Here is a brief, incomplete list of physical issues I’m enduring after attending last night’s game:
- I can’t talk.
- I have a new, mysterious bruise on my right ribs.
- I skipped the gym in order to travel up for the game. It feels like I went twice.
- Exhaustion. The only reason I woke up before 9:00 a.m. this morning is because my dog jumped on me and started barking. I would have just ignored him if I wasn’t concerned about becoming soaked in a matter of seconds.
I wouldn’t trade any of these relatively small complaints for the experience of being at there. That being said, this season is beginning to take a toll on me mentally. Our former All-Star second baseman, Jason Kipnis, is now making highlight reel plays in center field. Our catcher, who continues to flash one of the best backstop arms in decades, is now coming through in the clutch, teasing us with moments that remind us of his former silver slugger self. Our bullpen dominates from front to back, and with the addition of Joe Smith, from side to side as well. And who can forget Josh “MLB” Tomlin?
Those are just the good things.
How do we process the probable loss of Edwin Encarnacion for the rest of the playoffs? The cynic in me wants to say that we blew $20 million on his contract this season for him to help us do what we knew we would anyway — win the central. That same cynic basically tweeted that I thought he’d never walk again, so take angry Matt with a glass of saltwater whenever possible.
How worried should we be about the worst Corey Kluber outing we’ve seen in more than two years? The curveball that dominated hitters throughout the regular season colluded with the enemy, grooving itself right into the sweet spot.
And how about Michael Brantley, who appeared to be tracking instead of hitting for most of last night? He didn’t expect to play last night except for a possible pinch-hitting opportunity, but it raises some questions. Is he a viable starter in the rest of the AL pennant race, let alone in the field during the World Series? Are we comfortable putting him in the field during the World Series, should it happen?
Though I won’t lie, part of me wants to see Santana, Kipnis, and Chisenhall all in the outfield to start a World Series game. “You dawg, I heard you like infielders. So I put an infield in your outfield so now your infielders can field outside the infield.”
I’m frazzled. That’s what it comes down to. I’m frazzled, and I’m frayed...I’m like a functional alcoholic grimacing through long afternoons, licking his lips when recalling the taste of playoff baseball waiting in the night. This team is that addictive to me. At no point during last night’s game did I consider leaving early. A group in from of us stood up in the eleventh, shrugged, and said, “We just can’t do it.”
That’s fine. I understand that not every fan can handle five hours at the ballpark. Most of us did, though. As Kipnis said in the Player’s Tribune on opening day,
For the longest time, all I would hear about were the ’90s teams and the consecutive sellouts. Some of the older guys that I was fortunate to play with would tell me how much they hated coming to Cleveland as a visiting player because of how tough it was then. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
Do you doubt if that atmosphere is back? If you do, let me explain to you my personal experience of Lindor’s grand slam. His approach to the plate represented the second or third time the Indians had loaded the bases in the game up to that point. Each time prior, they’d let the Yankees sneak away, licking minor wounds. With the surge of excitement from Lindor stepping into the box came an undercurrent of unease. “We can’t keep letting them get away with loading the bases,” my Mom said. I nodded and added, “If we don’t do it here, I don’t think we’re going to get another chance to get back into the game.”
It’s not very often that a game, and potentially the momentum of an entire series, comes to bear in the sixth inning. Francisco Lindor also doesn’t see a lot of hanging curveballs on the inner third of the plate.
When the ball left his bat, everyone in the stadium knew — if it’s fair, it’s gone. I tracked the ball most of the way down the right field line, but lost it as it descended back towards the crowd. I didn’t see it hit. What I did see is this: the entire right field district’s arms thrown to the sky along with a cheer; a split-second later the rest of the stadium joined, a pack all howling in response to celebrate. I hugged my mother, the man in front of me, the two kids immediately to my right simultaneously (before they even hugged their own father), and the entire family behind me, in that order. High fives crossed entire rows. My mom, who witnessed Tyler Naquin’s walk-off inside-the-park home run, said that the excitement and noise after the grand slam last night dwarfed it in comparison.
And then Jay Bruce tied it with a no-doubter that had us celebrating, even as it hung over the left fielder’s head.
And then Yan Gomes erased Torreyes (and Gonzalez’s error) with the most ridiculous pick-off I’ve ever seen.
And the Yanimal returned once more to slap a ball down the left field line, sending Austin Jackson home for the win in the thirteenth innings.
Yes, we all celebrated, but at this point it came as a delirious joy. Losing would have been heartbreak; after a game like that, winning still left it with a bit of an ache from the sheer tension of it all.
I will try to rest today. I will attempt to tend to other important matters in life. I know that my mind will continue to drift back to last night, then leapfrog to thoughts of Carlos Carrasco’s start tomorrow. There’s not anything I can do about it at this point, and I’m fine with that.