10/19/2004: Gem o'the Day:
King Kaufman, from Salon, on yesterday's NLCS Game 5:
This fine country mostly missed a beautiful ballgame between the Astros and Cardinals, teams you might have heard about, at A Day With Orange Juice Is Like a Day Without Enron Field at Minute Maid Park. It started three hours after the Red Sox-Yankees tilt and almost beat it to the finish line, Jeff Kent ending it with a three-run rocket over the left field bleachers.
It was the third straight win for the Astros, who now lead the National League Championship series 3-2 after losing the first two to the Cardinals, who dominated the league and appeared ready to waltz across Texas and right into the World Series.
Except in Houston and St. Louis, this game appeared on a cable station called FX, which is best known for being unknown.
Brandon Backe of the Astros and Woody Williams of the Cardinals were the starting pitchers, as they had been in Game 1. In that game they both gave up four runs and were gone by the middle innings. In this one, while America watched the Sox and Yanks tumble into extra innings, they each allowed no runs and one hit, Williams over seven frames, Backe over eight.
Against the best lineup in the N.L., one that averaged well over five runs a game during the regular season, Backe took a perfect game into the fifth inning and a no-hitter into the sixth. The only hit he allowed was a single to right by Tony Womack. The only hit Williams allowed was a single to center by Jeff Bagwell in the first.
As you might expect, there was defense. There were running catches and sharp infield plays. Scott Rolen made a diving stop at third and threw out Bagwell from one knee. But the real highlights were provided by Carlos Beltran, who else.
In the seventh inning Beltran raced over to the left-center field gap and dived, flat out, to backhand a liner off the bat of Edgar Renteria. Cesar Cedeno lives! And then some, oh boy, and then some.
In the eighth Beltran one-upped himself, retreating on Reggie Sanders' mammoth drive to center field, a home run in 29 of the 30 big-league parks, and calmly backpedaling up the center field hill to catch it.
Are you following me? The center field hill! For some reason, there's a grassy knoll on the warning track in dead center field at the Juice Box, and not only did Beltran, his eyes on a titanic fly ball, navigate it to make the catch, not only did he not stumble, have his knees buckle, lose track of the ball as the ground beneath him began playing tricks, but he went up the damn hill backwards! And he appeared to do it with the same effort he'd employ in ambling three steps over to catch a batting-practice popup.
If there were a lake in center field, he'd have walked across it to make the catch.
Len on 10.19.04 @ 01:11 PM CST