Around 8:40 PM last night, the 2017 baseball season drew to a close. It was one of the only things that made 2017 at all fun, it was one of the weirder seasons we’ve experienced, and it ended with a month of baseball that rekindled my love for just watching baseball.
Some fans are only in it for the Mariners. As soon as Gordon Beckham flew out to end Seattle’s season, they didn’t care to watch much postseason baseball, if any. Some fans are in it for any baseball they can get, even a Padres-Marlins game in September, just because it’s the only thing on. Most are somewhere in the middle: watching Mariner games when they can, and only the occasional game between other teams.
The postseason is different. Each pitch carries the weight of months of preparation by dozens of individuals. More than that, each individual pitch could spell disaster for the hopes of literally millions of fans that have invested hours of time, plenty of money, and too much emotional well-being to be healthy. Every pitch matters. It’s a different experience.
All of that is amplified in a Game 7, and it came to pass that only a couple of the pitches ended up mattering. A hung slider by Yu Darvish to George Springer mattered - it gave Springer a leadoff double. An Alex Bregman weak grounder to first mattered, as Cody Bellinger, fielding maestro, airmailed a difficult throw to Darvish and scored a run. And a Jose Altuve ground out to Bellinger mattered, as it scored Bregman and put the Astros up 2-0. The Dodgers would score only one run.
That was it. Three pitches, just one of them hit hard at all, and that was all the offense needed to win Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. Despite Lance McCullers plunking four dudes, the Dodgers couldn’t make anything happen. Hard-hit ball after hard-hit ball found Astro gloves, while the specter of Bregman’s and Altuve’s grounders hung over the frustrated Dodgers. In the end, the Dodgers out-hit the Astros 6-5, but their combination of the early-game jitters and flat-out shitty lucky did them in. Months of work. Poof. A George Springer dinger only solidified it.
It’s the biggest stage. George Springer owns it. #WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/VjSLocFNRI— MLB (@MLB) November 2, 2017
I’m not sure what I’d call this expression on Darvish’s face. Bewilderment, maybe. Or maybe just sadness. It begs the question - would it be worth it? Would it be worth seeing the Mariners make it all the way to Game 7, only to be done in by scatter luck and BABIP? Watching the despair of Darvish last night, I didn’t think so.
But then I see this, except it’s Robinson Cano.
The @astros are THREE outs from a championship.— MLB (@MLB) November 2, 2017
Watch #WorldSeries #Game7 on @MLBONFOX. pic.twitter.com/h820txSTpd
And this, only it’s Jean Segura.
Two to go. #WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/Kemfq0ClCd— MLB (@MLB) November 2, 2017
And this could be Nelson Cruz.
All the feels! @carlosbeltran15 got that ring! #CHAMPS pic.twitter.com/gfUKw1Y07o— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) November 2, 2017
And this could be Edwin Diaz throwing the last pitch to Mike Zunino.
#EarnHistory? Mission accomplished. #CHAMPS pic.twitter.com/G0ACjxndyj— MLB (@MLB) November 2, 2017
It’s impossibly unlikely. The team is old, the window is shrinking, and the farm does not hold the promise that the Astros’ did three years ago, when that stupid Sports Illustrated cover came out. But there’s a chance, and just the possibility of experiencing that untethered joy for me makes the risk of toiling through five more years of irrelevancy worth it. I know that others may disagree. But this made me want this for our players and for our fans, and it made me want it now.