Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of VEB.
The gods of baseball have conspired today to give us as dramatic an afternoon and evening of baseball as we're likely to see most years, outside the actual playoffs themselves. Actually, considering the nuttiness of the final day of 2011, this probably won't even be the most dramatic regular-season day we Cardinal fans have seen this decade, but still. A doubleheader between the two teams with baseball's two best records? Teams that also happen to be jockeying for a possible division crown even now, trying to avoid a trip to the Jake Arrieta Game? Oh, and one of the teams is also going for its 100th win of the season, trying to reach that magical, ridiculously satisfying number for the first time in a decade, and trying to become the first team to do so period since the 2011 Phillies? Not too bad, MLB scriptwriters.
The only problem, of course, is the fact the Cardinals still have three games after today's marathon tilt against the woeful Atlanta Braves, and only need win two more games of the five left to clinch the NL Central crown. Considering the adjective woeful is legally required to appear in any reference to the Braves at this point, you have to believe the Redbirds can get the wins they need to force Pittsburgh, for the third year in a row, into the one-game Thunderdome. So, really, nothing to worry about, right?
It's worth noting that there is trauma in the recent past between the Cards and Braves. If you were to walk up to any Atlanta baseball fan right now and use the words 'Pete Kozma', 'infield fly rule', and 'two thousand twelve', in pretty much any combination, you're likely to get punched in the face. Kris Medlen is with the Royals now, and Chipper Jones is probably drinking a beer and fixing a tractor somewhere, and Jason Heyward patrols right field for the Cards now instead of the team he both played for in that darkest hour and also grew up a fan of, but there are still players on the Braves right now who would love nothing more than to see the Cards crash and burn, I have to believe. So maybe it would be best not to head off to the Dirty South needing at least one and probably two wins over a group of perhaps surprisingly motivated Bravos while the Pirates, the hottest team in baseball since the end of May, head off to beat up on the Reds.
What I'm saying is, just fucking finish it today. Win one of these two games, boys, and pop the champagne in the lion's den. Statement games and momentum and all that stuff is mostly crap; the kind of fluff spouted by superstitious players and the broadcasters who love them, at least most of the time. But if ever there was a day that felt like a chance to send a message, to make a statement, to put the upstarts back in their place, then a doubleheader on the last day of September, with a shot at taking a series on their turf and celebrating the crown they failed to wrest from your grasp would seem to be it, no?
I don't have any serious analysis to offer today, everyone. This has been one of the most remarkable seasons I can recall; watching this piecemeal juggernaut lurch and sputter toward the century mark in victories in spite of the kind of luck Job would think was just a tad bit ridiculous has been one of the more singular baseball experiences of my life. And now here we are, watching two 95+ win teams face each other as a postseason warmup. I feel like it's fair to say baseball literally doesn't get any better than this, at least in all likelihood.
Tomorrow is October, where the playoffs live, and all the various and sundry excitements and complications that may come. But today, we have one final gift of the regular season, before September of 2015 waves goodbye forever.
I bring you something to watch. Just in case you want to see Michael Wacha pitch against the Pirates immediately, rather than waiting for this afternoon. And also a musical interlude, just because.