Tag Archives: Blue Jays

ALCS Game 6: Wade Davis Is a Heckuva Guy

 

wade davis celebrates

There’s nothing like a good hard rain to remind you that a game is just a game, to show you just how Mother Nature feels about this human spectacle. You want your team to go to the World Series? Fine, but first you have to deal with an antediluvian downpour above Kauffman Stadium in the middle of the eighth inning after Wade Davis was brought out to save everyone’s ass.

An inning ago we were ahead by two, but  Madson took over from Herrera and Revere singled off him and then Thor struck again, hitting a homerun and tying the store. The rain is just an encore to his at-bat. It feels like this must have been brewing all along—it’s the second homerun for Bautista tonight.

The question everyone seems to be asking is why Ned Yost bring out Madson. Bless him, but he was the guy who necessitated the Royals’ spectacular ALDS Game 4 comeback. Since you can’t have Wade Davis all the time, maybe go for someone who hasn’t allowed a single run in the postseason—like Hochevar.

The inning ended in a spectacularly Wade Davis style, striking out Tulowitzski after getting down in the count 3 – 1. But the tie in the eighth does not bode well. Late inning heroics are the meat and potatoes of the Royals! Not some other team!

nervous ned 2

Nervous Ned, moments before disaster struck.

The game has become torture for Royals fans and thrilling for everyone else. Zack and Muneesh especially. I’m at Zack’s place again. He and Muneesh want an exciting game and I just want the Royals to go to the World Series and maybe be able to eat some food in the meantime.

Among the Royals fans are me, and Rob, from Lawrence, Kansas. Most of the expletives currently bouncing off the walls are coming from us. Rob copes by staying glued to the couch and staring doggedly at the television. The weathermen point to the bad weather on the screen. It is a small, green strip that looks like cooked spinach that Popeye accidently splattered on the map. The singular blob hovers over the greater Kansas City area and nowhere else.

I cope by pacing and going to the bathroom a few times.

Before the rain delay and the big homerun the big point of discussion was the garden gnome who caught Moustakas’ home run, and then it was the catch that Revere made in the seventh when he pancaked himself against the outfield wall to catch a Salvy fly ball, turning a sure double into an out. We ended up scoring a run that inning, but could have done much more damage. Oh, and there was also the Fox News jinx. At the bottom of that same inning, before Thor struck, FOX accidentally advertised a Mets versus Royals World Series. The jinx is reminiscent of the Texas governor congratulating the Astros on winning the ALDS when they were up 6 – 2. If we lose this thing I’m blaming it on FOX.

But now all the talk is about the rain delay. Muneesh is castigating Yost for bringing out Davis to finish the eighth inning instead of beginning it, or saving him for the ninth.

“If the Royals win, it will be despite Ned Yost.”

Wade Davis was brought out after the damage was done, and now he might not come back to shield his team from any additional blows. Muneesh was convinced they would not bring him out again.

Even starting pitchers don’t withstand long rain delays. Way back in Game 1 of the ALDS, Ventura was pulled out after a 47 minute rain delay. But that could have also had something to do with the fact that he gave up three runs in the first two innings.

But when the rain finally ceases and the tarps are pulled back to start the bottom of the eighth there are no new faces warming up in the bullpen.

“Are they actually going to bring Wade Davis back in?”

“I doubt it. They shouldn’t.”

“But it’s Wade Davis.”

The Wade Davis question is temporarily forgotten when Lorenzo Cain works a walk from the Blue Jays’ own closer, Roberto Osuna. Everyone knows things start happening when Lorenzo Cain is walked. Hosmer singles into far right field as if on cue. Thor chases after it.

Rob and I erupt from the couch as Cain heads to third. But our rejoicing is premature because Cain is not done. He keeps going. He is hungry, he is tenacious, and he does not want to be stuck on third. Everyone is on their feet. Tulowitzski catches the ball after Cain rounds third and throws it home. Will Cain make it? He only allows a split second to wonder because in no time he’s already there. Lorenzo Cain has scored from first base on a single. Replays show Royals third base coach, Mike Jirschele, as he waves Cain home. He is helicoptering his arms so fast he looks like he’ll levitate.

cain can

Go home. /I did not take this picture

Morales then gets a single. Hosmer goes to second, and Terrance Gore is put in to pinch run. But after that the line does not keep moving. Moustakas hits a fly ball that is caught by Bautista. Any hope for us to add runs is stifled when Salvy grounds into a double-play.

Now we wait to see who will come out to pitch in the ninth. Rob and I agree that Hochevar would be a good pick. But jaws are dropped and gathered from the floor when Wade Davis does come out.

After hearing Muneesh, perhaps I should be a little more anxious. But really, as far as Royals fans are concerned, it’s in Wade “Get the Job Done” Davis we trust.  Wade Davis approaches the mound not with the gusto of an incumbent conqueror, but with the excitement of someone clocking in for an overtime shift. Then, he stoops down to scrawl something in the dirt.

Has anyone tried to google Wade Davis? When you do, two Wade Davises show up. One is our Number 17, the other is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. He’s worth looking up, too. If you google videos of Wade Davis, one Wade Davis has reels of epic strike outs, the other Wade Davis does TED talks on indigenous cultures. The reason I googled Wade Davis in the first place is because I wanted to know what he writes in the dirt. If he does yoga. How he stays so composed.

It turns out Wade Davis of the Royals, not National Geographic, does not do yoga, but he does fish. He also lost a brother and writes his initials on the mound. Number 17 is the number his brother wore when he played baseball.

I don’t think Wade Davis writes on the mound all the time, but this time he does and for some reason I have the feeling that this inning will be a Big Moment in Sports.

Rob and I are only slightly rattled when Russell Martin gets a single. It’s fitting, maybe even poetic, that a guy who caught for Mariano Rivera gets a hit off Wade Davis. It’s just one man on, and not a fast man at that. Except that it’s not Russell Martin on first base anymore. It’s some other guy who’s put in to pinch run. We quickly learn his name after he steals second before the first pitch is even thrown, and then he steals third. He is Dalton Pompey and I like him not one bit.

There is a harmony of ooohs that follows Pompey’s slide into third. Some are high, excited sopranos, and there are low, mournful tones coming from Rob and me. Is Pompey about to pull a Jerrod Dyson? Are the ALCS Game 6 Blue Jays the 2014 Wild Card game Royals? Sure, there’s always Game 7, but this would be a terrible, terrible plot twist to endure.

