Most ballgames have turning points. Moments, when you look back later, about which you can say, hey, that’s when I knew we were going to win.
It could be an RBI double down 0-2 in the count. A deep fly ball that gets pulled back for the third out. A double play with the bases loaded that ends a rally and keeps a lead intact.
For a few minutes, I thought we’d have a point just like that tonight. But in the long run, it just went to show that you can’t predict baseball.
It came in the bottom of the fifth. Alejandro de Aza stood at the plate with two outs. And as I watched from just behind the third base dugout, he struck out.
The pitch was in the dirt though: J.T. Realmuto boxed it around. I saw De Aza sprinting towards first. I saw Realmuto taking his sweet time to make the throw. And I knew that De Aza would beat the throw to first. And seconds later, that’s exactly what he did.
And what’s more, I knew that Wilmer, up next, would hit Tom Kohler’s next pitch to the Porsche Club and beyond. Because isn’t that always how baseball works? You catch a break, and you turn it into a run? An opposing pitcher makes a mistake, and you make him pay?
That’s how I figured it would go, especially with Wilmer’s propensity for meaningful moments. And when Wilmer drove the first pitch he saw deep to left, I was sure I was right.
So when the ball hit the top of the wall and De Aza stopped at third, I was thoroughly nonplussed. But I kept myself together. Making Kohler pay would have to wait one more batter, but we would get it done. After James Loney was intentionally walked, that is — and isn’t that kind of astonishing in and of itself? — we would put some runs on the board.
It was Rene Rivera. And he sent a perfect swinging bunt up the third base line.
Wasn’t the best way for it to happen? A rally beginning on a dropped third strike, ending on an infield hit? Beginning and ending with hustle?
And then Rivera was thrown out by a step at first. And in my seat, I was thoroughly disheartened.
What a wasted opportunity, and wasted inning. What a chance we missed for a memorable moment, one that we could point to when we made the playoffs as a turning point. And what was more, we could have used the run.
Right then, I should have remembered that baseball never happens just the way you want it. But what’s going to happen will happen, and whether it happens this inning or the next, there’s not much you, I, or anyone else can do to stop it.
And sure enough, leading off the sixth, Granderson delivered the blow that the Marlins had been waiting for ever since they’d botched a simple throw down to first. And as his ball cleared the center field fence, I knew that we had the game in the bag. And there was your turning point.
Was it the story I’d wanted? No, not exactly. But sometimes stories take unexpected turns. All that matters is that in the end, the story ended the way it should have. And it wasn’t exactly poetic, but it was pretty darn close.
Certainly, you can’t predict baseball. But if you try, you might realize, in the end, that you’re more right than you could have known.