The Hunt For A Longer October
After a performance for the ages from an “under the weather” Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals take aim at an elusive target: the second round.
Black don’t crack. I utilize this go-to cliche whenever someone says, “wow, you don’t look 37. I’d say no older than 36!” You see, while being African-American may hinder you from expressing your First Amendment rights on a football field for racial equality and reforming police brutality, it does wonders in the “strangers guessing your age” department. And like people of certain complexions, sometimes the instant snap-judgement of a tweet will age extremely well. Other times…
Let’s say your favorite team is playing a must-win playoff game versus the defending World Series champions on the road. Having received seven shutout innings from your mold-ridden, mercurial starter, your squad clings to a one-run lead in the 8th inning. Dormant for nearly the entire series, the lineup has procured a tantalizing situation: bases loaded, two outs. Up to bat? The eighth hitter, who is amongst the team leaders in strikeout rate, facing a three-time all-star reliever. On the bench? Perhaps the best pinch hitter in the league for 2017, who happens to be left-handed, to face a fireball-spewing right-handed pitcher. You might tweet something like:
Twitter is as amazing as it is instant. A living, breathing, stream of consciousness diary that allows millions of users to have the largest real-time text thread ever. Also, it can remind you how little you know. Toothpick connoisseur, Dusty Baker, did not pinch-hit for Michael A. Taylor. Just as he did not pinch-hit for series-hitless catcher, Matt Wieters (he drew a walk, and yes, I tweeted I wanted him pinch-hit for also). It’s almost like the manager with decades of experience knew his team better than I did (insert: pensive, finger-on-the-chin emoji).
The rest is history. Taylor hit a grand slam. I almost passed-out from excitement and Taylor won’t have to buy a meal for a while in D.C. For the record, Adam Lind, who I pined for to bat earlier, got a hit, his second pinch-hit of the series. You’re not impressed? You’re right, who cares? I was dead wrong and couldn’t have been more joyous about it.
In October of 2012, the Nationals gave us this feeling. They secured an emotional and euphoric series-saving win in game 4, with a home game 5 on the horizon. Those who don’t know their history, are doomed to become President of The United States…wait, that’s not how that goes, is it?
Early 21st century poet laureate, Future, on the stirring hymn, “Mask Off” once noted: “They gang, we gang/But they are not the same.” The 2017 Washington Nationals are not the same as their 2012 counterparts. For one, only five players (Harper, Zimmerman, Werth, Gonzalez and Strasburg) from that team are even still here, and one of them, Strasburg, had a little “shutdown” episode and was not on the playoff roster. The manager is different, the bench is different, the pedigree is different, but most importantly and pertinent, the bullpen is different.
There are two undeniable truths that I will hold regardless of the result of this game or any future outcomes.
1. We are not cursed. The Nationals have won the division four of the last six seasons. Ever heard of Dustin Ackley and Jameson Taillon? Didn’t think so. A “cursed” franchise would’ve suffered through 100-loss seasons and come out with the second pick in the 2009 and 2010 MLB drafts, respectively and those players would be theirs. Instead? The Nationals got the first overall picks and selected generational talents Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
Taking elite playoff opponents to a coin-flip, series-deciding fifth game in three of four playoff runs is not “cursed.” Maybe crappy outcomes (so far), but not incorrect process.
2. F*ck Drew Storen. Nothing really to add to that. It just always needs to be said.
So what’s gonna happen tonight? Will the Nats’ bats suddenly awaken? Will Gio’s curveball find the strike zone? Will the Cubs overthink their late-inning matchups? Will Dusty keep making curious lineups that somehow work? Will Mikey Mo lead the stadium in “Take On Me” during the ceremonial first pitch? Will my girlfriend and I be miserable in the rain? Will the stadium run out of beers? Will I tweet something and then emphatically be proven wrong? I can’t answer many of those questions, but as for the last one, let’s hope so: