Then the unthinkable happened. While printing their World Series tickets, the crack when ball met bat was inaudible inside the arena. Still, everyone saw the ball elevate. The batter stopped for a second to see where (and if) it would land while the pitcher prayed that he was wrong. The left-handed ace on the home team's pitching staff cried "Oh my God!" as the ball continued its orbit. The sliding glass wall that helped to contain the cacophony of the bees' buzzing over the PA was the only barrier keeping the ball from leaving the park, and perhaps the stratosphere. The conductor of the home team's choo-choo saw the ball hit far above the pile of oranges in his wagon. The stadium fell silent.
The home team took their 3 PAs in the bottom half of the 9th listlessly and the World Series appearance that appeared within the team's grasp slid away as quickly as the ball left the yard. The home team had played its final home game in the series and, though still up 3 games to 2, had to play the final two games on the road, all the while remembering how that man had snatched their dreams from them.
The one hope that that team had going for it was the knowledge that it was sending its best pitcher to the mound for Game 6. The mantra, "Momentum is only as strong as the next day's starting pitcher" was the only thing that that team had going for it. Hopefully, for them it would be enough.
As we now know, it was. The team's ace turned over his Cards to reveal a royal flush -- he pitched 7 innings of 3 hit ball, yielding 1 BB and struck out 6. The team, miraculously to some, won Game 6 5-1 and went on to the franchise's first World Series.
Can it happen again tonight? That was just 3 years ago and tonight the Rays send James Shields, their ace, to the mound to try and send the Rays to their first World Series. Many people have already begun etching the tombstone and penning the obituary but I'm not convinced. Unlike that other team, the Rays don't have to travel into enemy territory. They also don't have many grizzled playoff veterans to help the team recover from Thursday night's indignity but they do have home field advantage, and a guy on the mound with a 3.23 ERA at home in his brief career. It's 2.59 at home this year. And he was solid in game 1, losing only b/c his counterpart was just a little better.
I don't know about you, but I don't know when was the last time I've so looked forward to a playoff baseball game. It may have been game 5 of the 2006 World Series, and we know how that turned out! Go Rays. If the (gulp!) Astros can pull it off, so can you.