Potentially Endless

Some teams are built around a talented pitching staff, some around canny base-running, some around brilliant defense. With the Cubs it’s more straightforward—they’re built around being great at playing baseball.

I could sit in front of my laptop all night, into Thursday afternoon, maybe into next week.

I missed the first three innings of Game 7 on Wednesday night. My partner and a friend of hers and I lingered a bit too long over tacos, and it took us a while to get to the bar where we were planning to watch the game. But the bar wasn’t airing the game. Instead the bar was hosting a comedy open mic night, one of the worst forms of cultural expression—definitely worse than baseball. I like this bar, or want to, but they appear to have open mic comedy regularly, and I don’t get it. Some bartender must owe favors to a humorous friend. So we walked to a different bar, which had the game on, but that bar was too crowded. It was at this point that I said, “I’m going home,” and stormed off. This was really rude to my partner (and the friend). For months, what I’ll call a very unfortunate condition in our apartment building, one that the landlord seems unable to solve, has threatened to force us to move. Things had come to a head earlier in the week, and my partner and I were both on edge and probably going a little nuts. Back in my apartment, I opened my laptop and pulled up the livestream, texting apologies and then settling in to watch the six remaining innings. The game was tied 1-1. It was a while before my partner texted back.

I remained upset for the next two and a half innings. The Cubs tacked on two runs in the fourth and then two more in the fifth, and they appeared to be marching confidently toward the title everyone had assumed they would win. Some teams are built around a talented pitching staff, some around canny base-running, some around brilliant defense. With the Cubs it’s more straightforward—they’re built around being great at playing baseball. They hit like crazy, their pitchers are wonderful, they make diving catches all over the place, and they’re managed by Joe Maddon, the most affable and relaxed dude in the game. The Cubs’ president is Theo Epstein, who built the team that ended Boston’s own World Series drought back in 2004. The team’s bullpen was looking shaky during the regular season, but in July they traded for Aroldis Chapman, a closer who can throw 103 mph fastballs and whom Maddon has described as being built like “wrapped steel.” That description didn’t sound great given Chapman’s thirty-game suspension for domestic violence earlier in the season, but then again the Indians’ logo is a grotesque, racist caricature. There are pros and cons no matter who you root for.

Things perked up slightly in the bottom of the fifth, when the Cubs’ starting pitcher, Kyle Hendricks, gave up a walk. Hendricks had been pitching very well, but Maddon pulled him! The new thing in baseball this year, as the highbrow segment of the sports media has been relentlessly observing, is pulling your starting pitcher earlier than is traditional. The logic goes that it’s just as bad to lose the lead for good in the fourth inning as in the eighth inning. And if you’ve got someone great sitting in your bullpen, it’d be a shame not to use him as much as possible. This makes some sense, and Cleveland, especially, had benefited from this strategy throughout the playoffs, thanks to the long legs and unhittable slider of middle reliever Andrew Miller. The Indians would get a one-run lead in the third inning, and then Miller would come in and you could just go buy an ice cream or visit the botanical garden or something, because the game’s outcome was no longer in doubt. Maddon also has a reputation for counterintuitive smarts, which he owes to his black-framed glasses, and to the fact that he actually does possess counterintuitive smarts. That said, Hendricks looked good, and his error was minor, yet Maddon pulled him anyway. Then the new pitcher threw a wild pitch that allowed the Indians to score two runs. Now it was 5-3, Cubs. I didn’t have much of a rooting interest, but were I a Cubs fan, that wild pitch is where I’d start to think about throwing myself off a bridge.

From there, the game descended elegantly into surrealism. Andrew Miller had already made things weird by giving up one of the Cubs’ two fifth-inning runs, and then he made things weirder by giving up a home run to the ancient catcher David Ross, who was playing in the final game of his fifteen-year career. This gave Aroldis Chapman a nice three-run lead to protect, but Chapman couldn’t protect anything. A double pulled the Indians back to within one, and then Indians center fielder Rajai Davis smacked one of Chapman’s dumb fastballs all the way to the seats. Now the game was tied. During the game, the cameras occasionally found LeBron James, who sat in a box wearing a Cleveland or Nowhere T-shirt. I don’t think those can possibly be the only two options, but LeBron must be having some kind of love affair with his hometown ever since he won the city an NBA title earlier this year. When Davis’s laser beam left the park, the cameras found LeBron up out of his seat, legs in a wide stance, flexing as hard as he could.

Six innings in, my mood was lifting a little. Anything could happen! Both managers were making mistakes, marquee pitchers were too exhausted to pitch well, and my weather nerd cousin was texting to tell me that rain would soon be rolling through Cleveland. Would they call the game? Force the players to stew in their locker rooms and think about how sad their fans would be if they didn’t pull through? The ninth inning saw the Cubs get a baserunner all the way to third, but then Javier Báez, trying to get him home with two strikes and one out, fouled off a bunt attempt. He was out. The next guy failed to bring home the run, and that was that. The Indians couldn’t score either. The game would go to extras.

Now I was very happy (and also three whiskeys in). I realized that one of the nice things about baseball is its potential endlessness. I could sit in front of my laptop all night, into Thursday afternoon, maybe into next week. This seemed especially appealing in light of my apartment building’s unfortunate condition. Perhaps my greatest privilege as a New Yorker is the fact that I’ve never had to look for an apartment. There’s always been a friend who has come along with a reasonably priced room that needed to be filled quickly. Now, at the last minute, Game 7 was swooping in to preserve my innocence. I wouldn’t have to move, and I wouldn’t have to figure out how to force the landlord to do his job. I’d just watch the World Series for years

The rain delay was brief, but the tenth inning was a delight. One of the other nice things about baseball, even when there are no major problems with your apartment, is that the rosters get strange as the stakes get higher. The good pitchers have been used up, so instead of Andrew Miller or Corey Kluber or Cody Allen, the Indians sent the skilled but non-intimidating Bryan Shaw to the mound. He gave up a single, an intentional walk, a double, another intentional walk, and another single. The Cubs led 8-6. Then the Cubs brought out Carl Edwards Jr., a 25-year-old drafted in the forty-eighth round, and Mike Montgomery, who didn’t get his first big league win until last year. Because substitutions also bring fun nobodies to the batter’s box, the Indians’ final at-bat was taken by Michael Martinez. Martinez is a “utility” player, which means he’s not particularly good at anything. He spent three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, my favorite team, and couldn’t manage better than a .200 batting average the whole time. For one pitch, the fate of the series lay with a guy whose nickname is “Mini-Mart” (he’s short). He grounded out to the Cubs’ third baseman, Kris Bryant. Replays showed Bryant grinning from ear to ear even as he charged in to field the ball.

I think we’re going to move to Bed-Stuy, but let us know if you hear about anything opening up.

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