The first two days of the 2010 postseason were characterized by brilliant pitching and better teams winning. Which is to say -- and leaving aside Tampa Bay's perplexing miscues -- the first two days went roughly according to form.
The third day, though?
Well, the Phillies are better than the Reds. Which doesn't exactly explain how the Reds blew a four-run lead. Or how they managed to make four errors. Or how the Phillies shot down the Cuban Missile.
All of those things did happen, though. And they make only slightly more sense, knowing the Phillies are better than the Reds.
That was the first game of the third day. What happened in the second game of the third day doesn't make any sense at all.
By the time it ended -- technically, into the fourth day -- none of the big names were anywhere to be found. Tim Lincecum was resting. Bobby Cox, beginning in the second inning, was hidden somewhere out of sight, having been ejected over an umpire's call that might have been correct. Atlanta's starting pitcher had lasted only four innings; San Francisco's starting pitcher had been lifted in the seventh. San Francisco's best relief pitcher had blown a save in the eighth; Atlanta's best relief pitcher had been injured in the 10th.
So when all the famous guys are out of the game, who decides who gets to win?
In this case, two guys who spent most of this season with Kansas City and a guy who spent the second half not hitting and most of this game on the bench.
Let's start with that last guy. Troy Glaus used to be a third baseman. This year, he played exactly two innings at third base. So who could have guessed that he would make the most important play of the Braves' season, starting a game-saving 5-4-3 double play in the bottom of the 10th inning?
Now, about those ex-Royals ... At the trade deadline at the very end of July, the Braves dealt for Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel. It probably wouldn't have happened if Dayton Moore, Kansas City's general manager, didn't still have so many friends in Atlanta.
For roughly two months, the move didn't look all that brilliant. Farnsworth, who'd previously been a fan non-favorite in Chicago, New York, Detroit, and Kansas City, posted a 5.40 ERA in 23 appearances with the Braves. Ankiel batted .210/.324/.328 in 47 games with the Braves.
It wouldn't be fair to say that Farnsworth and Ankiel have been zeroes since joining the Braves. It would be fair to say that neither has played as well as the organization expected. Not nearly as well.
And yet, somehow all of that is forgotten because of just two innings in one game that ended well after midnight back home. Farnsworth, in the game only because Billy Wagner suffered a serious injury, walked the bases loaded before getting the ground ball that Troy Glaus turned into a double play. Moments later, Ankiel hit a baseball into McCovey Cove. Farnsworth made Ankiel's run stand up in the bottom of the 11th.
Before these things start, everybody wants to know who's going to win.
Well, I don't know. Nobody will know. Nobody can know until somebody figures out a way to predict that one of baseball's best bullpens will blow a three-run lead, that Troy Glaus will star at third base, that Kyle Farnsworth will make the biggest pitch of his career, and that Rick Ankiel, with two home runs since July, will hit the biggest home run of his career.
When somebody figures that out, we'll know who's going to win these things.