If you’re like me, the Cardinals aren’t the only team you’re watching now. With the National League Central race so close and the standings fluctuating daily, my nightly baseball watching has expanded this month since I need to know what the Pirates and the Reds are doing every game too.
The Cardinals still have my primary attention, of course, and the prime viewing spot on my television. But here’s a picture to show you just how I’ve been watching — with the Pirates game on MLB-TV, sound muted. The Reds game, depending on who they are playing, is either on Gameday on my laptop (like last week when they played the Cubs and Brewers, since I’m in their home market and blacked out on MLB-TV) or on a split-screen with the Pirates.
But it’s September — what else can we do? Besides find ourselves doing the unlikely and rooting for the Cubs and Brewers and Astros to win, anyway.
It’s an emotional roller coaster at times — last night being a prime example.
It’s exhausting on occasion.
Yet it’s also energizing.
And it gets us ready for what’s ahead in October, on a slightly less intense level.
Back to last night …
Of course we were all interested in what the Pirates were doing, since a one-game Central lead for the Cardinals at the time certainly wasn’t comfortable. The Pirates had been trailing the Padres 1-0, which wasn’t necessarily a surprise — the Padres have won every single series they’ve played at PNC Park since it opened in 2001. But Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer in the seventh. Mark Melancon came on to pitch the ninth inning with the Pirates up 2-1, right after Adam Wainwright gave up four straight hits and two runs in the first inning to give the Rockies a 2-0 lead.
Melancon gave up a lead-off single, followed by two outs. Damn.
In Denver, Daniel Descalso hit a ground-rule double, Adam Wainwright hit a fly deep to left for another double to put the Cards on the board and Matt Carpenter — of course — singled Wainwright home to tie the game. Yay!
And more happiness too about what was happening in Pittsburgh as Melancon gave up three straight singles — the Padres tied the game, then took a 3-2 lead. Wow!
I suddenly felt better, because of course my mind foolishly had jumped ahead when the Cardinals were trailing and the Pirates leading to another tie for the division lead. Of course I know better.
So it wasn’t a surprise when Wainwright drove in Yadi to give the Cards a 3-2 edge. OK, maybe a surprise that it was Wainwright who did it — but is there really anything surprising about this Cardinals team anymore? And in the fifth, when Yadi drove in Matt Holliday, things were looking good.
Especially with the way Wainwright was pitching after that first inning blip.
Even the run scored by Colorado in the sixth wasn’t all that concerning, although the Cardinals missed opportunities to add onto the the lead in the seventh was a little bit worrisome. Yet Wainwright was Wainwright …
Although the single and walk he gave up in the bottom of the eighth had me plenty worried again. At the same time, my attention was also slightly focused on the Reds-Astros game as Houston came back to tie it 4-4 in the sixth.
Then there was the craziest moments of last evening’s baseball watching, happening simultaneously: bottom of the ninth in Colorado, Edward Mujica had loaded the bases with two outs and Todd Helton at the plate. Top of the ninth in Houston, Reds with the bases loaded thanks to three walks (and the fortuitous move by Brandon Phillips to run inside the baseline after bunting so he was called out on interference, otherwise Billy Hamilton would have scored), two outs and Ryan Ludwick at the plate facing Josh Fields.
Mujica gets Helton to strike out. That’s a winner!
Fields gets a called third strike on Ludwick (which Luddy did not agree with). On to extra innings!
The Cards win combined with the Pirates loss meant the division lead increased to two games, with 10 left to play.
I was too tired to stay up and see how the Reds-Astros gave finished, so found out this morning about a wild 13th inning in Houston. So that keeps the Reds 2 1/2 games back in the division and keeps the Reds and Pirates within half a game of each other for the top wild card spot as well.
All of which makes the match-up between those two teams this weekend all the more interesting — and the Cardinals division lead gives them an advantage. It’s trite but true: they control their own destiny. Keep winning, things are easy and set. If not …
Well, things are likely going to continue to be intense and emotional and exciting for the next 10 days anyway. And my baseball attention will continue to be split until the numbers tell me otherwise, once and for all.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.