Pittsburgh is just commanding the stage this series, but very much in their own way. They struck early with 2 runs in the 1st inning. The Cardinals answered back in the 5th to tie up the game. Then the Pirates added one more in the 6th, which the Cardinals matched in the 8th inning. So going into the bottom of the 8th, the game was tied, both teams well into their bullpens. And then the Pirates got their lead back and a cushion and just streamlined to the finish line. Game over at 5-3 Pirates, and the Pirates are 2-1 in the NLDS over the Cardinals. One more win tomorrow could hand them the series to face the winner of the other NLDS series.
What was fun about this game was basically how the Pirates patched together their win with 2-run singles, a sacrifice fly, and small ball kind of scoring. Sure, home runs are fun, but the hard work of beating out the tag and running as hard as you can to score is just really reflective of the nature of the sport in general — the rising tension of the play and the relief and exhilaration when it all works out (or even the disappointment when it doesn’t).
The other game may need a little more time to sort out, but you might not know that by tonight’s score. The Dodgers kind of trudged all over the Braves tonight. The Braves struck first (much like the other game tonight) and were up quickly by 2 runs in the 1st inning. The Dodgers returned fire in the 2nd inning with 4 runs of their own (unlike the other game tonight). Both teams each got 2 runs more in the 3rd, but then the Dodgers grabbed another 4 runs in the 4th. But they weren’t done yet. In the 8th inning, they tacked on another 3 runs. And while the Braves made a decent effort at a 9th inning rally, a 9-run deficit isn’t easy to chip away at, even a little at a time, like a 2-run homer. When the Dodgers get into an offensive groove, they are hard to stop, and tonight, the Braves just weren’t pitching at their capacity. So they lost 13-6, and the Dodgers lead their series 2-1.
Honestly, I think in my mind I still picture the Braves from the 90’s spearheaded on their rotation with guys like Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz. The Braves were a huge threat in the power-hitting days of the 90’s, not because of their power-hitters (which they had a few in their days), but because of the really stellar pitching. They were virtually unhittable at times, with all 3 of the guys I mentioned winning Cy Young awards at some point during the 90’s.
Look, I grew up in Braves territory (though never a fan) because we didn’t get a Florida team until the Marlins in 1993 (and no one rooted for them) and the Rays in 1998 (and only a handful of people who didn’t have any team loyalty already rooted for them and still do). So I think it’s kind of hard for those of us who have followed baseball for so long to re-think of a team a certain way. Much like it’s hard for the people who knew the Yankee-diva generation of the 70’s and 80’s to understand why the Yankees are actually a team of class, excellence, and integrity. And while the Braves have definitely been rebuilding, adding a huge amount of power to their roster, that polish and extra push that they had a few decades ago just isn’t there. At least, it was there tonight.
Maybe that’s the lesson in this whole thing. It’s so easy to continue to base your judgments on who you think someone was year ago, but in reality, life has moved on, circumstances are different, and people really do change, even if just a smidgen here and there. Maybe we need to take the time to see who they are today and draw our conclusions based on today. I know I like to believe I’ve learned from the past, so maybe I should expect others to do the same. Something happens when we hold people to higher expectations (warning: not unreasonable or vengefully skyscraper ones) — they have a tendency not only to meet them, but exceed them. Holding people to low expectations only invites them to meet those down there.
I think that’s why I expect the best in the Yankees. I expect them to meet higher standards because I know they can. And I know sometimes it doesn’t work, but they (as a group) have yet to fail my expectations as people. They still give and serve their community as a group and as individuals; they create a team dynamic just by showing up for each other’s events and being friends on and off the field; and they continually plan and strive for personal development — athletically, emotionally, and spiritually. And when all is said and done, I’d rather have a team of really great guys who struggle for every win than a team of total divas that can play some good ball from time to time.
Of course, they wouldn’t really be the Yankees if they didn’t win at all and they didn’t win a lot…