03 June 2009

The Living Play: Game 54 Unfair Win Shares

In the bottom of the eighth inning, off the bat of James Loney, the ball hung, suspended between a home run and an out, like a Schroedinger's cat in a box about to decide: dead or alive. Alive! So it was, but not as the cat entered, serene and unruffled. It was not a highlight catch or a show stopping grand slam either, but a wilder beast altogether. Either catch or home run would have ended the action right there, and all that would have been left was the show. On the catch, Loney would have looked to the outer field, unbelieving, baffled, wondering, for a moment, when the real play would present itself, when he would get his just hit, only to quickly descend into grim acceptance that there was no hit, there was only a theft in the field, and a not-quite good enough mark on his best swing. On the catch, Chris Young would have held up the ball, even as he staggered, dazed, from the sheer effort and brilliance of the catch, and then he would have jogged in, all resolve and fire, like Kobe after a made three with a hand in his face as the clock tick ticks down to the void. Theatre. Loney and Young, acting their parts, and Schlereth too, redeemed and saved by the grace and balance of Young, but all signifying nothing. Because the play ended with the catch was made, and the rest was theatre, reaction, emotion.

On the home run, Loney would have slowed when he saw the ball clear the fence, and circled with leisurely joy, and building triumph. Young would have looked sadly up at the ball that was just too far, a failure not his, but stinging nonetheless. For the Dodgers the scene would play out, even as there was no possible play: of Loney and the Dodgers on base circling and scoring with no peril or tension. Again, as with the catch, the play ends when the ball decides. Alive, over the wall, and the rest is known, scripted.

Instead, chaos. Schroedinger's cat, or Schlereth's cat, perhaps, emerges, not dead, certainly alive, but not as it entered, a tame house cat. It is wild and feral, unpredictable. The ball bounces, rattles around, between Young, and the wall and the ground, as if it can't decide where it lives. The ball is alive. There is no time for theatre, for grand reaction. Upton, next to the staggering Young, must gather and throw. Loney must dig for second. Hudson, from first, must take the great circle path to home, as fast as he can, knowing that ball might meet him there, because it is alive. That is baseball, in its purest beauty. The living play, running, throwing, tension. A grand slam would have been instant glory, and I would have loved it, but not so well as I loved the bases clearing double and the subsequent slithering line drive off the bat of Casey up the middle of the Snake defense that put Loney home. The grand slam is to be preferred as a vehicle to winning, but my memory loves the bases clearing double and wild pitch and single more, the living play, the run that scores not when the ball clears the fence but when the runner touches the plate.

This is the team I love. They are made for the living play, the race around the bases. They are made for the comeback. The bullpen men stood strong, preserving the chance for the comeback, and preserving the sudden and surprising lead when it came. The entire lineup stood together, like a living wall, none allowing a breach, not even with two outs, until the job was completed. Loney was not the only hero, but his name is loudest in the cheers for the game that was.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Loney -- 1
Weaver -- 1
Broxton -- 1

Unfair Loss Shares ( Snakes )

Pena -- 2
Schlereth -- 1

1 comment:

Dave said...

What a fabulous account of Loney's hit and the action that followed!

To me, this win makes up for the loss to Washington (losing team hits early grand slam only to see the bullpen give up a lot of runs at the end). Similarily, the 2-1 win against the Cubs was almost completely balanced out by the same-score loss the next day.

Of course, the wonderful thing about the Dodgers so far is that each and everyone of their losses is made up for by two wins. But perhaps some losses (the Washington game or the 13 inning loss to the Giants, for example) require more than 2 wins to ease my mind.

Regardless, yesterday's thrilling comeback will stay with me for a while.