Postseason Magic, That Fickle Fellow

As I write this, the 2012 National League Championship Series stands thus: the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants are tied at 3 games apiece. Whoever wins tonight's Game 7 will go on to face the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

It would make more sense for the Cardinals, who have red on their jerseys,
to play Detroit, who have blue on their jerseys. Just saying.

How did we get here?

You say gritty play, excellent pitching, clutch hitting, stellar defense, stupendous offense, etc. I say Postseason Magic, Esquire* got us here.

Oh, the aforementioned baseball fundamentals played a significant role, to be sure. But like the wand in a wizard's hand or number chart on an arithmancer's table, they are tools, instruments, mere apparati (Blogger tells me "apparatuses" is the correct plural form. Oh, well).

The Slide-That-Was-Less-a-Slide-and-More-of-a-Horizontal-Belly-Flop

See, there's a reason the Giants, while down two games to none in the best-of-five division series, won three straight games to advance to the NLCS: Postseason Magic. There's a reason the St. Louis Cardinals beat a better Braves team in a one-game playoff and had the come-from-behind-to-win-an-elimination-game to end all come-from-behind-to-win-an-elimination-games against the Nationals to advance to the NLCS: Postseason Magic.

That same Postseason Magic was with them last year, a protective sentinel and guardian angel. He helped them win their division series against the Phillies, even making a brief appearance in avatar form, scurrying across Busch Stadium's home plate in the guise of a common grey squirrel. He helped them breeze past their division rivals in Milwaukee, silencing with his hand the mighty bats and powerful hands of the Brewers.

Gives new meaning to "Panda Express." His nickname is "Panda."
Pablo Sandoval's nickname is "Panda." It loses all humor if I
have to explain it to you. Ugh.

Most notably, he plied his magical trade in Game 6 of the World Series, guiding a fly ball by David Freese just over the glove of Nelson Cruz. He played a trick on the Cardinals by pushing Josh Hamilton's ball over the fence, then let St. Louis know it was all a jest by scooting another fly ball by Freese past the center field wall.

There's no other explanation for it. Postseason Magic was behind it all. He always is. That's just as true this year. But the question is, whose side will he be on tonight?

I really hope it's not this side.

See - like Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Thor and Loki, Jacob and the Man in Black, Rob and Chad Lowe, Motorcycle and Tree Trunk - each son has been favored. Each has made his way to Game 7 aided by Postseason Magic. For the Giants, it's winning a statistically-improbable streak of elimination games. For the Cardinals, it's forming statistically-improbable come-from-behind wins in elimination situations (6 straight, I just learned from ESPN's Karl Ravech).

The statistics are there. St. Louis has the most Game 7 wins and the best Game 7 (11-4) record of any team ever. The Giants are the first team to win 5 straight elimination games since 19-I'm too lazy to look up the year. But it's been a while. Ridiculous streaks, incredible numbers.

But there's always that one game that breaks a streak.

Freese or Scutaro - either one could be the streak-breaker tonight.

Kyle Lohse and Matt Cain, tonight's starters, matched up in Game 3, and Lohse came out on top. St. Louis got to Matt Cain as it always gets to Matt Cain. But is tonight the night that pattern gets changed? The Giants have all the momentum for tonight - two straight wins, home-field advantage, the roar of fans revitalized by Frisco's Bear Gryllsian survival skills. But the Cardinals have broken momentum before. 2006 NLCS Game 7, anyone? 2011 World Series Game 6, anyone?

See, the Giants are the team that won't go away. The Cardinals are the team that won't die. What happens when an unstoppable object meets an immovable force?

That's for Postseason Magic to decide. And I'm going to have to live with his decision. Sure, I won't be happy, furious even, if it goes one way, and ecstatic if it goes the other. But it's out of my hands. I did the one superstitious thing I could think of doing - I changed my Twitter profile picture back.

My lucky Twitter profile pic

Before last Friday, it was a section of the movie poster for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." It had been since October started. I changed it Friday, innocuously wanting something different. That night, the Cardinals lost. They lost again Sunday. Change the picture back, Cardinals win again, right?

Maybe. Like I said, it's not up to me. It's up to Postseason Magic, whose favor will go to whom he wills. I'm selfish, I'll admit - I got my World Series last year. And in 2006. By all rights, the Cardinals shouldn't even be in the playoffs this year - a rule change just started this season put them there. They shouldn't be in this NLCS - the teams they've played to get here were better this year, they have a rookie manager, they lost the near-almighty Palbert. But they are. Because they won't die. And because they won't die, I'm spoiled. And dreading the possibility that tonight, they may finally die.

Carp and I both hope that doesn't happen.

I can do all the rain dances, chants, mantras and animal sacrifices I want.  I can not watch and avoid the pain, or tune in and embrace the terror. I plan to do the latter (though I may turn it off when my team is losing because history shows that sometimes works). I intend to watch every swing, every throw, every catch, every slide to try and divine the side to which Postseason Magic has invoked his October wizardry.

He may favor the Giants, he may favor the Cardinals. I hope for one, I detest the other. But it has to be one or the other. Someone has to bury the other, have the birthright, possess Mjolnir, control The Island, be a better actor. There can be only favored son tonight.

I just hope it's the right one.

The more I see this kind of thing tonight, the happier I'll be.
*Since Luck is a lady, it seemed only fitting/politically correct to deem Postseason Magic a gentleman.


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