Friday, October 7, 2011

Blissful Anticipation

In less than four hours, as I write this, the Milwaukee Brewers will play Game 5 of their National League Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

At this moment, all things are possible.

The Brewers could win the game. Starter Yovani Gallardo, continuing a winning streak that includes NLDS Game 1, could go seven strong with eight strikeouts, giving up only two runs, and use his uncommon hitting prowess to add a two-bagger at the plate. Slugger Prince Fielder could knock the stitches out of an Ian Kennedy fastball, driving in Ryan Braun and Corey Hart. Later, Nyjer Morgan could execute a competent safety squeeze in the sixth on a 2-1 count, one of the Brewers' tried-and-true plays, to score Jonathan Lucroy from third after Hart's second hit of the game. Utility man-cum-starter Jerry Hairston, Jr. could drive in a pair in the seventh with a solid hit the other way. Manager Ron Roenicke could then turn the game over to his pair of ace closers, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford -- thanks, front office! -- and the Brewers could proceed with happy, laughing relief to the next round. The team's other ace, Zack Greinke, could take the hill for the Brew Crew in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series. A few breaks against the Phillies or Cardinals, and they truly could go all the way to the World Series for only the second time in franchise history.

The Brewers could lose the game. Gallardo could give up a two-run homer in the second inning and a solo shot in the third. The Brewers' hitters could struggle against the Diamondbacks' ace, who is 21-4 this season. In the sixth inning, with Kennedy finally showing some wildness and walking his second batter to load the bases with two outs, Yuniesky Betancourt could execute his favorite play and pop out on the first pitch. Rickie Weeks could miss a potential game-tying home run by three feet in the eighth, and none of the Brewers' pinch-hitters and role players could solve Arizona's average bullpen. Next year's fresh hope at third base, rookie Taylor Green, could be called upon for the final at-bat of the season ahead of Casey McGehee, whose plummeting performance this season left huge gaping holes in the lower half of the order. Or, Milwaukee-area native Craig Counsell could take the final curtain call of his career and tease the fans with a would-be gapper, only to have some speedy replacement outfielder lay out for the catch. The players then would walk around in mild shock, give monotone interviews to beat reporters and television analysts, and proceed like zombies toward their waiting families and flights home, wherever home is.

Or, as we know from "Bull Durham", it could rain. Unlike the $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium, however, Miller Park has a roof. Plus, it's a gloriously sunny day in Milwaukee today. October baseball will be played.

The crystal ball is fuzzy, the permutations and combinations are nearly infinite, but the general outline of an elimination game is always the same. It's one and done for somebody; one and onward for the other guys. The next six hours will reveal all.

Is this great, or what?


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