It’s starting to get real, folks.
Last night’s 12-3 win in Game 2 of the World Series now puts us right on the line between “don’t get too excited because there are a lot more games to go” and “we just stomped them in their own park twice and are going to sweep the Astros at Nats Park this weekend.”
Common sense says stick with the former. My heart says don’t listen to your brain, the latter is going to happen. It's just a matter of when, not if.
My heart, of course, is a notorious liar if you look at its body of work throughout my life. So I’m a little afraid to follow its lead.
But it feels so right.
I will acknowledge I was scarred as a child about all this. I grew up a St. Louis Cardinal fan, because back then there were only 3 channels, the major league game of the week on NBC only showed one game on a Saturday, and it was the team that was playing the best. The Cardinals won the World Series in 1967 over the Boston Red Sox, so in 1968, they were on just about every week.
The Cardinals carried a 3-1 lead in the series into Game 5, and led at one point in the game 3-2. Back then, when we would also walk to school 5 miles in the snow, uphill, both ways, your teacher in junior high would turn on the game for the class to watch, as all games were played during the day.
I wasn’t particularly bothered when Al Kaline singled for what would be the winning runs in the 7th inning of game 5. But I was bothered when the Cards lost the next one 13-1. I then watched in horror when Curt Flood misplayed a routine fly ball in game 7 for the winning runs as Detroit completed the comeback.
But the 2019 Nationals, my heart points out, are not your father’s baseball team. They haven’t followed any rhyme or reason that would appear related to conventional wisdom this season. National media have pounded the 19-31 start to the point of obsession, but the simple truth is the team was not very good in spring training, they were not very good at the beginning of the season, and at times up until the middle of September, they showed flashes of not being all that good then as well.
What they do have is this magical, mystical intangible that somehow creates the big play when it’s most needed and least expected. It is also something that is driving the national media and baseball purists nuts.
Which of course, makes me love this team even more.
“A guy who was 1 for 23 in October took Justin Verlander deep,” tweeted ESPN’s Jeff Passan this morning. “A guy who doesn’t walk walked. A guy bunted. A guy got IBB’d by Houston. Three guys singled at 83, 76 and 63 mph. An entirely improbable inning won Washington Game 2 of the World Series.”
Improbable if it only happened once or twice, Jeff. But when it happens 20 or 30 times in a season, it’s not a bug. It’s a feature.
Much like last year’s Stanley Cup winning Washington Capitals, this group has its cast of characters, although the depth of unconventional personalities goes much farther. Unless you live in the DC area and have watched this team make the transition from baseball team to dugout dance party all year, that’s been kind of a secret.
Not any more after last night.
From the Nats “and then....we dance,” to Strasburg trying to appear OK with a dugout group hug, to Howie Kendrick and Adam Eaton playing Speed Racer in the dugout after scoring even more runs, the country got to see the soul of the Washington Nationals. They looked like the Cleveland Indians from the movie “Major League,” showing the most entertaining elements of that mythical team (even F.P. Santangelo sometimes sounds a little like Bob Uecker. As Harry Doyle would say, “He's not the best color man in the league for nothing, folks!”).
All of which makes me love this team even more.
So today, I will rest my heart and try not to think about what very well could happen. I will just take the stance that last night I had that crazy dream where the Nationals are in the World Series and they won the game. While also acknowledging that I’ve had the dream two nights in a row.
All while looking forward to having that dream two more times this weekend.
Because according to my heart, dreams do come true.