It’s a quarter past midnight, and I’m real tired. (With a one-year-old daughter, I usually start getting tired around nine.)
But sleep seems a pretty long way off. My heart is racing. Adrenaline. As the Boss once said, I got a freight train running through the middle of my head.
For the second day running, I stayed up late to watch the Red Sox play the Tigers in the ALCS. And for, what, 95% of those two games Boston were just getting killed. The pitching on the other side as good as it gets – 17 strikeouts yesterday, and another 15 tonight. Swings and misses. Check swings. A whole lot of whiffs and scarcely a splinter of wood. How do you beat that? It’s too good – couldn’t buy a hit, let alone a run.
But wait. The best thing about baseball is its unparalleled capacity for delayed gratification. Keep watching long enough – pitch after pitch, inning after inning, game after game, season after season – and sometimes, finally, a miracle will happen. You just don’t know when.
Bottom of the eighth. One out. Nobody on. Four runs behind. Bats all but silent for all but eight hours of ALCS baseball. A double!
Something, at last, to pin a hope on.
Pitching change, then a walk. Now two on, and still only one out.
Next, though, yet another strikeout… Two on. Two out. That hope disappearing fast. Or, it would be, at least, if it wasn’t Pedroia at the plate: Boston’s talisman who never once left anything on the field. A hit! A hit! Bases loaded, and the tying run comes to the plate.
In the mighty, magnificent form of David “Big Papi” Ortiz. The fearsome slugger. The king of clutch. The Red Sox totem who hits, swing after swing after swing, rockets to the moon. (Don’t say he doesn’t: just make believe it’s true.)
The whole season’s on the line. It’s first-to-four in the series and the Red Sox are one-nothing down. Can Papi save the city’s year? Can he pull – again – Red Sox nation on to his herculean back? No, surely not. He’s older than he used to be and he already gave us 2004 – still the only time in baseball history a team came from 3-0 nothing down to win a postseason series, thanks more than once to Ortiz swinging a mighty red-hot bat.
But still – everyone single one of us dreaming the same dream, just in case. In baseball, you just don’t know when. Hey there, baby, I could use just a little help. You can’t start a fire, you can’t start a fire without a spark. Bases loaded. Bottom of the eighth. Two outs, and four runs behind.
GRAND SLAM! GRAND SLAM! GRAND SLAM!
Fenway wild! In raptures, smitten, jubilant, joyous, giddy. Grateful, damn it, grateful. Season on the line, and the big man got it done.
The rest was easy. A walk off win in the bottom of the ninth. What Big Papi did: you can’t beat that.
Now for both teams, three more wins to win the American League….