Monday, October 25, 2004

World Series - Games 1 & 2

Red Sox 11, Cardinals 9
Red Sox 6, Cardinals 2
Red Sox lead, 2-0

So this is how idiots win postseason games - by completely and utterly ignoring their mistakes and blithely sticking to their game plan. Nearly any other Sox club in my lifetime - hell, nearly any other baseball club in my lifetime - would have absolutely imploded under the weight of 8 errors in 2 games. Especially against a very, very good (and fundamentally solid) Cardinal squad.

Instead, I didn't even see any of these Red Sox bat an eye, or hang a head, even in the wake of some colossal blunders (See, for example, Manny Ramirez' stunningly uncoordinated attempt at sliding to catch a relatively simple fly ball in Game 1. He left a divot the size of a Volkswagen.). They just kept hitting, and kept pitching until they got to the end of the game and had more runs than their opponents. It's a simple game, baseball. You hit the ball (Bellhorn, Ortiz, Varitek, Cabrera), you throw the ball (Timlin, Embree, Foulke, Schilling), you catch the ball (okay, 2 out of 3 ain't bad). But the point remains, the Sox are simply playing baseball. No muss. No fuss. No stress (except for their fans). As Johnny Damon notes in today's Washington Post, they simply refuse to think about things - they just play on instinct, and guts. Pretty damn good recipe for success.

The Cardinals really must be scratching their heads this morning. They didn't play terrific baseball, but they did rally from down 7-2 in Game 1, and did have lots of chances - mostly thanks to the Sox' fielders - to score the go-ahead run, but every time the Sox needed to make a play, they did. Then, after dodging a bullet in the first game, the Sox leaned once more on Curt Schilling and his Roy Hobbsian ankle. If you're St. Louis, you start to wonder if forces out of your control are in play when you hit screaming line drives right at Bill Mueller to end 3 separate innings in Game 2 - with runners in scoring position all 3 times. You look at the fact that all 6 Boston runs in Game 2 were scored on 2-strike, 2-out hits, and you pause for a moment. You see your 2-5 hitters - statistically one of the best such collections of offensive players of all-time - put up 2 hits in Game 2 (and outside of Larry Walker, 3 hits in the first 2 games combined). You watch your pitching staff, with the best control of any staff in the National League this season, give the Red Sox 14 free passes in the first 2 games, more than offsetting the baserunners the Sox handed you by way of errors. You've gotta wonder.

You're also taking comfort in the fact that the next 3 games are in St. Louis, where the Redbirds are undefeated in the post-season. Don't think for 1 moment that the Sox - or any member of the Nation - is taking this Cardinal team lightly. They play great baseball - Scott Rolen may well be the best-fielding 3rd baseman I've ever seen, and the catch Jim Edmonds made on Jason Varitek's late-inning drive last night was Maysian. I'm very, very surprised that St. Louis has not been running on the Sox - they've been sucked into an AL-style series thus far - and expect that to change in Game 3. I fully anticipate the Cards to stiffen as the series heads to the midwest, but I'm done worrying about these Sox and their ability to persevere. If there's a way, they'll figure it out.

While the Sox are winning on blissful idiocy, I'm doing my part by ratcheting up my superstitions to Defcon 5. I've worn the same long-sleeve AKVA bottled water t-shirt and adidas track pants since Game 5 of the ALCS - and, no, I haven't washed them. I've sat in the same seat on my couch - actually forcing my father-in-law to move on Saturday - and clutched the same yellow, grapefruit-sized smiley-face ball during every game. I've imbibed 2 bottles of Red Hook ESB - poured into the same pilsner - each game (well, I had 3 last night, but that was only because I needed to sleep). The remote control sits in the same spot on the coffee table, and I change channels to CNN or Comedy Central between each inning. Whitney calls me immediately before the first pitch of each game, asks me what I'm doing that evening, and I tell him what TV show I plan to watch. I've repeated the mantra, "Believe, Rob. Believe.", during every tense moment. Let no man claim that I'm not doing my part.

And if you think that's a sign of insanity, let me state for the record, I am a Red Sox fan - insanity is my very lifeblood. I am a Red Sox fan, and I do not traffic in the rational.

No comments: