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Monday, October 15, 2012

“I DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW” - Part 1

October 15, 1988 – The late, great MLB play by play commentator Jack Buck exclaimed these words following the pinch hit, walk off homerun by 1988 National League MVP and current Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics. These are simple words. Anyone who understands English knows what they mean. Any English speaker knows that those words express disbelief.

These words were perfect for capturing the moment. Gibson did not have another at bat during the ’88 World Series. He wasn’t expected to appear at all due to a knee injury. Yet there he was, producing one of the iconic moments in baseball history. The crowd at Dodger Stadium was in disbelief out of joy. Fans of the A’s were in disbelief out of shock and disappointment. Remember that 1988 American League MVP Jose Canseco had hit a grand slam earlier in that game to put Oakland in the driver’s seat. Canseco’s Granny was an historical footnote instead of a great moment frozen in time.



DISBELIEF OF JOY

On Friday the St. Louis Cardinals pulled off the most improbable of postseason comebacks ever. I used the word “improbable” as opposed to “unbelievable”. Since September of 2011, the Cardinals have rallied from more than eight games back to snatch the Wild Card berth from the Atlanta Braves, followed by beating the Philadelphia Phillies, with baseball’s best record, in the deciding Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series, followed by being down to their final strike, twice, against the Texas Rangers in the 2011World Series – before a relatively unknown third baseman named David Freese in his second full MLB season pulled the Cards out of the fire. The Cardinals would go on to win in seven games. This was followed up in 2012 by repeating a similar albeit slightly less dramatic path to reach the 2012 NLDS against the Washington Nationals, who also possessed baseball’s best regular season record.

In the deciding Game 5, the Nationals jumped out to a 6-0 lead at home against the Cardinals after three innings. The Cards chipped in a run in the fourth, no big deal. They tacked on two in the fifth, time for Washington to bring in some relief of starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez. It is still a good lead, but the game is not over. Another run scored in the seventh inning; it is starting to become “déjà vu all over again” as Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said. Daniel Descalso, a relatively unknown second baseman in his second full MLB season, hit a solo homerun to cut it to one. It is written in the cards, pun intended.  

Bryce Harper homered in the 3rd inning of Game 5. The rout appeared to be on. 1

The Nationals answered with an insurance run in the eighth inning to extend their once insurmountable lead to 7-5. In enters relief pitcher Drew Storen. In enters the next footnote in the history of postseason Major League Baseball. Storen allowed a runner to second base, but followed the effort up by picking up a pair of easy outs. The Cardinals trail by two on the road and are down to their final out; things are lining up perfectly for…the Cardinals.

In steps Cardinals All-Star catcher Yadier Molina. Ball…strike…ball…strike…the Cardinals are down to their final strike in defense of their 2011 World Series championship. Molina walks. Last year’s World Series hero David Freese steps up and falls behind 1-2. Freese and the Cardinals are down to their last strike for the second time; they have the Nationals right where they want them. Freese walks. Descalso comes up to bat; the Cardinals travel staff may as well have begun booking their flight to San Francisco for the National League Championship Series. Descalso, in the spirit of Freese in 2011 drives in the tying runs before two more runs are driven in to put the Cardinals ahead for good. The Nationals went out with a whimper, 1-2-3, in the bottom of the 9th inning.

The Cardinals pulled off the most improbable victory, though with less shock value than would have been expected in the past. Such close calls are becoming a Cardinals trademark. Nationals reliever Drew Storen became a footnote in the historic comeback, as did the Nationals MLB best regular season record in their first playoff series, ever, since moving to Washington, D.C. from Montreal (as the Expos). A great moment in the history of baseball happened that night.

Daniel Descalso assumed the role of previously unknown hero for the Cardinals in 2012. 2

Tuesday: Disbelief of Disgust

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2) Image from www.newstribune.com

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