If I only had a brain. Jeff "the Scarecrow" Weaver (if we only had Major League Baseball's permission to use their photographs, I could provide visual proof of his ability to ward off avian pests) has allowed only four earned runs in 11.2 innings during the National League Championship Series after a disastrous season start with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and a 5-4, 5.18 finish with the at-the-time lagging Redbirds.
He's making me look like more of a complete asshole than I already am for calling him a washed-up dirtbag a couple of weeks ago. The possibility exists, of course, that I am the wind beneath his wings. The provider of tough love. Or, it could be that he's in the walk year of his contract. And it can only motivate when the Austin Time Warner Road Runner home page refers to you as your younger brother – in this case, star Angel rookie Jared – in its teaser for coverage of your team's game-5 triumph, a 4-2 thriller at Busch III. It is a win that finds the St. Louis Cardinals on the threshold of a World Series date with the Detroit Tigers.
I love it all, obviously, and will accept any consequences that come my way.
Speaking of which – both the "If I only had a brain" part and the "complete asshole" part and the "younger brother" part and the "loving it all" part and the "consequences" part, I suffered a major concussion after Thursday's 2-0 New York Mets squeaker, as I taunted a patron at a pub until he eventually blindside-cheap-shot me while I regaled a young lass with tales of my kid brother's bachelor party, which took place earlier that evening. Needless to say, my head smashed against a stubbornly resistant wooden counter, and I don't remember a single thing until I woke up at another pub Friday night, for the dinner following the wedding rehearsal. I think they call this the rehearsal dinner. Apparently, I attended the church walk-through, as well. Hey, what can I say? We're talking about practice here. Practice.
Anyway, that was the So Taguchi night. You can imagine the frenzy of a throng of St. Louisans at an Opal Divine's open bar as their team battled back from the brink of an 0-2 NLCS deficit in the company of beautiful waitstaff and bartenders, as well as tolerant night managers. The air was crisp, the beer was cold, and the breaks went the good guys' way. Baseball is the best sport to watch with lots of people at an October wedding rehearsal dinner, because it is a sport open to interpretation and whimsy while simultaneously adhering to severe implication. If you can't understand that, your team doesn't have much of a legacy.
The most special part of the 2006 postseason for the Cardinals is that role players have come up so big, as they have for the Redbirds in so many years past. Taguchi, Spiezio and his crimson tuft that finds kids cutting out construction paper and taping strips to their chins, the rookie closer Adam Wainright and the rest of the bullpen's young bucks, Weaver, Astros reject (that sounds weird) Preston Wilson, even mulleted Aaron Miles and his relative pinch-hitting prowess.
The shit is magical like Coldplay.
All the same, while recovering from my bruised temporal lobe and partially perforated ear drum and serving as best man for my brother, I haven't found time to craft odes to my Cardinals' frankly shocking run. Yes, shocking. As beaten up with injuries as the Mets are, The New York Times apparently paid the baseball gods millions of dollars to ensure a proper 20th-anniversary gift to the 1986 team of wild boars and Buckner capitalizers. Now that it's not all happening according to plan, you see writers like Murray Chass referring to Albert Pujols as Dopey (like, of the Seven Dwarves). You know what, know-nothings? Let Carloses Delgado and Beltrán pile up the stats: The Cards are going into a potential Shea clincher with ace Chris Carpenter on the mound.
But I won't jinx them. I was convinced I did that in Saturday's reception toast – "The heat is on," I said. "On the street." – after Jeff Suppan twirled a gem in front of his dad. The next night, as I collected the blood from my ear in a cotton swab, the Mets trounced the Cards, in the process reasserting themselves as the team to beat.
But the Cardinals bounced back behind Weaver, of all people, and the defining moment took place when Tony La Russa left him in to face Delgado – the Mets first baseman has historically owned the Scarecrow – in the sixth Tuesday night with runners on. In doing so, he trusted instincts over stats, something he has demonstrated an impressive and uncustomary knack for during these playoffs, especially after my grandmother threatened him with his job.
Who would've thought?
I attended each of the four NLCS games against the Astros at Busch II in 2004. That was a classic series (the subsequent spectacle, against the Boston Red Sox, was not so much, although I was at the historic clincher, and BoSox fans who'd traveled to the Gateway City seemed to disagree). This is shaping up to be a decent one, but I can assure you of this: In that 04 series, the 'Stros had all the momentum and a 3-2 lead heading back to St. Louis. I was crushed. In this 06 series, the Cards have all the momentum and a 3-2 lead heading back to Flushing Meadows. I am elated.
I trust neither feeling.
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