Friday, October 28, 2011

The Game That Wouldn't End


That seems to be the best word to describe what unfolded last night at Busch Stadium in the sixth game of this year's World Series.

If you didn't see it, the bottom line is that St. Louis beat Texas, 10–9, to force tonight's Game 7. That's a much higher score than one ordinarily sees in any major league baseball game, even in the American League with its designated hitter rule.

But even the knowledge that 19 runs were scored doesn't fully do justice to how all those runs were scored — to the fact that the Cardinals were a single strike away from defeat — not once but twice — and came back to win.

In the last minutes of Thursday or the earliest minutes of Friday, the Cardinals officially overcame the Rangers with a walk–off home run and made tonight's Game 7 necessary.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post–Dispatch wrote, fittingly, that it was a moment that was "too complex to fully understand but too compelling to ignore."

Those are the words from the winning side — and I'm sure Cardinals fans do feel that what they saw last night really was too complex to understand but impossible to ignore. Some may be inclined to attach some sort of religious significance to what happened.

As Bernie Miklasz writes in the Post–Dispatch, "Their strength never wanes. Their will to win never fades. Until the end, this proud and resilient team believed. They knew that somehow the dream would stay alive."

Has a biblical sound to it, doesn't it? You can almost hear him exhorting the faithful to open their hymnals.

Here in north Texas, the pain of defeat is everywhere this morning. Anyone who considers himself or herself to be a sports fan surely understands how the fans here feel. Everyone has had that feeling.

Not everyone claims to have spoken directly to God, though, but Texas' Josh Hamilton does, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News.

Hamilton, Sefko reports, says God told him he was going to hit a home run in the 10th inning of last night's game.

"He said, 'You haven't hit one in a while and this is the time you're going to,' " Hamilton said. "But there was a period at the end of that. He didn't say, 'You're going to hit it and you're going to win.' "

OK. It's really hard to know God's reason for speaking to Hamilton and telling him that he would hit a home run that, in the end, would not win the game for his team. The Lord apparently didn't share his reason with Hamilton, but I have to wonder why he would tell a player that he would hit a home run that would ultimately mean little to anyone except that player.

Why, for that matter, would he even bother to tell Hamilton that he's going to hit a home run? He doesn't seem inclined to share more important insights with those in a position to influence economies and global conflicts.

Guess he must know what he's doing, though. After all, people are always saying that he has a plan, which suggests there must be a reason for everything that happens — even when bad things happen that devastate lives while good things, like Hamilton's dinger, ultimately mean nothing to anyone except him.

Oh, well.

If the Rangers lose this series — and they're facing Chris Carpenter, who won Game 1 in St. Louis and got a no–decision in Game 5 in Arlington — they may be sorry they used Derek Holland in a relief role last night.

I think that is a decision the Rangers may well regret.

Holland nearly threw a complete–game shutout at the Cardinals on Sunday. If Game 6 had been played on Wednesday as scheduled, Holland probably wouldn't have had enough rest to start a Game 7 on Thursday.

But, with the one–day delay, he would have been rested enough to pitch tonight. Instead, Texas manager Ron Washington chose to use him in a relief role last night, clearly in the hope that he could wrap things up in six, and stick with his original choice to start Game 7, Matt Harrison, if it went that far.

Which it has.

In his last appearance, Harrison had time to take his shower, get into his street clothes and find a bar to have a beer and watch the end of Game 3, in which Albert Pujols became only the third man to hit three home runs in a World Series game.

Strategically, it is hard for me to see why Harrison would be preferable over Holland — if it had been up to me, with Rangers leading the Series 3–2, I would have used Harrison in middle relief and save Holland for a potential — and, now, definite — Game 7.

The Cardinals haven't proved they can hit Holland. But they have proved they can hit Harrison.

Meanwhile, the Rangers have had problems with Carpenter.

I think it will be a good game, a low–scoring game, and I think the Cardinals will win it.

Let's get it on.

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