Thursday, October 26, 2017

They Don't Call It the 'Fall Classic' for Nothin'!

When the Indians were eliminated in the American League Divisional Series, I thought I was all done watching Major League Baseball in 2017.  I was heartbroken, depressed, lost -- I had cleared my entire October for the postseason, telling anyone who wanted to hang out that it was "baseball dependent."  When my team was out of it early, I was crushed -- what was I going to do with my October 2017 now?

On the day of Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, Houston Astros vs New York Yankees, I wore Cleveland Indians gear and spent that evening watching a documentary called Drag Becomes Him about one of my favorite RuPaul's Drag Race winners, Jinkx Moonsoon.  The postseason was dead to me -- I was reconnecting with other things that bring me joy.

But as much as I didn't want to care what was happening in the ALCS (and the NLCS, a rematch from the year before of Dodgers vs Cubs), around Game 3, I found myself checking the scores, feeling especially gleeful when the Yankees were coming up losers.  I also felt vindicated that the Yankees hung tough against that nasty Astros team, proving that the Indians had lost to a worthy adversary in the first round of the playoffs.  By the time the Dodgers had clinched the NL title, the Astros and the Yankees were still in the throes of battle, eventually leading to a do-or-die Game 7.  I remember thinking, the Yankees have got to be exhausted.  They'd played the maximum number of games in each round of the playoffs so far (granted one of those rounds was a one game series), while the Astros had won the West, therefore skipping Round 1, and had beat the Red Sox in four games instead of going the full five.  Maybe that mattered and maybe it didn't -- in these situations, it comes down to the pitching and how fierce the starting rotation is and how banged up the bullpen is.  I wanted to tune in for that Game 7, my heart beating for the Astros, but was once again denied by my "MLB TV Postseason Package" (that allowed viewers to watch.....none of the American League games?  So totally confusing and misleading).  So, fine.  I just kept and eye on the score.  And when the Astros emerged triumphant, I was suddenly ready for more postseason baseball.

Tuesday was Game 1 of the World Series, played in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium in front of an extremely loud home crowd.  As Indians radio announcer Tom Hamilton likes to say in these situations, "I don't think anyone's even taken a seat for one minute of this game."  I tuned in right before the first pitch, sure I'd watch maybe four or five innings and go to bed.  I was exhausted, after all, and what did I care about who won?  My thought was I'd just take in a bit of the action and check the score in the morning.


Game 1 was insane.  It moved at racehorse speed (the whole thing was over and done in like two and a half hours) and proved to be an epic pitchers' duel between Clayton Kershaw vs Dallas Keuchel, backed up by some crazy defense.  The Astros turned three inning ending double plays in the first five innings!  Both teams depended on the long ball in this one, the difference in the game being that Kershaw gave up just one while Keuchel gave up two, leaving the Dodgers Game 1 winners with a final score of 3-1.  It was true fun to watch and I could barely believe it was over so quickly.  Without knowing a ton about either team, Game 1 showed me that both the Astros and the Dodgers came to throw down and they were matching each other nearly blow for blow -- this was going to be a great series.

Then along came Game 2.  Holy.  Schmoly.  I missed the first few innings, so by the time I tuned it, the Astros were leading the way with a score of 1-0.  They had scored the old fashioned way -- small ball, it's sometimes called -- you know, get runners on base and move them towards home plate with base hits and such.  I dunno, as great as home runs are, there is something extra beautiful about keeping the ball in the park and using wit and gumption to rack up runs.  But, well, at the end of the day it doesn't really matter how those runs were scored, just as long as your team ends with at least one more than the other team.  

This was a lesson the Astros and the Dodgers were savage about learning last night.

At first, it seemed like it was going to be a near-carbon copy of the night before when the Dodgers hit a homer to tie the score at 1-1 and then hit another homer to boost their lead to 3-1.  Again, it was the sixth inning and the score was identical to the night before.  Spooky.

But the Astros would not agree to go quietly into the night, allowing the Dodgers to maintain their "undefeated at home during the postseason" record, licking their wounds like Dodger outfielder Yasiel Puig licks his bat after fouling one off (you heard me).  So here's what happened:  utter chaos.

The 'Stros hit solo homers in the 8th and 9th inning to send the game into extras.  In the top of the 10th, the away team tacked on two runs with back to back homers before a single out was recorded.  It looked like a surefire Astros come from behind win.  But, no.  We head to the bottom of the 10th when the Dodgers respond with two runs of their own, one by way of the long ball and one by a good ol' single bringin' a guy across home.  On to the 11th.  Once again, the Astros go hard and clock another homer, this one good for two runs, but, still -- there's more.  Onto the bottom of the 11th, the Dodgers tack on yet another home run, bringing the score to 7-6 and the frantic still standing, still screaming fans to a froth.  With two outs recorded and nobody on base, up steps the before-mentioned bat-licker (and general character -- he's got a blue mohawk, a plethora of tattoos, and one mean ass stank face -- not to mention incredible passion -- he missed a probably impossible to catch ball and threw his glove down in such disgust that it made me say out loud, "Buddy, it's OK -- no one could have caught that -- you're doing just fine...") Yasiel Puig.  Puig was facing the fifth Astros pitcher of the night, Chris Devenski.  This guy Puig?  He was not ready to go home unless it was on the back of a Dodgers win.

It was an epic nine pitch at-bat:  two called strikes and then a foul off before three straight balls, bringing the count to the dreaded 3-2. Puig fouled off two more pitches before ending the game when he struck out swinging.  As I watched that final strike be called, I thought to myself, games like this one are good for the sport.  Both Game 1 and Game 2 fit this bill, but Game 2 was a great example of the game isn't over until the last out is called.  And while that sounds like dumb common sense, it's really not.  It can be so easy to give up -- or to think the game is locked up -- when the next pitch can prove otherwise in a hurry.  You'd think scoring two runs in an extra inning situation would be a sure thing -- it's hard to score runs and when it's late in the game like that, tacking on two should do it.  But, nope.  Asked and answered.  If you can score two, so can we.  All the way through until that crazy final at-bat.

Astros, I think I'm ready to come out in support of you this World Series.  Maybe it's because you're American League brethren or maybe it's because you were the force that eliminated the Evil Empire this postseason...  Maybe it's because Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are so fun to watch in a similar vein to Frankie Lindor and Jose Ramirez -- two sets of double play-turning middle infielders with wicked batting skills to boot.  Maybe it's because every time I see this guy, I recoil and say out loud, "WHY IS THERE A MUPPET ON THE DODGERS?"

I don't care what this makes me sound like -- I want to give Justin Turner a haircut so bad.  This look is...overstimulating.  Shudder.

But anyway...

Clearly, both of these teams are fierce competition and I, for one, hope this World Series goes another full seven games, just like last year.  It'll certainly be fun to watch.  And if it can't be my beloved Cleveland Indians in this fall classic, at least it's two teams that are well matched and capable of anything.  I'm kinda sad they've got tonight off -- but I'm sure they're all happy to have a little bit of time to recover from that whopping four and a half hour long game.  Friday they'll be back in action in Houston where the Astros can also boast an undefeated postseason at home.  Will that continue or will the Dodgers take their revenge?  Man, I don't know and I don't really care, but I also can't wait to find out!

Baseball, my love, it's great to be back hangin' out with you for a few more games this 2017 season.  I still believe my favorite part of this World Series is every time they show the Steal a Base/Steal a Taco commercial featuring Frankie Lindor from the 2016 World Series, but watching the Astros and the Dodgers play some great baseball is also pretty cool.

Originally posted in the Inspired in 2017 blog on October 26, 2017.

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