The middle innings
As FOX cut back from a commercial break, a plug for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series appeared. For Chicago Cubs fans, ’03 was the Year of Bartman. For Red Sox Nation, however, it was Year of Boone – Aaron Boone, who ended that series and put Boston’s title hopes on hold for one more year.
That rivalry really isn’t what it used to be. The days of the Yankees and Red Sox at each other’s throats seem to be a thing of the past today. The 2004 ALCS – arguably one of the best postseason series in baseball history – represents, for me, a pinnacle of that feud.
With Jeff Conine at the plate, Prior caught him reaching on a breaking pitch out of the zone. They appeal down the first-base line and the umpire rules ‘no swing.’ Fans are going crazy over the call – sure would be nice if there were some way they could see the play again… (just wait, folks, videoboards are only a dozen years away at the Confines.)
Cameras pan the streets around Wrigley between batters and the crowds have begun to assemble. It’s nowhere near what we saw with Chicago in the postseason in 2016 – and that’s striking. You have to chalk it up to social media, I suppose – but with their team just one win from the Fall Classic, the pandemonium seemed, well, nonexistent.
To lead off the fifth, Prior polishes off Pavano on a knee-buckling breaking ball that just freezes his opposite number. Damn, this guy was filthy. After Juan Pierre reaches, he tries to take second on Bako. It does not end well for him. Maybe that’s why he’s behind the dish…
After looking foolish in is own at-bat, the Marlins starter puts it all together again in the bottom of the fifth, striking out the side. Since that run in the first, he’s made easy work of the Chicago offense. I’d sure feel a lot better if this weren’t a 1-0 lead.
Florida has a prime opportunity to open the sixth: Pudge – Cabrera – Lee . Man, talk about a heart of the order. Ivan Rodriguez, soon to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, batted over .350 in both the Division Series and League Championship series to that point. He was locked in both behind the dish and at it.
Prior mixes pitches like a veteran; fastball on the hands, then at the letters – raises eye level of hitter, then decimates them with hard breaking stuff low and away. All I’m thinking is: he’s cruising – let him go. Whatever it takes. He’s gotten better as the game went on. Filthy.
We’re nine outs away. I’ve got chills.