Have you ever just stood and stared at it? Marveled at its beauty?
You’ll have to excuse me for combining movie quotes. But you can’t help but leave your senses during this Padres-Cardinals series. It’s hyperbolic to say it’s a battle for baseball’s soul, though that’s the temptation.
By this point, it’s generational knowledge to see what the Cardinals are. They are the bland force of the past, deriding “these kids” as not as good as what came before, and not doing the things the right way, and pining for a “simpler time,” which just means a more predictable one with order where they won’t be upset. They are Pleasantville (a third one!), they are gentrification, where everything looks the same and whatever made the place vibrant and unique has been snuffed out to appease the nondescript mass, the plain. They are the Republican party, simply paying lip service to make old white people feel safe. They are Jim Nantz. They are the suburbs.
The Padres are the cool neighborhood. They are where the parties are. They are where the good bands hang out, and the bad ones want to. They are the dive bar that will throw you out for putting Dave Matthews on the jukebox. They are the now, and the future. They are swag, they are strut. They are what baseball should, probably needs to be going forward.
And like the country, it felt as if that despite being just the minority, though a surprisingly loud one, the Cardinals would get their way. After losing the first game, the Padres turned to Zach Davies in Game 2, with a fastball that couldn’t break wind and whose location has to hit “gnat’s ass” basically to be successful. It wasn’t, which found the Padres in 4-0 and 6-2 holes.
And then it was time for the dong party.
First Fernando Tatis Jr. brought San Diego within one at 6-5 with a three-run bomb in the bottom of the sixth. Manny Machado saw that and hit a tying dinger as the very next batter, and suddenly the Padres were dancing and prancing all over Petco Park. A change felt possible
The next inning, Wil Myers and his missing L put the Padres in business with a tracer down the left-field line to put the Pods up one, and then Tatis added on with his second of the night that led to the majestic and defining bat-flip you see above.
Though the Cards hinted at a comeback, Myers put that out of reach with another shot in the 8th. They’ll decide the bill tomorrow.
We know how this goes. You know how this goes. The quotes from the Cardinals clubhouse are probably already starting to spill out, and if they haven’t they will tomorrow, win or lose. Stuff about how the Cardinals were always in control, how they like to have fun, too, but they do it in a mature fashion, about how a firm handshake is just as expressive, about how they were motivated by the show of exuberance from the Padres. You’ve seen and heard it all before. Maybe they’ll win, and get to hold onto their antiquated ideals for a little longer.
But you sense it, even though you dare not speak it because you’ve been hurt before by this smothering force of “The Cardinal Way.” You don’t want to jinx it. You know though, the Cardinals grip is slipping. The water level is rising above their chin. Soon their way will be gone. A note of the past, a story we tell our kids to make them laugh. It’s tangible now. The Padres will get us closer.
On the other side of the baseball sphere, the A’s and White Sox engaged in what can only be described as two hippos in a mudpit vying for sunning space. Their Game 3 took four hours and featured 17 different pitchers. The White Sox used Dane Dunning as an opener, and then manager Rick Renteria was under the impression that every other pitcher was an opener or watched helplessly as whoever he brought in used the areas outside the strike zone to mimic a Jackson Pollock painting. The Sox walked nine in total, and six of their last seven pitchers in the game walked at least one. It saw them blow a 3-0 lead given to them by Mike Fiers to lose 6-4. The A’s themselves had to crawl through eight pitchers to get 27 outs, making the viewing of this in the neighborhood of a Geneva Convention violation. And it also consigned this Luis Robert tearing of the time-space continuum to a mere footnote.
That thing should have its own cult.
Wrapping up the baseball activities, the Reds advertised themselves as a nightmare to play against. That can only happen if you remember to bring your bats, as they went 22 innings without scoring, which will find them a kinship with every D&D lover out there. And it’s not like the Braves roll out 12 clones of Tom Seaver. Anyway, the Reds can go back to being that annoying barking dog somewhere on your block you can’t find and don’t think about past your first cup of coffee.
The Dodgers-Brewers series ended in the referee stoppage it was always going to, as Clayton Kershaw threw eight shutout innings with about as much effort as he shows in those Subway ads. Kershaw will never be able to shake his rep as a playoff failure until the Dodgers finally win a World Series, and maybe not if then. He remains the best pitcher of this generation, and it’s not particularly close. He’s been done in by weird usage or cheaters or his own fatigue/nerves, The strange thing is that he has the same WHIP and a better FIP in the postseason than supposed playoff titan Andy Pettite, but that doesn’t fit the narrative. The Brewers weren’t much of a test, and if Kershaw wants to shed this burden he’ll need a couple more of these works of art, whether that’s fair or not.