Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just When I Think I'm Out...

I just wrote about baseball on Friday, but with the playoffs going on it's taking up pretty much all of my attention, so as long as the Angels are still in it, expect to read about it here. Before I was focusing on the thrill of a big win in a playoff game, and just generally feeling very confident. Well, then the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees started, and the Angels promptly took a dump on my hopes and dreams. Playing in the cold and wet of October on the East Coast, they looked terrible in Game 1 on Friday, losing 4-1, and only marginally better the next night. But what really made Game 2 tough was the excruciating way in which they lost. After battling back from a 2-0 deficit and forcing extra innings, the Angels finally took a 3-2 lead in the 11th, needing to get only three more outs to come back here to Orange County--wait, so they don't play in LA, you say? Shut up, I respond--tied at one game apiece. Instead, the first batter in the bottom of the inning hit a homerun to tie the game, and the Yankees went on to win in thirteen innings, and I immediately went out and clubbed some baby seals to cope.

Needless to say, I was a bit disheartened heading into yesterday's Game 3, knowing that a loss would essentially end the season (it's a best-of-seven series, but almost no one comes back from 3-0), when they were so close to tying the series. And this game didn't start well either, with the Yankees getting on base, hitting solo homeruns seemingly at will, and the Angels failing to get anything going against the Yankees starter, Andy Pettitte. But then something funny started happening: the Angels started hitting. After Howie Kendrick hit a solo homerun to cut the lead to 3-1 in the 5th, diminished power threat Vladimir Guerrero came up with a runner on and two outs in the 6th, representing the tying run. And wouldn't you know it, he hit it out! Suddenly the Angels had new life, and I started believing again. The next inning Kendrick hit a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly, giving the Angels a 4-3 lead. They just might win this thing! Of course, the Yankees promptly tied it with their fourth solo shot of the day, and next thing I knew we were headed for another extra inning game.

In the bottom of the 10th, backup catcher Jeff Mathis came to the plate, and I sighed exasperatedly. He's a great defensive catcher, but can't hit worth a damn, and I figured he was an automatic out. In fact, on Saturday night I spent a fair amount of time arguing about how bad he is with someone at my friend's house where I was watching the game. She defended him vigorously, but I stuck to my guns. Could there be any doubt, then, that he would hit a double to lead off the 10th yesterday? The Angels ultimately wasted a bases loaded opportunity to win the game, and I immediately went into sulk mode, assuming the Yankees would score, go on to win, and the Angels would be swept out of the series after two consecutive heartbreakers. But somehow the Yankees came and went in the 11th, and with two out in the bottom of the inning, Kendrick (easily the Angels' most important player in this game) came up and hit a single. Mathis strolled to the plate, and I found myself in the strange position of believing in him after all the team's best hitters had been failing. Seconds later he hit almost the same exact pitch to the same exact spot out in left field, Kendrick raced around from first base to score the winning run, then leapt into the air in celebration just as Mathis was rounding second. The Angels poured out of the dugout, I jumped up and down in front of the TV, my dachshund did his dachshund sitting up trick in reaction to my jubilation, and there was much rejoicing.

And now I'm hanging on every pitch again, knowing that the Angels have a chance to win this thing. The odds are stacked greatly against them, needing to win three of the next four, but they're much better off than if they had lost yesterday. And if this season offers me no more good days, I will at least have the crazy batshit happiness of that image of Kendrick in the air with Mathis in the background. Caring so much about this may be irrational, but some things don't have to make sense.

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