Maybe this is what gives people problems when they try to rationalize the way they've watched baseball all their lives with the basically fascist concepts of small sample size, defensive-independent pitching, etc... It's hard to think about how Adam Wainwright pitched last night in any measured, constrained way; it was a vintage Carpenter performance, not just great pitching but willful pitching.
The Fukudome at-bat at the end of his night is a perfect microcosm—curveball, called strike; curveball, called strike; curveball, swinging strike. (He threw Fukudome one fastball all night, out of ten pitches, and it was his first pitch of the game.) He wasn't just pitching backwards, sometimes, he was pitching completely without the fastball: four or five times he went four pitches deep into an at-bat without bringing it back, throwing the curveball and the slider twice in a row without any fear. All things considered he managed fourteen swinging strikes, got eight of his eleven Duncan Outs with groundballs... it was difficult to watch this game and know that Tim Lincecum is the better pitcher. (But at least, as if to prove the point, he wasn't last night.)
I guess the important distinction to make, when watching baseball and enjoying it as opposed to analyzing and thinking about it, is that it can be—maybe has to be—two separate things. Year-to-year performance is one thing; Wainwright's super-Wainwrightian performance last night is another.
As for the game—I guess you can't win them all, and I'd guess, further, that yesterday's ending is maybe the most severe, literal way that's ever been put across. Coming at the end of a series the Cardinals lost it would have seemed like a terrible twist of fate; coming at the end of a near-sweep, one won in such a bizarre fashion, the umpires' decision to actually enforce a rule around second base seemed more like... I don't know, an acknowledgment that the Cardinals had been doing a little too well.
I was sad, finally, to see it happen—I won't, can't relax until the magic number is Kerry Robinson. But a series like that, I thought, can't be summed up in prose.
ONE MAN'S REMARKS
ON THE OCCASION OF THE CARDINALS PLAYING THE CUBS
There is a rivalry, the Cardinals,
playing Whitman's game of base,
encounter every year: the Cubs,
Anson's orphans, aught eight's terrors.
Divisions, simple pride, their worth,
red and blue across the field.
Encounter one: John Smoltz can't field
a first attempt at Cubs and Cardinals;
Perhaps too keen to show his worth
He let Cap's Bearcubs have their bases,
Doubles his recurring terror.
But soon he'd get to know the Cubs,
those Bobby Scales, Brant Brown Bearcubs!
Own worst nightmares when afield,
Santo's source of daily terrors—
Finally there came the Cardinals
Of the Rose's extra bases
come just as we question his worth.
Never mind what Chrisper's worth;
One in hand's worth two bushed Bearcubs.
With Mark of Rose astride third base
And Lego feet upon left field,
"Win the series!" - Coach, the Cardinals
Still, they seemed like three game terrors
Frankie sucked but closing terrors
proved less trouble than they're worth;
far into regulation, Cardinals'
bullpen jocks beat back the Bearcubs,
Boog the best at bat, afield
'Til Holliday slid off the base.
O! that path around the bases;
Umpire's discretion: my great terror.
Standing there around the field
they ponder every rule's true worth
Context favored here the Bearcubs
One win under-nose from Cardinals...
"But basic test of my club's worth:
tearers of two from these tough Cubs."