On any given night ...
July, 20, 2012
By Matt Meyers | ESPN.com
When trying to tell you why the NFL is so great, football fans will trot out the old "on any given Sunday" axiom. The idea being that the league's unpredictability stands above its peers.
The thing is, the Major League Baseball season has 10 times as many games as the NFL, and as we saw on Friday, you can see something you've never seen before on any given night. In other words: baseball rules.
I won't go into all the gory details, but the short version of Friday's saga is this: The Washington Nationals had a 9-0 lead through five innings against the Atlanta Braves with Stephen Strasburg (!) on the mound. He started to fade in the sixth, and the Braves put up four runs. They added four more in the eighth and then, in the ninth, Nats closer Tyler Clippard couldn't seem to find the plate. And after a walk and a hit batter, Michael Bourn hit a two-run triple to give the Braves a 10-9 lead that closer Craig Kimbrel surely couldn't cough up, right? Wrong. Danny Espinosa hit a one-out homer to tie the game and send it into extra innings. The Braves went ahead 11-10 in the 11th when Paul Janish hit a bloop single to plate Dan Uggla, and the Braves held on in the bottom of the frame when Uggla made an incredible diving stop and throw for the final out.
When you consider the fact that these two teams are battling for the National League East crown, it's easy to call it the game of the year. The kind of game that makes you appreciate the fact that baseball doesn't have a clock. This game was so wild that Michael Morse's mammoth first-inning homer, which was the longest in the history of Nationals Park, became an afterthought. It was such a crazy game that, for once, Strasburg's innings limit was not the story.
I had no dog in this fight, but when Janish got the go-ahead hit in the 11th, I was rooting for the Nats to come back just to see the game keep going. I was hoping it would last past midnight just to see the #weirdbaseball hashtag in action. (For those unfamiliar, #weirdbaseball is the brainchild of ESPN Insider contributor Kevin Goldstein. If a game goes past midnight local time, it's officially #weirdbaseball, and anyone watching is supposed to eat ice cream.)
In any event, it was a fantastic reminder of why we love this game. As Yankees broadcaster John Sterling always says, "you just can't predict baseball," and I'm sure our friend Jayson Stark could (and very well might) come up with a few dozen astounding facts to put it into context.
Oh, and the Braves and Nats play a doubleheader tomorrow. That should be fun.