October

It has run nearly five hours. For 13 innings, two teams I couldn’t care less about have gone toe to toe in an absolute thriller. Jake Peavy, the odds-on favorite for the Cy Young, battered and bruised, has managed to survive 6+ shaky innings and keep his team in the game. There’s a controversial call; a double that was probably a home run. A Jeffrey Maier play without Jeffrey Maier. This is just the beginning. Regardless, at the moment, a fireball reliever – the unheralded Heath Bell – comes in, overwhelming the Rockies with five strikeouts over the next three innings. On the other side, pitchers are being run through left and right. Buchholz, Affeldt, Speier, Hawkins; ten over the course of the night. Most do their jobs, but at what cost? The innings go by. Both sides are pressing; it’s obvious. MVP candidate Matt Holliday badly misplays a ball that allows the Padres to score the tying run. 6-6. Win or go home. It’s game 163 in a 162-game season. In a daze, we reach the 13th. Jorge Julio is on the mound. Julio, of the 0-5 record. Julio, 0/7 in save opportunities. Julio, with a 5.23 ERA. He’s a disaster waiting to happen. You know it, and I know it. And it happens. Five balls in a row, nothing close. Then a home run, into the deep of the night. 8-6 Padres. It’s over, right? Is it? Trevor Hoffman comes in, he of the 524 career saves – most in the history of the game. But he didn’t get the one they needed two days ago, against the Brewers, against Tony Gwynn Jr. And it’s obvious tonight. Maybe it’s the Colorado air, the pressure of the situation, or just a tired 39-year old reliever. But he doesn’t have it. They’re hitting him, and hard. The game is quickly tied up, the winning run on third – and nobody out. There’s a line drive to shallow right. The runner tags. The catch is made, the throw is on the money. The catcher drops the ball. But the runner doesn’t touch the plate. He doesn’t touch the plate. And yet, somehow, some way, the umpire calls him safe. Safe. Bedlam. Mayhem. 9-8 Rockies. Colorado’s got a date with the Phillies. The Padres go home. And all of this, all of this – it’s just October 1st.

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