I like to proclaim loudly that I don't believe in curses, streaks, good mojo, bad mojo, karma, and gut feelings. It's all a rational, logic-loving baseball writer can do. And where does it get me? I'm as wrong as anyone else. When the A's had a 25-percent chance of overtaking the Rangers, it was easy to say, "Nice story! But look at the odds." And when the green line on this chart …
… was just about to tickle the bottom frame, the A's chances of coming back were around that of a Miguel Cabrera triple -- could happen, but something you'd go broke betting on. Yet instead of bowing to logic like I did with the A.L. West race, I gave in. I figured the A's were going to do something silly, and the night would end it one or more people wearing shaving cream. And I was right. So we have some lessons to take away from that:
1. I give up
2. Logic is stupid
3. It's more satisfying to be right illogically than it is to be right with logic
4. The A's are never gonna give us up, they're never going to let us down, never gonna run around and desert us
I give up. The A's are riding a wave of something I don't believe exists. At least, I didn't. There's no other way to explain their charge into the playoffs. Other than logic and facts and an admission that with enough baseball seasons over enough years, some team is going to have a year like this, like a bunch of monkeys typing Hamlet. But talk about boring. I'll believe in the invisible momentum that doesn't exist, and I'll point at it loudly whenever things go right and wrong during Game 5.
I believe it. The A's are unstoppable.
Except, I also have another belief. That is that Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in the world, and that he'll be incapable of losing an elimination game until 2022. He hasn't been that hot in the playoffs over his career, actually --just four quality starts in nine tries, and the "quality start" scale is something you reserve for someone like Jason Marquis, not Verlander.
But the answer to the who-would-you-pick-to-start-a-Game-7 question is Verlander. The real debate is for #2 because Verlander is the clear answer. He's a generational player, the pitching ideal. He's the pictogram you engrave on the inside of the space shuttle so alien civilizations know what a right-handed pitcher is. And in the Oakland Coliseum, against a hard-swinging team, in an elimination game, I'd wager he's pretty much unbeatable. Because I say so, sure, but also because he's Justin Verlander.
You don't have to attribute mythic qualities to him, though. You can just note that he's the best pitcher in the game, and that his team is likelier to win than the other one whenever he pitches.
So it's Scylla and Charybdis. Damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't. Immovable object vs. unstoppable force. I've been thinking about Verlander in a Game 5 against the miracle-chewing A's since last night, and I can't decide if I want to keep pretending in the A's magic, or if I want to go with the cold logic of my Verlander-fearing existence.
This is a test, then. If the A's beat Verlander, I'll stop with the logic. A rotation of rookie pitchers? Brandon Moss hitting like Prince Fielder, even though Moss hasn't doing anything like this in his career, and he's older than Prince Fielder? Josh Donaldson becoming a run producer after starting his career hitting like Cliff Lee? Sure. I'm in. If they can beat Verlander, I don't see how I can pretend to ignore the wave of momentum and magic that doesn't exist.
If Verlander wins, I'll figure that things make a little more sense around here. Verlander is supposed to win, against anyone. Them's the odds.
I'm just glad it's set up like this. What an amazing series.
And if Verlander goes 10 scoreless before the A's walk off against the Tigers' bullpen again, well … there wouldn't be anything we could do with that kind of ambiguity. We'd learn nothing. It'd be like the end of King Kong vs. Godzilla. We'd have to wait for a match-up like this to come around again, even though we know that we won't get it for a long, long time. The odds are good that something will happen, though, and we'll know what to believe.