If you learn Buck Showalter asked the Oriole front office for a team cardiologist after Friday night’s American League Championship Series opener, try not to be too surprised. You might, too, if you were the manager whose closer opened the ninth of a tie game by walking the bases loaded before getting a run-erasing force at the plate.
The game meant nothing to the Yankees otherwise. They staggered out of the postseason picture one day earlier. These mostly old and mostly battered Yankees had nothing but will to get them far enough that they held onto postseason hopes by a frayed thread at best. Behind 4-0 to the Rays Thursday night in Yankee Stadium, a deficit that would hold up, there was only one reason for manager Joe Girardi to bring in his closer at all, never mind in the top of the eight.
“We could not find our game in the World Series,” Miguel Cabrera mourned, while the San Francisco Giants partied heartily in Comerica Park’s visiting clubhouse. Actually, the Detroit Tigers found their game in Game Four, when they needed it most. The problem was finding it against these San Francisco Giants, who were so accustomed to playing with elimination a game away they didn’t know how to get comfortable on the threshold of a sweep.
Now, this is a novel position for the San Francisco Giants to assume. They’re not used to being up two games to none in a postseason set this year. This could be the start of something . . . weird?
The way they got into this position was probably weird enough even by the standards of a Giants team that’s spent at least half this postseason benefitting from the transdimensional. Can you remember any team winning a World Series game with nothing but a double play and a sacrifice fly to score the only two runs they proved necessary?
CC Sabathia sat in the Yankee dugout gazing upon the field with a look, to an outsider, that seemed suspended between resignation and disbelief, moments after his day ended two thirds of the way through the bottom of the fourth. His Detroit counterpart, Max Scherzer, who had to get past late-season shoulder barking, would remain in the serious business of absolutely throttling a Yankee lineup for another inning and a third, doing to the Yankees what Sabathia once did to the other guys.
It’s the kind of play Derek Jeter has been making since he came into the Show in the first place. The kind of play he has made often enough that you would not be surprised to learn he could have been blind and still made it.
Nothing more dangerous than a middling little ground ball up the pipe in the top of the twelfth, courtesy of Jhonny Peralta, and nothing more strenous for the Yankee captain than ranging to his left, reaching for it, and, if he was going to tumble, as he must have known he would, shoveling the ball to second baseman Robinson Cano for a relay to first to get rid of Peralta.
Even if you knew in your heart of hearts, you could only feel for the Oakland Athletics as they got pushed away from the postseason Thursday night. When Sean Smith pushed a meek grounder to second that Omar Infante fed to a Prince Fielder who must have felt as though it took forever for the final out to reach his mitt.
Whoever said losing hurt worse than winning felt good is probably going to be a grudgingly respected figure by Oakland’s half of the Bay Area.
All of a sudden, the Oakland Athletics don’t necessarily look like the magicians they spent the season and the wild card game proving themselves to be. The Detroit Tigers, all of a sudden, do.
These Tigers—who got to within a hair’s breadth just about of losing the American League Central to the Chicago White Sox—now sit halfway toward an engagement in the American League Championship Series, after spending Games One and Two proving they have a few spells of their own to cast.