In most journeys, it isn’t the end that brings the most joy — it’s the road traveled that brings the excitement. In the case of Major League Baseball though, the tail end is what justifies the long, long journey.
The regular season is boring to most. I get it, 162 games is way too long of a season. I mean the season started in March this year and we are now in October, seven months have passed. But, just look back at this week in baseball and tell me that the way the first round of the playoffs ended was not worth the wait.
To get the blood flowing, the Yankees, I mean Raul Ibanez, provided one of those games that will live in postseason lore. Ibanez became the first player ever to hit two home runs in a postseason game that he did not start. The first came in the ninth inning after the decision by manager Joe Giradi to pinch-hit Ibanez for the struggling Alex Rodriguez. The second, which put Game 3 to rest, sailed into the second level in the 12th inning — magical.That same night, out in Oakland, the Athletics were clinging to a season that had already written a better script than the one Brad Pitt signed up for.
Trailing by three runs with their season on the line, they managed to beat Jose Valverde for three runs and come out on top of the Tigers 4-3. The deciding RBI came off the bat of Coco Crisp with two outs in the ninth, forcing a Game 5. Although Justin Verlander would shut the A’s down the next night, throwing 122 pitches in a four-hit shutout, this type of excitement is what makes the grueling days in June and July worth our attention.
Moving on, three other games Thursday had their audiences of the edges of their seats. The Orioles, another fairy-tale story of this season, pushed their series to Game 5 after a J.J. Hardy double in the 13th. The Giants finished their comeback from down 2-0 in Cincinnati, as Sergio Romo struck out Scott Rolen for the final out in the ninth with runners on first and second in a 6-4 game.
Then, there were the Nationals, who won the first postseason game in the franchise’s history in Washington when Jayson Werth topped off an at-bat on lucky pitch number 13 as he sent a ball screaming over the outfield fence. You think baseball’s still boring? Want more proof that it’s not?
Friday, Oct. 12.
Girardi decides to pull Rodriguez for the entirety of Game 5 and the decision does not come back to haunt him as the Yankees ride C.C. Sabathia for nine innings into the ALCS, defeating the Orioles 3-1, another low-scoring pitching duel that this series was been all about.
Even better that night were the Cardiac Cardinals. They pulled out every stop last year, staring their final out in the face several times before eventually winning the World Series. This year is no different despite losing Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa from last year’s championship squad.
St. Louis’ finest went down 6-0 at one point in this game, but in the ninth the deficit was only two runs. Yeah, only two runs no big deal, with two outs and the bases loaded.
Step to the plate David Descalso. Result: two-run single to tie the game. Aftermath: Descalso manages to steal second base.
Step to the plate Pete Kozma. Result: two-run single to take the lead and ultimately win the game 9-7. Aftermath: dancing all the way to the NLCS.
Baseball gets boring during the course of the season, I know, I hear you. The regular season’s too long, it spans too many months, and it needs more excitement. Those are all valid points that are shared views by many sports fans.
But, the solution is not to forcibly install Hollywood theatrics. It’s much simpler than that. Just wait for the playoffs, and the magic will create itself. In this case, the ending is worth the journey, no matter how long it took.