Tuesday, October 19, 2004: I think that the tightness in my chest and the tingling in my left arm have just about subsided. I think I am breathing normally now. I think I can get down solid food. I think my vocal cords are beginning to stop bleeding. I think my knuckles are no longer pure white. I think that must mean that the next game is to start in just a few hours.

My God, is this not the most incredible imaginable postseason? Let’s put last night’s game in perspective: As a story, on a national level, it dwarfed a game played almost simultaneously (even though it started 3+ hours later) in which the Astros and Cards went through eight innings with a grand total of one hit. In which the teams were tied 0-0. In one of the greatest pitching duels in the history of baseball. And that game was a distant second on all of the highlight shows and on almost all lips this morning. I live in Texas. No one has said a thing to me about the Astros’ game last night, a 3-0 win courtesy of a Jeff Kent walk off blast. Everyone is talking about the Red Sox.

And when you talk about the Red Sox these days, you talk about Big Papi, David Ortiz. David Ortiz!!! Again? Are you kidding me? This is Yaz in ’67, Rice in ’78, Tiant in ’75 type stuff. For the first time in the history of the postseason the same guy gets a hit to win in walkoff fashion. And these two happened in extra innings. And of course there were other heroes – Roberts did it again on the basepaths; Waker (who got the win) was a God, as were all of the relievers (more on them momentarily); the list goes on. Just when we thought it would be impossible to top Sunday night’s game, last night they go 14 innings, things were even tighter, the stress level was even higher. Our bullpen was somehow more lights out than the night before, pitching 8 innings of shutout ball, with Timlin, Foulke, Arroyo, Myers, Embree, and Wakefield coming on in succession to relieve Pedro who tired after 6 and gave up a 2-1 lead in the 6th, allowing the Yankees to take a 4-2 advantage that for a while seemed like it might hold.

But in the end, their bullpen was almost as tough, save, of course, for our runs in the 8th, 9th (another blown save for Rivera – looks like we have found Rivera’s kryptonite and it is us). There were moments that made fans scream at the television set. We taxed our capacity for superstition (Rob got the Thunderstick up twice last night, yeoman’s work). We certainly taxed our constitutions. Last night’s was the longest game in terms of time in postseason history, surpassing the night before. And of course the previous night had been the longest 9-inning game in postseason history. We are getting our money’s worth, even if national productivity is waning discernibly.

And I am going to say it: If you listen closely, you can hear the anxiety in New York. Oh, they would never admit it. Being a bunch of frontrunners, bandwagon jumpers, and NAMBLA supporters, the fans of the Yankees will insist that they are not worried, that they know the Red Sox never beat them, and that they have 39 pennants that reassure them that they have nothing to worry about. And I am going to call their bluff; Bullshit. Not once in the last ten years, even in losing World series, have the yanks looked this vulnerable, this beaten, this mystified. They tossed their best at us, they got to their vaunted bullpen with lead, they had the meat of their order up several times with a chance to take the lead. And every single time the Sox either stifled them or else had a response.

Don’t get me wrong. This series still is in their favor. The Yankees have the home field now, they only have to win one, and we may well have spent ourselves in catching up. But, boy, it does not feel like the weight of things runs their way, does it? The Yankees certainly are not invincible. And let’s keep something in mind – the 19-8 humiliation warps our perspective on this series. In every other game, including those first two in the Toilet Bowl, either team had a shot in the end. In games one and two, the Sox came up in the top of the ninth and had the tying or go ahead run on base or up to the plate. Either team could have won. The last two nights were extra inning epics.

Of course one of the themes of last night’s game is second guessing. Did Tito let Pedro stay in too long (YES – Jesus, do we never learn anything when it comes to our Dominican Dandy?) I was dumbfounded by the situational use of Myers to face only Matsui when we are clearly taxes out in the pen (though it did work. Then again, just because something works does not make it a good idea. If someone successfully drives home drunk the success not make the act a smart one). I still think Mirabelli ought to have come on when Waker did, and Varitek’s fielding of the mighty knuckler almost cost us dearly. It is not as if Mirabelli cannot catch other guys, and he has been remarkably productive at the plate in the at-bats he has had. Of course people will question Damon’s steal attempt, though it took a perfect throw to nail him – if they did – and had he not run, people would have raised questions about that too. Obviously Ortiz’s steal attempt, perhaps humorous in other circumstances, was ill considered. However, keep this little hidden tidbit in mind – he was safe. Just as Manny’s much-maligned attempt to take extra bases the other night fell victim to crappy umpiring. And as long as we are taking about our blunders, what about the huge one on the Yanks’ part? Why on earth were they pitching to Ortiz with a base available in the 14th with Mientkiewicz on deck? Are you telling me that the smart money is on facing Ortiz with guys on first and second rather than Minky with the bases loaded? If so, the smart money is very, very dumb.

Meanwhile, in just under three hours, we get to go through the emotional wringer at least once more, as they do it all over again in the Bronx. Unless the weather decides not to cooperate for the second time this series. I’m not sure who benefits from a rainout But I know this; if the mound is at all slippery, if mud is going to be a factor, that hurts Curt more than it hurts anyone else. The key is who gets hurt more by either scenario. I think we benefit as much as them from a day of rest as they do. Our bullpen is as weary as theirs, and a day off might even mean that we have a shot at having an almost-rested starter go on Thursday if it comes to that. Then again, does it matter? Both teams are in the same position. If it is rainy, so be it. If it is raw, everyone will deal. If there is a day off, everyone will rest. No sense reading too much into this, though if they do not play I am not sure how I’ll make it another 24 hours.

About Schilling: We cannot, cannot, cannot expect him to shut them down. Indeed, we need to expect him to get hit around a bit. That is the reality. What we need is for the guys to see him as a spark and to get out there and go after Lieber from the first pitch. By that I do not mean overly aggressive — they have to get him deep into counts, they have to foul balls, off, and they need to get damned hits. Schilling is an inspiration now, but on the mound we have to expect him as a placeholder. He is going to serve the role of a rested fourth or fifth starter. A guy we can have some faith in, but let’s not expect him to carry us. Let’s keep in mind that Willis Reed scored on his first 2 shots in those 1970 finals against the Lakers, and then was ineffective for the rest of the game. Reed is a symbol, just as Schilling has to be a symbol. The guys need to pick him up, and that starts with Damon and works its way down.

I think it goes without saying, but oh yes, we believe. Damn right we believe.

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