Wow. Watching that game, I called “mistake” as soon as I saw the top of that slider Lidge threw to Pujols. I mean, before Pujols swung, I saw the pitch, shoulder-high, dropping into Pujols’ happy zone, just before he hit the game-winning home run. Essentially, I called it. (I have a witness, my friend Mike Brown)
Amazing. Hard to fault Lidge for making a mistake, as the Cards really battled in that 9th. Tough at-bats prior to Pujols, including Edmonds drawing the walk after Eckstein got the “who cares, you got a single with two outs in the ninth” hit. I guess you could fault Lidge for the 1-2 pitch to Eckstein, (a slider that didn’t slide), after Eckstein looked like he couldn’t hit the fastball with a tennis racket. But, really, Lidge looked a little off, but only a little. Maybe he should’ve just pounded fastballs, but other than that, what are you gonna complain about? Pujols could have missed that pitch, as dead center as it was. He didn’t, and the Astros now face the Cards in St. Louis, which is hardly what they were hoping when they were one strike away from the Serious.
Point of fact, the Astros history of futility dwarfs just about any team’s, as they’ve never, ever been to the Serious. Last season, they had Clemens on the mound with a lead in Game Seven, and lost, and as horrible as it sounds, they could very well be in the exact situation again this year. Allowing the Cards to get off the mat tonight, in just about the worst possible way, puts them in a strange situation; the team with the 3 games to 2 lead might feel like they’re the ones behind.
Harold Reynolds, on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight at 10:35 pm Pacific Time, just said that he thinks the pressure’s on the Astros. I guess I’ve just said that I agree.
Over in the AL….
Talking to my friend Brown about his hometown Chicago White Sox, I was surprised to learn how little he knew about how different it is pitching in the NL vs. the AL. I showed him some of the Giants pitchers, including Lowry (who isn’t too bad), and compared their production to the worst ninth guy Guillen could trot out there…. Geez, Louise. I couldn’t imagine that even a casual fan (and Brown certainly qualifies as a casual fan) would fail to recognize the impact of the DH, but I guess if you follow the AL exclusively, you must take it for granted that everybody in the lineup is expected to hit, (to some degree).
Our mutual friend Pete convinced me of the superiority of the NL game (about four years ago), and I think I may have made some progress towards convincing Brown. By the way, Brown is 42 years old, from the South Side of Chicago (no Leroy’s in his family), and is suitably blown away by the first WS appearance by his home team in his lifetime, a statement that has blown me away as well.
To consider that the Sox haven’t won the whole shebang in his father’s lifetime either, (what?!?) is but another simply stunning fact to add to the excitement. Far worse than the Red Sox were, (but not much worse than the Cubs are), the White Sox have hardly even sniffed the Fall Classic, with just one appearance since the Black Sox scandal, (1959). That makes their ALDS win against the Red Sox in the first round their first postseason series win since 1917!? And so, I find myself happily rooting for the underdogs now.
I wanted to see the Astros get to their first, and was both excited and dissappointed by Pujols’ blast. It’s hard not to root for the big hit, especially in such a penultimate situation, two outs, ninth inning, home run or go fishing…. Tremendous, amazing, all of the above.
Can the Cards ride Pujols’ momentum to the comeback? Mulder vs. Oswalt on Wednesday. Oswalt’s been better in the playoffs, (and the season, for that matter), but if the Cards bats have come alive, we could see Clemens for another Game Seven. Yummy.
Oh, and might I mention…. David Eckstein? 1-2, a strike away from the off-season…. At this point of his career, maybe, just maybe, you might have to consider him a tough, clutch postseason hitter. Just maybe.
Oh, one more thing. Back in July, when the White Sox were something like 30 games over .500, and the Cards were right there with them, I told Brown that, barring miracles, major injuries, or the end of the world, the World Series would be his White Sox against the Cards. I’m almost right.