Pillar is now up to bat. Pompey menacing at third complicates things. Wade Davis obviously can’t let Pillar get a hit, but he also can’t afford to get Pillar out on a fly ball—something Davis induces a lot.

Davis walks Pillar after having him at a 1 -2 count. Oh man, oh man. I feel like I’m on amphetamines again. My foot is shaking. I grab my head to make sure it’s still there. Oh, Wade Davis, you can do this.

Mostly everyone is too enthralled by the game to string together complete sentences, except for Muneesh, who eloquently bashes Ned Yost. Nothing makes sense. Has the rain washed away Wade Davis’ magic powers? Right now he is not the guaranteed victory at the end of the game, not the period at the end of the sentence. He is now a question mark (Or maybe I shouldn’t be doubting Wade Davis. Maybe the problem here is that I don’t have enough faith).

But there are so many questions running through my mind. If we go to game seven the Blue Jays will be the ones with the momentum and that’s not good. Also, Johnny Cueto will probably be pitching and that could be either horrific or sublime. So basically it would be really great if Wade Davis could pull a win out of his behind right now.

He is not pulling anything out of his behind, however. He is straightening his slouch and tucking in his shirt. I am sweating, but he is not.

The next at-bat simultaneously loosens and tightens the noose. In the last pitch, Davis strikes out Navarro right as Pillar steals second base.

“OOOOOOOOOOHHH, ho-ho,” exclaims Zack.

“Holy shit,” exclaims Muneesh.

“Fuck,” say Rob and I.

The camera zooms in on Escobar, whose eyes are as wide as baseballs. Wade Davis seems to be the only one not freaking out about what’s happening to Wade Davis.

escobar looks nervous

I feel the same way

One down, two men on, two men up. Can he really get the next two batters out? The answer is yes, of course, he’s been doing it all year. But can he do it with a Cheetah on third and another guy on second after a 45-minute rain delay?

Revere comes up to bat. He’s the guy who robbed Salvy of a double back in the seventh inning ago. It is a hitter’s count, 2 – 1. Davis throws the next pitch and Revere sees a ball. But it’s a mirage, says the ump. A mirage he calls a strike. Revere jumps up and down in protest. His frustration shows us that he knows Wade Davis can do this. He is Wade Davis the closer, and also Wade Davis the reliever–Wade Davis, the guy with the 0.00 postseason ERA, no question marks. He proves it by striking Revere out on the very next pitch. Revere is next seen in the dugout taking his frustration out on a trash can. Is he frustrated because he might have been hero of the Blue Jays and he couldn’t make it happen? Is he more frustrated about the 2 – 2 pitch or the last pitch, a filthy, dirty, beautiful knuckle curve that dropped right as he swung at it? It doesn’t seem safe to ask.

There are two men out but the danger is very real still because Donaldson is next at bat. Donaldson, the MVP of the American League. Donaldson, who is followed by Bautista. Will Wade Davis vanquish him or set the stage for extra innings and a Bautista at-bat?

The count is 2 – 1 when Donaldson hits Davis’ next pitch. I hold my breath until I see the trajectory of ball–straight into Moustakas’ glove and then to Hosmer at first base to get out of the inning and into the World Series. There is a frenzy on the field and in the stadium, and in Zack’s living room.

I can’t say enough about Wade Davis. This was the most Royals-style inning Wade Davis has had. This inning was to him what Game 4 against the Astros was for the entire team. First you dig your grave, then you put one foot in it, and make sure your back is firmly planted against the wall. And then start making things happen. If there was ever a question as to whether or not Wade Davis is human, there is your answer. A definitive yes, with an exclamation point.

salvy exclaimation point

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under personal essay

ALCS Game 5: Baseball on the Radio

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this.

baseball on the radio

 

 I’ve parked the car, but I can’t bring myself to turn off the radio. I’ve never listened to a baseball game over the radio, but there’s a first for everything.

I spent the whole day driving to from Binghamton to New York City. We drove through the rust colored fall hills of rural New York on Interstate 81, and then through the marshes and highways of northern New Jersey. It was much colder upstate than it was downstate and I was sweating by the time we got to the city.

Extra grime adds a few more measures of good luck on a sports shirt, right? I was looking forward to finishing my day at the office and heading home, and was definitely looking forward to giving my Royals shirt a break.

But when I walked into the office my coworkers were congratulating me about the Game 4 victory (yes, I had a lot to do with it), and asking if I was ready for the game this afternoon.

The game this afternoon?

“We’re not playing until tomorrow,” I told Stewart. Stewart is a Yankees fan who seems to be an in-the-closet Royals fan this postseason.

“Are you sure about that?”

“Um….I think so?”

“You better check.”

I checked. Stewart was right. The game was in an hour.

It’s moments like these where my dearth of postseason experience really shines through. I knew the ALCS was the best of seven. But the pattern I had seen in the ALDS was two games at home, two games away, and a game a home. I assumed there would never be more than two games in a row until the World Series. And last year, well, we only had to play four games in the ALCS!

“Fuck.”

I didn’t have a game plan to watch the game. My unit has a fleet of cars we use if we have workshops in the distant reaches of the outer boroughs. My next workshop was in the morning, in Staten Island. I had no choice but to use a car. There were plenty of bars to watch the game around the office. But drinking cranberry juice at a bar during a baseball game because I’m my own designated driver is lame. It was best just to take the car home and try to catch as much of the game as possible there.

But this afforded me an opportunity to do something I’ve never done before: listen to baseball on the radio. My dad used to fall asleep to the sound of Vin Scully’s voice as he stayed up to hear the Dodgers games as a kid in Orange County. The thought of listening to a pennant game while driving over the Brooklyn Bridge in afternoon traffic seemed like a fun throwback to a different era, and an interesting way to round out my postseason spectator experience. I’d be really well-rounded if only I could somehow make it to a game…

I clocked out right as the game started and tapped my foot as the elevator went down 34 floors, spitting and swallowing people at at least five stops. I jogged towards the revolving door but skittered to a stop when I heard a shout from the reception.

“Go Royals!”

I turned to see the afternoon doorman waving at me. I have never spoken a word to him before, but I guess my shirt said enough.

“Wow, thanks!”

“You guys got this!”

“I sure hope so!”

He needed no explanation as I ran out the door and to the car. Stewart, being an inveterate radio listener and overall sports fan himself, gave me a hefty list of stations I could choose from. He wrote them all down on a post-it note I stuck to the steering wheel.

