This is just the second step. It isn’t even for me to really be writing this. We have a long way to go, and not the least of our worries is that we’re about to play the Yankees and we struck out like 20 times today.
Work for baseball players is like drawing a storyboard: a series of situations you’ve prepared for yourself, have written down to look back on, to make sure the story is straight, to learn from a scene that maybe won’t land, an arc that lacks pizzazz, or a system of images out of step with themselves. If nothing else, these Cleveland Guardians have a hold on that storyboard; a flair for the dramatic, and a swagger that speaks both to their age and in defiance of it.
The narrative is fairly clear. For 15 innings today we watched a team battle itself as much as the opposing pitcher. These Guardians who struck out the fewest times in baseball this year put up a lot of strikeouts today. But both pitching staffs looked like those on a playoff team and the outs were fast for both sides. Hell the only time either team really should have scored was when the Guards had the bases loaded, nobody out in the 6th. But no runs. No hits. Three left.
Besides the obvious thing — that we just got to watch one of the best games in playoff history — these two games showed us that Cleveland is a team to beat. One that a lot of teams tried and almost succeeded at this year, and one that won a solid 92 games, 28 games in their last at-bat, and are 2-0 in these 2022 playoffs. For everything that this team could have been at the start of the season, 2-0 through the first round of the playoffs looks pretty spectacular.
Being young is like firewater: it either enlivens you or puts you to sleep. So as Oscar Gonzalez, who could have easily made the team out of Spring Training and either way became one of 17 players to make their major league debut this year, proceeds to hit the game winning home run to advance past the Wildcard Series, it is at least impressive and at most, storybook. Forgo all written strategy. Just find a way to win.
15 innings. We should lend a small gesture to Cory Kluber, whose presence as the opposing pitcher in this Holy Grail of Walk Off Homers is the most beautiful and the most sad thing that could happen. Sad because it brings back memories of the ‘16 team and their letting go of a 3-1 World Series lead…beautiful that Corey Kluber almost won that World Series for us Clevelanders, and just about put to rest the 70+ year curse against the Cleveland Baseball Team. He was here to be the unwitting catalyst for a playoff run that is at least interesting and at most transcendent. We see you, old man. You’re one of the best to ever wear a Cleveland uniform. Sorry it had to be you.
As we tip our caps to the past and look clearly at a present that is very very fun, we at least can take stock in something obvious: The Cleveland Guardians will be here for a while.
New York is next. Hell if I know.