports fans. But for me, nothing in sports can match the sheer emotional drama of one pitcher and one batter going toe to toe with the game on the line. It is ironic that in this most emphatically team sport, the issue so often comes down to an individual match up, the balance of a game, even a season comes down to one pitch, an ill-advised changeup launched into the night by the most clutch hitter in Red Sox history.

God bless baseball.