That is what I’m staring at it right now as I listen to the bad news coming from Toronto. It is the sixth inning. So far Volquez has kept the Blue Jays to one run, but already Revere has been walked and Donaldson has been hit by a pitch. There are no outs. I had to listen to this as I merged onto the Prospect Expressway from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. My heart is pounding and my palms are sweating. You would think I was on amphetamines but, no, I was only driving under the influence of the postseason.

MLB: ALCS-Kansas City Royals at Toronto Blue Jays

Sad Volquez / Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Now Bautista is at bat, and thankfully I’m parked. The first pitch is a strike. Hassidic children cross skip past me as the second is a ball. A Bangladeshi woman in a colorful head scarf hurries by with groceries as he gets another ball. But apparently this one doesn’t have to do with command. The men in the radio say the pitch had been called a strike for the entire game until this point. A pitch later it happens again. Three balls, one strike. The commentators say Volquez looks confused. I wonder what that looks like. Where is the strike zone? It has become an oasis in the desert. He needs it more than ever, but he can’t seem to find it.

Bautista fouls off the next pitch, bringing it to a full count. Then he fouls off the next four pitches. Volquez has thrown a total of nine now—all sinkers, all in the same location. The men in the radio speculate that Volquez is afraid to let the ball wander to the outer edges of the plate due to the suddenly diminished strike zone. The tenth pitch could be a big one. Salvy and Volquez confer about it. What is the grand plan? The grand plan is a knuckle curve that passes through the bottom of the strike zone. It is a good pitch, a great pitch, say the men in the radio. I don’t remember the words they use. Probably nasty. Anything that’s beautiful in baseball is called nasty.

But it’s a mirage, says the umpire. The nasty pitch is called a ball and Bautista walks. It would have been Volquez’s most glorious moment—a ten-pitch duel that vanquished Thor, the biggest strike of the game yet.

volquez pitches

Visuals

I’m glad I made it home before any of this happened. I wonder how many accidents occur because of road rage caused not by the road but by a game happening miles away.

I still don’t move from the car. The men in the radio have me captivated. They hold a complete sensatory monopoly over how I experience the game. There are no visual checks and balances.

It is also very surreal. The reel of the game that plays out in my head is fighting with the reel that my immediate reality urges me focusing on, and sometimes one reel is spliced into another. Eric Hosmer was at first base and then suddenly he’s among the tourists walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. Alex Gordon did not catch a baseball, he was hailing a cab. Jose Bautista didnt’t use his turn indicator as he cut me off on the BQE. I can almost see Volquez in peyas.

I wonder what he looks like as he struggles to grasp the reality of the situation. The Blue Jays haven’t gotten a single hit in the inning yet, but the bases are loaded.
Encarnación is now at bat, and it’s a full count.

A leaf lands on the windshield, next to a Jackson Pollack splatter of bird shit. I can’t sit in this car for the rest of the game. I turn it off and head home. It is a few-block walk, plenty of time for things to take a turn for the better.

I walk briskly but can’t help but marvel at the trees, whose golden leaves and dark trunks make me feel for a second like I’m in Lothlorien. If it weren’t for the game I would have taken some time to wander in the park and catch the sunset.

But being one game away from the World Series is not something to be taken lightly. I take a deep breath as I unlock the door. My roommate’s dog, Tyson, barks at my entry, and then greets me with a wagging tail and a knee-high trail of saliva on my pants.
I turn on the TV to find that Volquez did not work his way out of the inning. He was driven from the inning after walking Encarnación, allowing Revere to walk home. Herrera is pitching now and strikes out the first batter he faces, but the next thing I see is Tulowitzski swooping in like a carrion bird on roadkill and hitting a double. Two men score. Herrera strikes out the next two batters.

We have three more innings to catch up, but we don’t. We do finally drive Marco Estrada, who has been as stingy as Ebenezer, out of the game when Salvy hits a home run and the two Alexes follow with singles. Although at that point the score is 6 – 1 Gibbons decides the Blue Jays can’t afford to let Estrada finish this game. The reliever strikes out Escobar, and Osuna is brought out in the ninth to end the game, 7 – 1.

That is fine, but nerve-wracking. I remember Muneesh saying that it’s best to win the pennant in six games. That way, the players get enough rest, but not too much. The thing is I just kind of want to get to the World Series already and this whole pennant thing is standing in the way…

When my roommates come home they all want to see the Mets play the Cubs. They are Yankees fans, but they’ll cheer for a New York team over a Chicago team. I still don’t know who to cheer for between these two. The Cubs are three games behind but have the Back to the Future prophecy on their side. Plus, if they are able to come back from being three games behind they’ll be like the 2004 Red Sox, and everyone knows how that ended. But if the Mets win, that means I’ll be surrounded by people who are cheering against the Royals. Also the Mets have orange in their uniform, and I haven’t written off my dream quite yet. Usually my dreams are complete absurdist nonsense—like the time I took a hot air balloon over the Alps, or when the Beatles came to play in the empty wading pool at the park across the street from my house. But nothing can be written off as nonsense in the postseason.

As it turns out the Cubs are not the 2004 Red Sox, and the Mets win 8 – 3, and we will play them when we go to the World Series, knock on wood. My only relief is that they are not as orange as the Astros. I flitted in and out of the game after the second inning, when the Mets had already scored six runs. When tuning in I tried to listen for the name Flowers—the guy who had the last at-bat in my dream, the guy who either struck out or had a game-winning two-run homerun. The last Mets batter to be retired was Wilmer Flores and I realized to my horror that while there are no English Flowers on the Mets there are certainly Spanish Flowers.

Also there’s that Daniel Murphy character. It hasn’t been since early October that Daniel Murphy and home runs haven’t been mutually exclusive. The man continued his home run a streak, hitting his seventh in six games in the top of the eighth. It is slightly scary, but if we can get to the World Series and survive the Blue Jays then I think we can survive Daniel Murphy. We just have to get to the World Series.

And I just have to never listen to the radio while driving ever again.

1 Comment

Filed under personal essay, Uncategorized

ALCS Game 4: That Time an Infielder Pitched in the Pennant

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this. 

pennington stats

An infielder gets some pitching stats

The lounge at the hotel is filled with law enforcement officers. Many of them are wearing Mets gear. The Mets are one game away from breaking Chicago’s heart and heading to the World Series. But right now it’s the fifth inning of ALDS Game 4. I am the only person in the room, possibly the only person in upstate New York, who is wearing a Royals shirt.

