Oh, I remember games like these, Septembers like these.
The team has a playoff spot in its sights — and a pack of rivals that want the same prize. Your young hurler takes the hill; you know he’s good and can’t wait for the rest of the world to find that out. Your opponent is already beaten on paper, a collection of raw kids and vets playing out the string, with a journeyman on the mound.
The kid falters a little bit early on, and you worry about some awful blowout, some awful evidence that he isn’t ready. But he settles in and puts your worries to rest. Unfortunately, the journeyman isn’t pitching like one — and so on and on you go. It’s tied and it stays tied and you’re fretting, wondering why these palookas can’t just go down to defeat and not wanting to assume they will, because the baseball gods notice hubris like that and punish it. And as it stays tied the fear creeps in — maybe you’re not that good. Maybe that recent losing streak isn’t just a bump in the road, an enhancement of the ultimately joyous drama, or a test of character. Maybe it’s a true measure of what you are.
But then it comes together late. Their bullpen comes apart. The aging bat you brought up for the stretch drive, the one you thought empty of further hits, rifles one up the middle, just over their shortstop’s leap, and you have a lead. Then you’re running wild — the catcher stole a base, wasn’t that wonderful! — and you head for the ninth with a three-run lead. Nothing is assured, but it is three runs, and you just dropped a dead team walking with a hard shot between the eyes. Sure enough, they go down quietly in the ninth and you’ve won, taking another September step toward October.
Yes, I remember games like these and Septembers like these. Unfortunately, that was written from the point of view of the Colorado Rockies. I’m a New York Mets fan. And this September, the New York Mets suck.