With the Nationals trailing the Dodgers 3-2 in the bottom of the 7th inning of Game 5 this past Wednesday night, I went to the bullpen, which is to say I broke out a Chelada. Many have suggested that I waited too long – that I should have broken the emergency glass and opened my Chelada when the Nats were threatening in the 5th with runners on first and second and nobody out. I didn’t and the rally was extinguished. I’m not going to get into a sabermetric argument here. Whether or not the evening would have been less stressful if I’d started drinking earlier is immaterial. The point is, I did start drinking – a Chelada – and here we are preparing for game one of the National League Championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
What are my expectations? How should I know? We’re in uncharted territory here. The Nats started 19-31 and then maintained a 107-win pace for the remainder of the season, eventually winning the first wild card spot. Now they’ve outlasted the rest of the NL East (I have a wafer-thin modicum of sympathy for the Braves – that was a very ugly thing that happened to them – but really none for the Phillies and Mets) and also the Brewers, and the Cubs and the Dodgers. I candidly did not expect any of this, and of course did not anticipate my crucial role in all of it, vis a vis Cheladas. It’s a daunting amount of responsibility, but also refreshing and delicious.
The Cards are a very good and well-run team. They field brilliantly and Jack Flaherty has been roughly mid-90’s Gregg Maddux for the second half of the 2019 season. Goldschmidt and Ozuna tore up the Braves and Molina is some kind of win conjurer and ump whisperer. They are scrappy and determined and prevailed in five of seven against the Nats this year. They have a better bullpen. We have on balance, I believe, a better line up and starting pitching. And we have me and the uncanny – supernatural really – power of my relationship to Cheladas.
Will Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin continue to be effective after their massive workload in the NLDS? What will happen when the Cards see names like Wander Suero and Fernando Rodney and (God forbid) Hunter Strickland emerge from the bullpen – probably unavoidable in a seven-game series? I’ve been nervous – like pins and needles frenetic anxious – over baseball for going on two and a half weeks now. The colors start to run together, psychologically, with this constant high-powered spin cycle of a postseason. It’s much worse than the NFL playoffs (not that Washington would know too much about that) where all the circuitry just gets ripped out one weekend day and you commence to rebuild from scratch. This just goes on and on, with the occasional day off to brood. But if we are to make the World Series, I know my job and how to do it. To paraphrase Neil Young: It’s gonna take Chelada love.
Anyway, go Nats! I’m psyched. First pitch is 8:08. I’ll be ready.