The hotel is having open bar for attendees of the New York State Highway Symposium and the officers make quick work of getting inebriated. So far they are friendly, not obnoxious. I grab a hard cider and am invited to take a seat among some officers from Rochester who are curious about my team of choice. Am I really from Kansas City, they wonder. Is it in Missouri or Kansas, they want to know.

I am late because after the symposium I was doing some research at the Broome County Historical Society—nothing to do with pedestrian safety or DUIs. There are records of early European settlers to upstate New York, including a group of Germans who had been shipped to the New World by the British in 1710. The said Germans had fled a French invasion of their homeland and had been camping out in London’s Hyde Park and alarming the local gentry, who lobbied to get rid of them.  Eventually the British sent them to the New World, where they were assigned to cut down pines and make pine tar for ships. But the trees in Germantown, New York, where they settled, were not of the pine tar making variety and the British left the Germans to their own devices. According to literature written most likely by hobby historians and possible descendants of said Germans wanting their ancestors to be on the right side of history, the little community was rescued by the local native Americans, with whom they lived side by side in harmony and from whom they would never dream of taking land.

One of those Germans was Wilhelm Kilmer and his five children, all of whom lived to have abundant progeny.

Now, Kilmers from all over the country flock to Binghamtom to find out about themselves. One branch of the clan made a fortune selling a tonic called Swamproot Kilmer. I am not of this branch. But these Kilmers set up their factory in Binghamtom in the early 1900s. The six-story building still stands, with KILMER etched large its stone façade.

I lost track of time chatting with the county historian, who filled me on in the Binghamton family of Kilmers. One of them opened a sanatorium that featured lithium springs. Another was a millionaire who bred horses for the Kentucky derby. This one was an inveterate womanizer who died without a legitimate heir. It was not until the county historian asked me where I was from that I realized I was missing the start of the game and hurried back through the empty streets of Binghamton back to the hotel.

The guys from Rochester are mostly waiting for NLCS Game 4. In the meantime, they don’t mind seeing the Royals and Blue Jays, even if they are merely trying to scope out their potential World Series enemies.

The score in the Fifth inning was 5 – 2. We are winning. I know knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was supposed to start for the Blue Jays, but he is no longer pitching. The Rochesterians quickly fill me in on what happened. Basically the Royals started wreaking havoc early on with Alcides Escobar leading the charge with a bunt. A bunt! Knuckleballs can be very hard to hit when the pitcher is in on point and I know Dickey was on point a few years ago when he used to pitch for the Mets. The replays show Escobar quickly glancing to third base, and seeing Donaldson in the outfield. So for his first at-bat, the first at-bat of the entire game, he bunted. I mean, who bunts for their first at-bat? With wholly no one on base? Alcides Awesomesauce Escobar, that’s who. I make a mental note not to ever miss the first inning of any game ever again.

escobar before the bunt

Escobar assesses potential for damage before the bunt

The little bunt was the inch that turned into a mile. It must have rattled Dickey’s nerves  because after it he allowed four runs in one inning: a home run by Zobrist, a walk, a steal, a single, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. In the second inning he also allowed another home run from Alex Ríos, who used to play for the Blue Jays—and he still outperformed Johnny Cueto in Game 3.

Meanwhile our tall glass of water, Chris Young, had only conceded two runs.

It is a good start but not a huge lead given who we’re playing against so it is not surprising when Yost pulls him at the bottom of the fifth, when Rovere gets a single from him. There are already two outs, but the Rochester man to my right sucks in some air, apparently getting ready for a Toronto style blowout.

“So you’re cheering for the Blue Jays?”

“I just don’t like a lopsided score. It’s boring.”

“That’s true. But I’m kind of hoping for a boring game.”

“I just want to more runs to score.”

“Well, there’s time for that to happen.”

The sixth inning is uneventful, but the Rochester man gets his wish in the sevent inning after Salvy is walked and Gordon gets a single. It was already dire for the Blue Jays, but this is dire squared.

alex rios homerun

The other Alex hits a homerun

Alex Ríos is the third batter and he too gets a single. The bases are now loaded, and the pitcher is dragged, wounded, from the game. The new pitcher does not fare any better and after a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch we’ve scored two runs win no outs, and score two more before the inning ends.

The score now looks like a bartender’s shift: 9 – 2.

During the seventh inning stretch, one of the Rochester men starts talking about Mexicans and another offers me alcohol I don’t want to drink. I’m also one of three women in the lounge now: there’s the bartender and an officer who reminds me of Miss Trunchbull.

I grab a hard cider and take it to my room. I settle down on the bed closest to the door. I’ve designated this one for baseball games, and the one by the window for everything else.

9 – 2 is a good lead, but there are still three more innings for the Blue Jays I’ve seen them get nine runs in as many innings so I don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet.

But the Thor seems to have taken a rain check, and the rest of the offense can’t seem to make good contact. Meanwhile, we score three more runs in the eighth. Yost feels comfortable enough to let some players take a rest and he replaces Salvy with Butera and Cain for Dyson. It would require the second coming of Christ to score ten runs off our bullpen.

At the top of the ninth our batters are still feeling hungry. Morales singles and Gordon is hit by a pitch with two men out. The Blue Jays pull their pitcher again and replace him with someone else who is jogging to the mound to the sound of cheers from the entire stadium.

It is very confusing.

Then the commentators start to mutter something about the pitcher not really being a pitcher.  He Cliff Pennington, an infielder who usually plays shortstop and second base. It will be the first time a position player pitches in the postseason, they say.

My heart goes out to man who trots up to the mound with a sheepish smile on his face.

Pennington turns lemons into lemonade, however. It is not every day you get to make baseball history. His first pitch is a strike. The camera zooms in on his teammates, who are wide-eyed and impressed. After two hits and two more runs he is able to end the inning when Zobrist pops up a foul that is caught by a dogged Russell Martin, who seems relieved the game is over.

 

1 Comment

Filed under personal essay, Uncategorized

ALCS Game 3: More About a Cat, Less About Baseball

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this. 

qiqi1

QiQi /by Anne Ducey

I will remember this game as the one I watched on my first business trip, on the day my cat died.

I was in Binghamton, New York for the New York State Highway symposium. Most of the presenters and attendees were in law enforcement and I got to learn about all the newfangled ways kids are getting messed up these days. One guy shows a video of a man in a parking lot using a can of Reddi Whip to get high on nitrous oxide. Another guy showed us THC-infused gummies. A highway patrolman from Long Island showed us water bottles that had been refurbished with hidden compartments that were used to store packets of heroin. The packets themselves were on display for everyone to see.

