Baseball is my sport of choice for a lot of reasons. It was my favorite sport to play and watch as a child. It straddles a fine line between being just simple enough for casual fans to understand yet complicated enough that you can really dig deep and be fascinated by all the intangibles that come with each 9-inning game. But the most important reason for my love of baseball might be the strangest. Baseball mirrors life and at its core, life is a game that is as unpredictable and unstable as anything, yet also offers redemptive and uplifting moments in a similiar fashion.
The first two games of the Baltimore versus Kansas City American League Championship series has demontrated these qualities almost perfectly. On a basic level, both games were highly contested, with the difference being the Kansas City bullpen being slightly better than the Orioles offense. On a deeper level, the story is a little different.
Kansas City produced three hits in the first inning that lead to two runs. They were a seeing eye single between Hardy and Flaherty to left field, a hard hit double that just stayed fair down the right field line, and a broken bat bloop single that just barely fell in over the head of Hardy. That produced the first two runs of the game. To the casual fan, which apparently includes the TBS National Broadcast team*, this seems like a team playing and executing "great" baseball.
I equate the first inning of yesterday's game to a stretch of time in every day life. At the beginning of the week at work (or school), you get a project completed just in the knick of time, through nothing more than being in the right place at the right time. That's the seeing eye single.
The next week, you are late getting to work and get pulled over for speeding. The cop takes mercy on you because you don't decide to be a complete jerk to him when he gets you going 75 mph in a 55 mph zone. You get some luck but also use some interpersonal positive quality to help yourself out. That's Lorenzo Cain's double. It just stayed fair and but he is one of 760 people to get to Major League Baseball each year at its highest level, so his speed and general ability helped get him to second, along with the little bit of luck that kept the ball fair.
Finally, it's after work the following week and you are late to pick up your (insert friend, child, etc.). They are 10 miles away, with the only route being a heavily congested one. It should take at least 20 minutes during rush hour. Today, for whatever reason, traffic is light, you make it there in 15 minutes and are actually one minute early. It wouldn't be possible nine out of ten tries. Neither would Eric Hosmer's broken bat bloop to left on a well executed pitch by Bud Norris, but it worked this time.
In the baseball and real life scenarios, the degree of error is very small for all three cases. They could have very easily all swung in the Orioles way or against the person who was at deadline, speeding, and late to pick someone up. If Norris located his pitch to Aoki an inch further in, maybe he isn't able to slap the ball right between Hardy and Flaherty. If the person pulled over for speeding is rude to the officer, not issuing a ticket doesn't even come into the mind of the cop. Small margins of error exists on both sides of the spectrum.
And baseball, as with life, is just not fair all the time.
* To be fair, I haven't seen the broadcast as I was at the game. But from people I trust on Twitter and prior experience listening to Ernie Johnson and Ron Darling, I have little doubt that this isn't accurate.
Some other thoughts that may or may not relate to the life and baseball theme:
* Paul and I both remarked how both games were excellent, despite the final outcome. We were both physically exhausted after each game from screaming and cheering to the last out. We have both seen much more excruciating losses. Raul Ibanez and his miracle pinch hit home runs in 2012 after Alex Rodriquez was pulled from the game due to ineptness (despite being paid an ungodly amount to be anything but inept) comes to mind. But so do regular season losses to the Red Sox and Yankees from 2007-2010. OPACY would be filled with 50% Orioles fans at best (usually much, more worse, especially those Red Sox games in 2008-2009) and if the Yankees or Red Sox won, their fans reactions made you think this individual game was the most important of the season. Those were the definition of high risk, high reward games. O's win and it was almost like 2 wins in 1. A loss felt much worse than your normal loss over the course of a regular season.
* The Kansas City wives section, with their mock seven nation army chants after taking the lead in both games (regardless of what you think about the chant), for lack of a better term was void of class. You aren't any different from the Red Sox, Yankees, or any other major market team when you do stuff like that in the opposing teams stadiums. Orioles fans were certainly guilty of this too, as the exodus of fans to Chicago in August for the three games series against the Cubs comes to mind. I like to think karma, along with good solid play from the Cubs, played a role in that sweep. Karma didn't play a role last night but that doesn't mean it won't over the next couple of games.
* On a more positive note, Omar Infante hit a dribbler off of Darren O'Day on a great pitch to open up the 9th. Infante, a veteran, didn't celebrate at first base. He certainly wasn't going to be sad about the outcome but he also didn't act like he just did something amazing. It was refreshing to see, especially with how things have fallen over the course of the first two games.
* A talking point amongst baseball pundits has been Buck Showalter versus Ned Yost and how Buck would have the easy edge in outmanaging the pre-historic baseball convention of Yost. With the Royals up two games to none, you would think that Yost has proved people wrong. He hasn't. Alex Gordon, arguably the Royals best hitter this year, still bats sixth while Alcides Escobar leads off with his 40 point lower on-base percentage. Yost went with rookie left hander Brandon Finnegan in game one in the sixth inning and had to go to Kevlin Herrera to bail himself out instead of just throwing Herrera to start the inning. Herrera may be the Royals most digusting reliever in terms of stuff, yet because it wasn't the seventh inning, Yost certainly couldn't start him. Lorenzo Cain batting third all year is just as mind boggling and has worked out so far over the course of a 6 game playoff sample size, but eventually that logic should prove faulty, even if it isn't this year.
* And finally, this series isn't over. Many people think it is. That's their opinion and if they have that opinion, I wish them well. As we were waiting in the clogged up lines to exit the stadium, Dave Wallace met with Dom Chiti in the outfield grass in centerfield, no doubt to discuss what adjustments can be made pitching wise. It was a moment as a fan that I took in. While fans moaned and groaned on the way out (again to be fair, not all the fans but enough to notice), these guys were already discussing what happens next. And as Buck, Adam Jones, and other players said post game last night, there isn't a sense of dread in this clubhouse because the games still need to be played. If anything, the pressure now switches to Kansas City and the underdog status goes back to Baltimore for the time being.
* STATS LLC tweeted last night that no team has ever come the LCS after losing the first two games at home. Nothing like making history by turning the tide, starting with Game 3.