Six can be an historic baseball number. On uniforms, number 6 has been retired for five players and two managers: Johnny Pesky (Red Sox), Steve Garvey (Padres), Stan Musial (Cardinals), Al Kaline (Tigers), and Tony Oliva (Twins) are the players; Bobby Cox (Braves) and Joe Torre (Yankees) are the managers. In postseason competition, Game Six can be historic heaven or heartbreak, depending on whose side you’re on.
In his 1970s days with the Milwaukee Brewers, George Scott, the big colourful first baseman who’d been a Red Sox favourite, had a chat with the team’s then co-owner Edmund Fitzgerald, about whose team Gordon Lightfoot did not write “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” “If we’re gonna win,” Scott told Fitzgerald, “the players gotta play better, the coaches gotta coach better, the manager’s gotta manage better, and the owners gotta own better.”
It isn’t exactly tempting the wrath of the Boston gods anymore, ladies and gentlemen. “Party like it’s 1918.” So said a fan’s none-too-large placard in the Fenway boxes, while Koji Uehara was at his office in the top of the ninth Wednesday night, three outs standing between himself, his Red Sox, and hysteria.
There’ll be no more fun, fun, fun for the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers. Daddy took the T-Bird away in Busch Stadium Friday. And you can spend all winter debating whether or not the Dodgers themselves gave him the ammunition on a platter.
Two teams who’ve made a fine art of shoving back with their backs against the proverbial wall returned to San Francisco to square off in Game Six of the National League Championship Series Sunday night. This time, it was the San Francisco Giants with their backs to that wall—again—and a pitcher who’d gone from prospect to reclamation project making certain enough that the St. Louis Cardinals joined them in the same position for a seventh game.
Presumably, the world can breathe a little easier now that the first post-Slide confrontation between Matt Holliday and the San Francisco Giants has ended without on-field amputations, at-the-plate decapitations, or other actual or reputed disembowelings. None involving Holliday, anyway.
The nearest thing to a legitimate atrocity in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 3-1 Game Three win was the one committed by Carlos Beltran’s unexpected substitute, in the third inning, in his first time at bat after stepping in for the wounded slugger. The Giants could and did beat Chris Carpenter on the mound earlier in this National League Championship Series, but they could not and did not beat Matt Carpenter stepping into the Cardinals’ unexpected right field breach and hitting a go-ahead two-run homer whose advantage survived an eventual 3.5 hour rain delay.
Jayson Werth went home Wednesday night to flip on the Orioles-Yankees American League division series game and got a powerful enough message from a former Philadelphia Phillies teammate.
“I got a little something last night,” he huffed happily Thursday afternoon. “Watching my boy Raul Ibanez do it, he gave me a little something today.”
Ibanez, of course, blasted a game-tying bomb in the bottom of the ninth and a game-winning bomb in the bottom of the twelfth. Nowhere near twenty-four hours later, Werth—the high-priced Nat who’s struggled to live up to his mammoth deal for most of his time since—showed just what Ibanez gave him.
Sunday’s division series opener saw the Washington Nationals squeeze out a win with not an extra base hit between themselves and the St. Louis Cardinals. Monday saw the Cardinals even things up, and how, in the set, by way of a 12-4 burial featuring nine extra base hits, seven off St. Louis bats, and some fatal miscues by these Nats who didn’t make too many such miscues in piling up baseball’s best regular-season record.
The greats don’t always get to choose the manner in which they leave the game. But whatever you believe about instant or at least same-day karma, Chipper Jones surely deserves better than to have his Hall of Fame-in-waiting career end like this.
His own throwing error, opening an unwanted door to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League’s first-ever wild card game; his own Atlanta Braves victimised by a soft fly to the shallow outfield ruled an infield fly when the Braves might have loaded the late-tying runs on base.
Nelson Cruz’s walkoff grand slam in Game Two of the American League Championship Series? Gone with his other eight postseason record-tying bombs. Ian Kinsler’s theft of second, channeling Dave Roberts, to spark a World Series-tying rally in the first place? You won’t even find it on the police blotter now. The Rally Squirrel? Who the hell needed him?
Albert Pujols channeling Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson in Game Three? Fuggedabouddit. Derek Holland’s masterpiece pitching in Game Four of the World Series? Prove it. (And those were the two events that helped turn this World Series from good to great in the first place.)