After all this I had dinner on the town with a colleague. From what I could see there was a seventy percent vacancy rate in Binghamton’s downtown area. IBM used to have a headquarters there, but they pulled out in 2008 and now the only thing keeping the town alive was Binghamton University.

But there were good places to eat manned exclusively, it seemed, by college students. Despite the hard times, the downtown was not devoid of beauty. Binghamton is surrounded by hills, which were covered in autumn trees that held the sunset in their leaves. The downtown appeared as if it were held in a bowl of fire under a sky of cornflower blue.

I did not see a place to watch the game in town where I would not be the only female amidst a crowd of inebriated middle-aged men, so I decided to watch the game in my hotel room. I can’t say enough about my hotel room. It faced the Chenango River and the sunrises to the east. There were two whole queen beds, a television, a closet the size of a Manhattan kitchen, a bathroom the size of a Manhattan bedroom, and a coffee maker that I didn’t have to share with anyone.

On my first night in Binghamton my had dinner with my colleagues at an Italian place called Little Venice. There was no game that night so I curled up in the bed closest to the window and finished Middlesex in the blessed solitude of my room.

So I was happy to return to my room the following night to watch the game in complete social isolation. I took my coat off and checked my phone, which I had been ignoring. I had been filled with anticipation for this game the entire day, through lectures on pedestrian fatalities in traffic crashes in Queens County, on-the-job law enforcement deaths caused by driver distraction, what a slizzard is, and the true meaning of Like a G6. But a text from my mom, sent to my sisters and me, changed all that.

QiQi has died. I can’t talk about it.

QiQi was one of two cats my mom adopted after Gracie died. Gracie was the cat we got from Santa Claus when I was in second grade. She was the unwavering, undisputed protector of the realm: a cunning and generous hunter who laid gifts of mouse carcasses at our feet, a tireless brawler against felines who sat on the wrong side of the fence. She was street smart, aloof and independent, but always found a way to show her love to us, in her own time.

Gracie was irreplaceable but the house, and my mom, needed a cat.

So for Christmas a few years ago my mom got two of them from an animal shelter. The plan had been to get only one, but thing did not work out that way. Mom immediately warmed up to a black cat called Kenji and five minutes later a silky smooth tabby, whom we later christened Honey, forced herself on us with her unflappable friendliness and endless loving face-plants to our ankles and hands. According to the shelter Kenji had lived with dogs before, so he could co-habit the house with Tuck. Tuck spent most of his childhood bowing down to Gracie. He never forget how she greeted his first enthusiastic, tail-wagging salutation with a claws-out smack on his soft puppy snout.*

When Honey and Kenji first walked through our door Tuck didn’t know what to make of the duo, so similar to Gracie in appearance but altogether different. He offered his snout to Kenji to smell. Honey hissed meekly, but Kenji gingerly sniffed Tuck’s nose and licked is wiry dog whiskers with his bristled cat tongue. After over a decade of abuse from Gracie, Tuck snorted in surprise at Kenji’s amicable, pacifistic greeting. Kenji, for his part, allowed Tuck to get an obligatory whiff his behind, and they became fast friends. Honey lurked at a distance, always in someone’s lap.

Mom loved everything about Kenji but his name. She thought Kiki was a better fit.

“But Kiki is a girl’s name,” said one of her daughters.

But Kiki is the name my mom liked best. The spelling was altered because it was determined that Qiqi was somehow more masculine. Then it was altered again when it was decided that QiQi was more aesthetically pleasing than Qiqi. Don’t ask me to rationalize any of this because I wasn’t the daughter behind it.

For the next few years QiQi would build a reputation for himself as the peacemaker between Tuck and Honey’s conflicts and misunderstandings. Every time Honey cursed and swatted at Tuck, QiQi would hurry over and fuss over him, nuzzling his sloppy dog snout with his sleek cat snout, all the while staring fixedly at his co-cat.

See, dogs are people too,” he seemed to be saying.

But QiQi only spent some of his time on the domestic front. He liked to go outside and range for hours, lurking in the yard and the back lot. If QiQi happened to be outside when Tuck and I went for jogs, he would sometimes try to follow. I would have to gather him, with his ears dangerously flat against his skull, and toss him inside where he would land with a ba-doomp on the hardwood floor. When the weather was nice and my sisters, Tuck and I would go to the park across the street to sunbathe. QiQi always put his ranging on hold to come to join us. It was a strange sight indeed to see young women in bathing suits and an old dog and a black cat all sharing the same blanket in the grass on a hot summer day.

Whenever one needed something from a dresser, cabinet, box, or anything else that opened or closed, QiQi would be there to help, hopping into the opened receptacle and walking on all your clothes, pots, Christmas ornaments to make sure what you were looking for was never found because you probably didn’t need it anyway.

Now when I go home I know I’ll be able to find my underwear in peace and the thought brings me to tears.

These thought of QiQi skittered across my mind like fragments of a broken vase. But mom’s memories of QiQi were much larger, and her grief could not be broken into more digestible chunks.

Watching the baseball game was unthinkable, disrespectful, even. I wasn’t sure what time it was, but it was well past start time. I tried calling Mom, but she did not answer. Having lost a pet was bad enough, and the grief is compounded when you have to deliver the news to each of your daughters, and then you have to try not to cry when you hear them sobbing on the other line.

This is what my Mom had to go through when Tuck died a couple years ago. She called us one by one, each of us in disparate parts of the country, and heard each of us keen and wail in our respective metropolises. Losing Tuck was like losing a strange, wonderful little brother and we mourned him as such. I don’t think mom wanted to go through that again with QiQi.

It was not even ten o’clock. It would have been extremely melodramatic of me to try to sleep, tucking myself in with a blanket of pity. Middlesex was done. Though it didn’t seem appropriate to watch the game, no appropriate course of action presented itself so I turned it on, but not before peeling off some layers and realizing that I wasn’t even wearing my Royals shirt.

It was the top of the of the fifth inning. The Royals were losing 9 – 2. Cueto had basically handed the game to the Blue Jays, allowing nine runs in the first three innings. Given the circumstances, the score made cosmic sense. I watched the game in resignation, exchanging frustrated texts to my sister Beanie, who works at a sports bar in Los Angeles.

We skirted the subject of QiQi and mostly discussed the game. The nature of our communique was such that almost all of the texts ended in ????, !!!! or ?!?! with Cueto’s name featuring largely.

