Monday, October 10, 2005

Take Two

I am beside myself right now. I literally cannot believe that the Yankees pulled that one out. On a night when the Angles pitching seemed unhittable. On a night when the Angles struck first, and it seemed like a keeper. On a night, once again, when the top of the order wasn’t taking care of business.

Two hits. Two hits is all the production that came from the top six. But hell, the whole lineup – 11 guys strolled to the plate in all – managed just four. But they mattered. Well, except Jorge’s, but I’m not here to split hairs.

Part of my disbelief is due to the sixth and seventh innings, in which the Yanks left the bases loaded and runners on second and third, respectively. After the sixth I was thinking, “Oh no, here we go. Didn’t capitalize, and it’s going to bite us in the ass.” After the seventh, I was mumbling expletives under my breath.

Apparently, two important facts slipped my mind. 1) This isn’t April, despite the way this team sometimes plays. 2) Dude, it’s Mariano. And don’t give me any lip about his history with the Angles like the FOX commentators. They see numbers on a piece of paper and yelp them out as if they’ve discovered the secret to cold fusion. Intelligent fans of the team, however, can see those numbers and put them in a thousand different contexts.

We all know Mo in tight spots. We all know he was well rested and up to the task, shaky history with the Angels or not. Oh, and don’t remember his history with two-inning saves, which the commentators wouldn’t let us forget. Yes, Games Four and Five were mentioned quite often. And 2001’s Game Seven. But hey, he’s still the greatest closer in the history of the game, and I’d rather have him tossing than Tom Gordon and his 7.79 career postseason ERA.

Last night, we may have witnessed Mo at his very best. Six up, six down, and it’s not like he really sweated through these guys. Sure, there were a few full counts mixed in there, but Jorge and Mo know what they’re doing.

And how sweet was it to get Vlad for the last out of the game? I guess the only one more appropriate for the scenario is Bengie Molina, who absolutely owns us. Even last night, even as the team knew his weakness, he was still able to slap a single to center. Hopefully Moose has done a bit of studying a la his days at Stanford and knows to pitch Molina low and away, with that tender elbow and all (Molina’s, not Mussina’s).

I’m actually not fretting too much about tonight. Okay, so there’s a pile of chewed off fingernails next to me, and I counted six gray hairs when I woke up this morning. And I have a record for pressing the “backspace” button, because my hands are so jittery that I can’t type a string of correctly spelled words. But other than that, it’s really not that bad.

I’m thinking coherently, though, which is a step up from last night. I really wish I had a tape recorder for my brain last night during the game, so I could go back and reflect on the ri-goddamn-diculous thoughts racing through it. So why this sense of ease tonight compared to last night, when the stakes were the same?

It isn’t the starting pitching, because I have just as much faith in Chacon as I do Moose. But on the Angels’ side, I actually fear Lackey more than I fear Colon. Lackey is an enigma, a guy who thrives off the big situations. He came back last night with three days of rest, tossing like he hadn’t missed a beat. If I was managing Game Seven of the World Series and had a choice of any starter in the majors to go for me, Lackey certainly would be in my top seven. It took every ounce of power from the Yankees juggernaut to finally get to him.

But Colon, we can get to him. At least we know A-Rod can, and he had better. Sure, he’s drawn his share of walks and has scored a few crucial runs, but two hits all series just isn’t going to cut it. I’m not counting him out yet, not until he steps into the box against Colon.

So one team flies to Chicago tonight to play zombie-ball with the White Sox tomorrow in the ALCS. The other says their good-byes and heads into the ‘05-’06 offseason, during an era in baseball when your team stands a fair chance of being dismantled after each season.

Let’s just hope the Angles don’t board a flight tonight.