It's happening again. Just like last year, the Snakes come into Dodger Stadium right at the end of July and destroy the Dodger season. The sweep seems inevitable. It's not about which team is better, not in the theoretical season-long sense of being the better team. The Snakes may well be better than the Dodgers, but that's not why the nightmare sweep is halfway to being reality. The truth is there is no reason. The games are played, with very narrow margins, and the Snakes come out ahead by one run. The reason for it is any fuzzy concept you choose as your favorite, any narrative angle you care to take. Those Snakes have character-filled young players; the Dodger have coddled young players. No, that worked better last year. I'm sure the writers will come up with something new this year, unless they are bigger hacks than I thought.
The two games we've had so far were identical in line scores, in frustrations, if not in drama. I knew by instinct that the games were twins, even before Friday's top of the seventh happened. At least on Friday the starter was already out of the game by the top of the seventh. No tired starter last night. Instead one of the Dodgers great relievers would come in and put a stop to the parallel madness. This I desperately hoped. But it was Park who came in. I had finally become a Park believer after four months of him proving me wrong, and he went and proved me right, retroactively. If only for one game. But it was the most important game of the year. Park showed who he really was for just one game. That's all it takes.
After Beimel gave up the hit I retreated to a position far from the television. The game was over. The season was over. There was pain left to dish out, more innings and more games of the Dodgers spinning their wheels, showing occasional flashes of promise but always coming up short, but the ending was set last night when the hit off Beimel landed on the line. At that moment I knew that the Dodgers would go on to lose the game, and get swept in the series, and finish out of the playoffs. Logic, of course, has nothing to do with it, because logically it's nonsense. But emotional investments carry risks. I invest in the season, in the possiblity, and the risk is that I give up hope, that I declare permanent misery.
I emerged from my bitter retreat in time to see Wade get the last out of the top of the seventh. I can give up all hope for a moment, a minute, a half inning, but never forever. It's a war in my mind, a struggle between despair and foolishness. So I watched the rest of the game. I mean, I don't know everything. Maybe I'm wrong about the game, the season, being over. So it went, the outs passing by, the Dodgers never scoring another run, my hope for the game and the series and the season fading with each out. Someone just hit a damn home run. Tony Clark did. The Snakes' acquisition came through. The Dodgers' acquisition didn't. Now there is an appalling, bitter thought.
By the bottom of the ninth I was sullen and bitter, mentally a petulant, crabby child. When Martin took the first two pitches I was so disgusted. Those were fine pitches to hit. Instead he took them, with some stupid idea of getting deep into the count. I thought he was being cute. Then, how quickly I came around, when the next three pitches were balls. Suddenly I was Martin's best friend again. Way to work the count, I might have said to him, with an insincere grin. I believed in him again, but like any fickle-minded traitor I was ready to turn on him again if he made an out from that position. I was saved from that by his hit up the middle. But that hit delivered me to an altogether worse fate. I believed again. I believed in the Dodger's chance of winning the game, the series, the season again. Once wasn't enough. Those bastards had to make me feel the defeat twice, rip out my hopes twice.
Before the first pitch to Manny I was floating on the possibilities. Home run, sure. But a double or single might also happen. He might make an out as well, maybe strike out or something, but I didn't think too much about that. After the first strike to Manny I began to worry. I swayed from hope to despair with the count. After ball one I was confident again. 1-1, which is basically even ground, except the batter has the advantage of having seen a few pitches. And that's when it happened.
The crowd was chanting. I can't even remember the exact words now. Something like "Let's Go Dodgers", something suitably generic and cheerleaderly. But the energy and passion and hope of the chant was incredible. For the first time I wished I was there, at the game, in that moment, pouring my heart into the hope that Manny would hit a home run. Even if they lost it would be worth it just to be a part of that moment. That's what I thought. And I guess I still think that. Even through the TV I could feel that it was comparable to the aftermath of the Lima game, or the last great moment of the Tomato when he beat the Jays with a game-ending home run. I was there for both of those, and I wished that I had been there for that first moment of anticipating the greatness of Manny.
The next pitch came, ball two. 2-1. But the moment had passed. The crowd was still excited, and cheering, but it wasn't the same. No matter. Such a thing can't be sustained. The important thing was that Manny now controlled the at bat. The tide had turned. I wonder, at that moment, how afraid Snakes fans were? They can look back now and laugh about it, those jerks.
When strike two came I had the cold realization that this might not all end well. I was really worried about the strikeout at that point. I didn't think Kent and Loney could get Martin all the way around to score by themselves. Maybe one of them could single, but --- I just didn't believe. All my hope was tied up in Manny. The crazy thing of it is I never saw the double play coming. Even with all my despair and giving up on the game and the season I never contemplated Manny's at bat ending that way.
I'm really wishing and hoping I can just stay away from tonight's game. Not watch it, not think about it. Maybe find out tomorrow morning the Dodgers won. Wouldn't that be a nice surprise. But I know I'll think about it. That's the problem. Thinking about it will draw me to it, even though I think I know what's going to happen. Because I also know, deep down, that I don't know what will happen. I don't know anything.