There was also a flurry of texts in the fifth inning when Hosmer’s face took a beating from a ball that ricocheted off the bat, off the ground and then slammed into his mouth. I was certain a collective swoon could be heard from Booneville to Wichita as he winced his much-admired visage.

hosmer hit in face

Not in the face! 

It was hard to see the score so lopsided, but hey, that’s what happens when you let Johnny Cueto’s imposter come in. I mean, really? Nine runs in three innings?

But the Royals keep chipping away and when the top of the fifth ended the score was 9 – 4. Beanie and I told ourselves there was still a chance for us to win—I mean, there were four whole innings left!

And the then the Blue Jays scored two more runs before the ninth inning, making it 11 – 4, and the hope  snapped out of us. The game was as good as over, but I kept watching because that’s what true fans are supposed to do, and because wouldn’t it be cool if we happened to tie the game? Which was truly never going to happen, but what if? It seems like common practice for the Royals to see how far they can push themselves to the brink of losing before they actually win. How distant is that frontier for the Royals?

When the top of the ninth started with a single by Escobar and a double by Zobrist, I was gripped by an irrational optimism. Seven runs are a lot to catch up to, but John Teakettle Gibbons didn’t think it’s enough of a lead and had the Blue Jays closer warming up in the bullpen, which elicited baffled responses from the commentators.

Osuna’s getting loose in the bullpen.

Really?

I mean, look.

I mean, really?

Well, look.

I mean, I really can’t believe they got him up, really.

Could we really score seven runs in the ninth inning? It is only two more runs than five runs, which the Royals really have scored in a single inning…

My optimism was rewarded when Cain scored in Escobar on a sacrifice fly. Only one out, and a man on third. Was QiQi assisting this game from above?

I texted Beanie at 11:14.

Just six more runs!  

And again at 11:15 when Hosmer singled in Zobrist.

Just five more runs!

After two runs there really was a pitching change, really. But then I had to text Beanie again, at 11:19 when Morales, incredibly, hit a homer.

Holy fuck only 3 runs to go!

blue jays fan nervous

getting a little worried

At that point our optimism seemed like a rational thing. Some OMGs were exchanged, and the camera zoomed in to show the facial pores of distraught Blue Jays fans who thought as much as we did that there is a really real chance of the Royals tying it in the ninth.

And then the next two batters were retired.

The ninth inning came and went like a cat. But this is a story not really about the stealth of the cat, but the indiscretion of the mouse. The Royals were as good as dead, hemorrhaging from the fatal mistakes Johnny Cueto made in the early innings. It was said after the game that Cueto was too obviously flashing signs to Salvy. Did he forget he was dealing with Thor and company? Was there lingering cockiness from the shutdown of the Astros that made his nonchalance like that of a mouse who forgets he is a mouse? A mouse that sticks his whiskers a bit too far, tempting a battering ram of unsheathed claws that surge from the shadows?

After having delivered the fatal blows, the cat lurked in the darkness for the rest of the game, biding its time while its prey valiantly struggles back to its hole. The cat would pounce only a few more times—in the fifth and eighth inning, not because it was necessary, only because it was entertaining. In the ninth it looked like the mouse might miraculously succeed it making it home; it could even see a morsel of raw, aged cheddar glowing like a beacon in back reaches of his humble dwelling. That is when, at last, the mouse would feel his body go cold. He did not even see the pair of giant eyes that surveyed his final breath.

In the end the giant cheese was not a vision welcoming the mouse home, but a herald announcing his arrival on the doorstep of the heavens. In the distance among the clouds he sees the strangest sight his eyes would fall upon: a black cat and a rust colored dog cuddling together on a picnic blanket. He rushed to join them.

tuckandqiqi

Stolen kisses /by Anne Ducey

*I did not consult my mom or sisters about the exact chronological order of events or details of our visit to the animal shelter, the adoption of QiQi and Honey, and QiQi’s subsequent name change. Their recollection will likely not be entirely consistent with mine, but that’s what family is for.  

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under personal essay, Uncategorized

ALCS Game 2: A Real Live Wire

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this. 

batshit crazy

Thor

Kauffman Stadium is a bowl of sunshine right now. Light has flooded most of the field and the players wear wraparound sunglasses with Plutonite lenses and Unobtanium frames that make them look like cyborgs. Some  opt for streaks of black paint that are now starting to run down their face, making them look like Scottish warriors.

I’m watching the game with my friend Zack at his place on the Upper West Side. Zack is a ballhawk and baseball writer whose most  recent claim to fame was catching A-Rod’s 3,000th hit and taking his sweet time giving the ball back. His friend Muneesh is also there, and he has a  baseball podcast, The Clubhouse Podcast. Basically, these two have Ph.Ds in baseball, and I’m still in Pre-K. During the game they tweet other baseballheads, look up stats, and correctly predict which pitch will be thrown and why. I can only handle watching the game and sometimes not even that. I’m also trying to eat, but am barely able to dig into my pad Thai. It’s a disappointing rendition, mostly a pile of starch scantly studded with peanuts and a few greasy shrimp.

Zack is cheering for the Royals in solidarity with me. He used to be a Mets fan but resigned after too many run-ins with stadium security. Muneesh is a Tigers fan who, by default, is supposed to cheer against the Royals but out of politeness isn’t doing so openly.

It’s the top of the top of the sixth and the Blue Jays are ahead by one run. That’s better than I expected us to be doing at this point. Ventura was shaky against the Astros but he’s in better form today. He hasn’t glared at anyone or started any fights—important because the Blue Jays enjoy clearing their benches for a good brawl. In ALDS Game 5 against the Rangers there were two brawls in one inning. In some ways it is strange to see this kind of behavior from a Canadian franchise, but in other ways it’s not surprising at all. I mean, look at hockey. Those guys are basically boxers on ice.

I’m getting a little nervous when Donaldson singles off Ventura. Donaldson would have been out earlier had his foul ball not hit a thin wire, one of two in the whole stadium. Perez caught it with his bare hand but it was declared dead and Donaldson got a chance to single. The wire incident was bad luck for the Royals and Ventura seems to internalize bad luck. He is a young person learning how to deal with his emotions, just like most young people around the world, except watching him grow up is a spectator sport.

Next up is Bautista. He walks. There are no outs and that’s not great, but to me, any time Bautista does not hit a home run the pitcher is doing their job. I’m about to take another stab at my pad Thai when Encarnación singles when his grounder slides past Escobar. Donaldson scores, and there’s still no outs. Muneesh lets out a whoop, but stops short of unabashedly cheering for the Blue Jays.

“I just like seeing runs,” he says to me.

