That Yankee Win, Well Awaited

The Yankees won again last night, completing a come-from-behind
three-game sweep against the Indians, with a stunning 5–2 win in
Cleveland. Now we Yankee folks can sit back and wait for the Nats and
the Cubs to settle their thing tonight in Washington, and wait also for
the Yankees and the Astros to begin their A.L. Championship
best-of-seven series in Houston tomorrow.

Baseball is stuffed with waiting. The Yanks went ahead early, on a solo
homer by Didi Gregorius in the first, and another Didi shot, with a man
aboard, in the third—both struck against the Indians’ well-rested ace
Corey Kluber, and setting up a long out-counting wait at my house and
all over Yankeeland. The Indians were up against the obdurate veteran C.
C. Sabathia, whose eight strikeouts in the first four innings imposed a
stunned semi-silence on Progressive Field. Four successive singles and
two runs in the bottom of the fifth restored the roaring and drumming
for the moment, but the Yankees’ narcotizing David Robertson, and then
Aroldis Chapman, soon had us counting outs again, while the re-silenced
Indians fans waited for winter. Here, at my place, I was waiting and
sometimes screaming for the FS1 announcers, John Smoltz and Matt
Vasgersian, to stop their flood of heavy expertise and Googled-up stats
and allow us to pick up and share some of the beautiful, complex
silences of the game. For a sample, they could listen to Ernie Johnson
and Ron Darling, over at TBS, who had done the Cubs’ home-game loss to
the Nationals at Wrigley Field earlier in the day without
self-importance. This won’t happen, of course, but I was offended by a
stupid little joke between Smoltz and Vasgersian in the booth just
before the Indians’ last at-bats, at a moment when compassion for the
appalled home fans and their millions of Midwest companions seemed
appropriate. They did not honor this.

Our last and best waiting was produced by Brett Gardner, the forever
Yankee lead-off man, in his ninth-inning at-bat against reliever Cody
Allen, with Aaron Hicks on second and Tod Frazier on first. I was ready
for this, one of Gardner’s patented wait-and-foul at-bats—a series of
short, left-handed slashes and bonking fouls that cause the man on the
mound to shrivel and age before our eyes. My scribbles about this at-bat
came at the bottom of a page in my notebook, and the accumulating twelve
pitches and six successive fouls went off the bottom and up onto the top
of the next page before Gardner’s single to right center scored Hicks,
and, after a botch on the relay, Frazier as well, for the last runs of
the year out there.

One question for us Yankee fans is whether Aaron Judge can pick up a
smidgen of waiting from Gardner’s example. Judge struck out four times
in the game, and a record sixteen times in the series, almost always on
breaking pitches down and away, which he could not resist. He did this
without the smallest complaint—no bat-slappings or glances to Heaven—and
kept his sufferings to himself. All we can look for, with proper
patience, is for him to lay off those pitches, to learn to wait.

Joe Girardi had told us to expect an outcome like this in his
statesmanlike interview before Game 3, so let’s try a little joy
abounding. Just after the game, I heard from my old friend Allan, away
in Prague for a family funeral, who e-mailed, “From the fourth inning on
I followed every pitch on the Internet. It is now getting on for 6 A.M.,
but I am the happiest fan in the Western world.”

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