Ned keeps Ventura in the game, maybe thinking he’ll dig himself out of the tight spot like Volquez did in Game 1.

tulowitzski aaaaaaah!

He’ll peck your eyes out

Ventura gets one out when the next batter comes up, but here comes Tulowitzski. Instead of painting his cheeks he is wearing black stickers. The sleek slits really make it seem like he is trying to channel the Raven of Death.  He wants to do damage, and does—with a double that his hits on the first pitch. Bautista heads home. My stomach sinks towards the floor, and I’m glad there’s not much pad Thai to go down with it.

Ventura still can’t get a break after this Blue Jays salvo. The next batter, Russell Martin, is walked.

It’s not just a tight spot anymore: it’s about to be a blitzkrieg. Ventura smothers his face with his glove. He is not hiding tears. The downward thrust of his neck and the enlargement of his jugular all belie the monosyllabic expletive that is erupting from his thin frame.

Zack looks at me.

“You alright there?”

Ventura is pulled and Hochevar replaces him.

“I’ll be fine.”

A consensus has been reached by commentators, Zack, Muneesh, me, and everyone watching the game that it is good as over if the Blue Jays score again. But Hochevar offers a fine display of calm and collection and retires the next two batters, limiting the Blue Jays’ damage. I eat another bite of pad Thai. There’s still a lot of game left. We just need Price to start feeling a little magnanimous.

The top of the seventh inning starts with Zobrist swinging at the first pitch and hitting a fly ball that will be caught by someone. Goins or Bautista. But which will it be? They are both running towards it. They’re both there. They’re both about to grab it.

“Crash into each other! Crash into each other! Crash! Crash! Crash!” I am screaming at the television. Anything I can do to help.

They don’t crash. But they don’t catch the ball either! Bautista thought Goins had the ball, and Goins thought Bautista had his back.

I shout whoo, Muneesh shouts whoa, and Zack thinks he should play right field. By the look on Price’s face he probably thinks he should play right field, too. But he’s not in panic mode. It’s just one guy on, right?

But one guy turns into another, and another and we score a run. The Kansas City assembly line is on and where the heck is the off button? Does this thing even come with an off button? Sportscasters have come up with all manner of metaphor to describe the Royals offense at times like these. They like to go with politically correct hackneyed ones, like the snowball effect and the leaky pipe, but I think it’s more like Chinese water torture.

These are the facts regardless of your choice of metaphor: Zobrist has scored, Cain is on third and Hosmer is at first. Morales is at bat. There are no outs.  The camera zooms in on Hosmer and the first base coach, Rusty Kuntz, and they look like they’re scheming.

Morales hits a grounder towards center field and it looks like it could be a double-play. Except that Hosmer is on base two seconds after Morales hits the ball. Morales is out but he drove in Cain and we have a man on second, a man on third.

Muneesh suggests Hosmer was planning to steal second on the pitch, but instead of stealing, ended up preventing a double-play. Two second later the newscasters are saying the same thing. The score is now 3 – 2, and we have a very real chance of tying the game in the seventh.

david price come on guys

Really guys? Really?

Price can’t handle it. The inning could have been over by now. His arms are raised in disbelief, and he is shaking his head. He looks at Hosmer. Why are you even here? I’m a Cy Young winner. How is this happening? 

But it is, and it’s not over. Moustakas, who hadn’t had a hit in the entire postseason, finally ends his drought and makes it to second base on a single and Hosmer scores. It is now a tied game.

There is a new chorus of whoas, and whoos and oh-my-gods erupting from the couch. No one is Tweeting, no one is looking up any stats.

Price still has enough stuff to get Salvy out on strikes, but not enough to prevent Gordon from doubling and scoring in Moustakas. John Gibbons, the portly Blue Jays manager, strides up to the mound. He is shaped like a tea kettle. The tortured David Price hands him the ball, and Gibbons gives him an avuncular slap on the butt.

There is a fresh pitcher. But it’s not over yet, kids, because Rios hits a single. The Royals have gone through their whole lineup and now Escobar is at bat. He gets out, putting the inning to bed, but it seems the Royals’ bloodlust has only been whetted after this five-run inning. In the eighth Cain walks with one out, prompting more anxiety from the Blue Jays dugout. The pitcher is changed before he can even get into the game. Cain threatens only briefly and is caught trying to steal. But this new pitcher lets Hosmer take a stroll, too. And then lets Morales join him. Two men out, two men on. And then Moose hits again, driving Hosmer home. Is is now 6 – 3.

moose is loose

Moose now loose

It really is starting to seem that the Royals orchestrate their victories so as to spread the mirth around a little bit. The other team’s fans get to enjoy the first two-thirds of the game, and the Royals fans get to enjoy the rest.

A sense of calm before the euphoria takes over in the ninth inning because Wade Davis is coming to pitch, and is it known by now that that he is The Man. But there are still whispers of doubt from some corners of the stadium. The commentators murmur: something something want to get out these next three batters something something so he won’t have to face Bautista something something.

 But Davis does not get out the next batter, who gets a single. And he does not get out the following batter, who is walked.

Is this another deliberate plot twist? Are we orchestrating this ninth inning so that we can trade some more joy with the Blue Jays and take it to late innings? It would be great for this narrative arc thing the Royals always seem to be striving to achieve, but it’s horrible for the fans. I mean, I feel like these shrimp could come crawling up my throat any second.

Before the ninth inning started someone, probably me, didn’t want to jinx anything by prematurely declaring victory and suggested that at one point someone is going to get to Wade Davis. I fear the counter-jinx has backfired and that the Blue Jays are going to peck him alive. But what makes Wade Davis great is that he doesn’t let two men on base get to him, at least not in a way that’s visibly notable to anyone (me) who might be scrutinizing his facial expressions for any sign of distress or humanity. There are none.

He retires the next two batters, striking out Revere and Donaldson.  But he still has to face Bautista, the only guy to homer off Davis this year—the only guy to homer off Davis in two whole years. There are two outs, and two guys on base. A homer would tie the game. The whole stadium is shitting bricks. As a general rule Bautista either homers or walks, and every once in a while he’ll get out. Commentators are saying his batting average is way better in later innings, so this is also part of the equation. What will Davis do to him?

It does not take long to find out. Bautista swings at the first pitch and makes contact. The ball is soaring. My god, is it a home run? No. It sails into Paulo Orlando’s glove way, way out in right field, ending the game. Thor is quieted again and it is Kauffman Stadium that thunders instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under personal essay

ALCS Game 1: The Only Thing Missing Was Paul Rudd

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this. 

rudd hamm

i did not take this picture

Last year I watched Game 3 of the World Series with my co-worker, Adam. He lived in San Francisco for eight years before moving to New York City. He was cheering for the Giants, and I was cheering for the Royals. It was a close game, but we won 3 – 2.

This year Adam promised to cheer for the Royals with me, and together we’re watching Game 1 of the ALDS at a place called Foley’s, year Harold’s Square. It’s a watering hole for bonafide baseballheads, with flags, mascots, bobbleheads and knickknacks of baseball teams present and past, minor and major, American and National.

I chose the place because it’s midway between Adam’s apartment and my house. Also, during the first days of the playoffs, there emerged on the Internet a picture of Paul Rudd and Jon Hamm together at Foley’s, two faces representing both sides of the I-80 conflict. Basically I wanted to increase my chances of maybe someday meeting Paul Rudd. Jon Hamm would have been a bonus, but I didn’t expect him to show his face after the Cardinals were obliterated by the Cubs, which is a little scary. There are murmurs now of the Back to the Future prophecy that the Cubs would be in the World Series in 2015. And now, the prophecy was coming as close to being true as anyone could have imagined. But wait! Here’s a twist! Back to the Future was made in 1985, when the Royals won the World Series! That has to mean something, right? Right?!?

If we survive the Blue Jays and make it to the World Series it certainly won’t be comforting to play against a team backed by a Hollywood prophecy. On the other hand, playing the Mets will be nerve-wracking as well. They defeated the team with the biggest budget in the Major Leagues, who, until now, had the most vaunted starting pitchers in baseball. And they wear orange.

It’s not that I have anything against orange, but in my post—ALDS Game 1  dream a batter in orange, last name Flowers, either struck out or hit a two-run homerun at the bottom of the ninth. I still can’t figure out which. The only thing that had a little clarity was an unmistakable sense of despondency in the stadium, which can only mean to me that someone somehow hit a two-run homerun off Wade Davis. I tell myself the dream is meaningless because there is no one named Flowers on any of the teams—and it’s a dream. I don’t talk to anyone about the dream or Flowers because I don’t want to alienate myself from the rest of society. Besides, we have our hands full with the Blue Jays for the time being and they’re blue through and through.

When Adam and I get to Foley’s there’s no room to sit at the bar, where Paul Rudd and Jon Hamm would have staked their territory; all the stools have been occupied by men who seem like they’ve been parked there since the beginning of the LDS and their backs have been permanently curved into commas. Adam and I are forced to move on.

When we get to the back I’m surprised to see two whole tables occupied by Royals fans. I’ve finally found a place where we have reached something approximating a critical mass! The only thing missing is Paul Rudd.

“Maybe he’ll come by later,” Adam says because he has to, not because he believes it.

I am nervous as I get settled for the game. The Blue Jays lineup has the potential to spark a blitzkrieg and their hunger is menacing. People call Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard Thor because of his blonde locks and his fastball, but the guy who’s really like Thor is José Bautista. His bat is his hammer, and he bashes homeruns that crush the soul—if your soul is Texan. Then he stares daggers into his foe with stone cold eyes. It’s his way of ripping out his enemy’s beating heart and pounding them on the head with it. But even then he’s not done. His final stroke is the bat-flip—his way of playing cat’s cradle with their entrails. Tulowitzski is the raven that flies at Thor’s side, waiting to gouge people’s eyes out. They have no fucks to give and their attitude makes the Astros, even Colby Rasmus, seem like golden retriever puppies. I’m not sure how this is going to turn out.

I’m worried about Volquez. The Astros gave him a hard time in Game 3, but one of the three guys at the table behind me—all Royals fans—tells me that Volquez has been the most consistent pitcher this season. I’m not sure how that forebodes when the Royals’ starting pitchers nearly gave away the most earned runs in the American League this year.

When the waiter comes to take our order, Adam asks for a burger and fries and beer, and I ask for a hard cider.

“You’re not hungry?” Adam knows I eat every two hours.

“I’m nervous.” I tell him I’ll eat when we have a lead.

The opportunity comes in the third inning after a series of doubles by Gordon and Escobar, which produces a run. Zobrist grounds out, but Escobar advances to third. Then he scores on a single by Cain, who also stole second base, earning everyone in the country a free breakfast taco from Taco Bell. Now how about that?

When the waiter comes around again I order a shepherd’s pie. I pray that a Blue Jay bombardment doesn’t happen before I start eating.

volquez for victory

volquez for victory / i did not take this picture

But as it turns out the Royals are doing the bombarding today and Estrada, the Blue Jays’ pitcher, can’t seem to find cover. This game turns into one of the most relaxing affairs a Royals fan could ask for. The Blue Jays hit the most home runs in the American League during the regular season—a whole 232, but the only home run of the game came from Salvy in the fourth inning.

By the time my shepherd’s pie came the score was 3 – 0, and I dig in.

The diminished cortisone levels are affecting my fellow Royals fans and we made the most of it. We are high-fiving while in line for the bathroom, skipping up to each other’s tables for more high-fives, and throwing smug smiles across the room while the other patrons sit aloof, eating their fish and chips and hamburgers and talking about the Rangers.

Volquez seems to be on cruise control, but adds some spice to the game in the sixth inning, when two Blue Jays get on base. I am halfway through my shepherds’s pie and suddenly don’t know how much more I can eat. But Volquez takes a deep breath and retires the rest of the batters–including Tulowitzski, who strikes out for the second time. Bautista walks a lot, but his hammer is inactive. The Blue Jays can’t put anything on the board. We exhale deeply and audibly when the inning ends. The sanguine mood continues, and I finish my pie.

The three men sitting at the table behind me live in Kansas City and are in town for an event at Madison Square Garden. When they find out I live here they suddenly have a lot of questions. What brought me here? What kind of Metrocard should they get? How do you swipe it? Do the trains ever crash? What should they see? Will I be back here to see tomorrow’s game?

I have a few questions myself. Do they live in Kansas or Missouri? Have they been to New York City before? How long are they staying? And did they go to the K for any of the postseason games?

They had—the Wild Card game last year. And they already got tickets to the World Series. I admire their faith, and possibly their foresight. The World Series seems light years away still, but tonight we pass another hurdle.

The game ends 5 – 0. The Royals fans clump together to share high-fives, so does Adam, who never mentions that he’s a Giants fan.

The only thing missing is Paul Rudd.

Leave a comment

Filed under personal essay, Uncategorized