It’s funny. Looking at just the matchups before last night’s game, it was a mismatch. Chris Carpenter won the NL Cy Young last year and has a good shot at doing it again this year, and John Maine almost didn’t make the playoff rotation before injuries descended on the Mets’ pitching staff.
In Game 2, when these two pitchers met the first time, neither pitched well: Carpenter gave up five runs in five innings, and Maine went just four, allowing four total runs. Still, if I had to put money down on one of those guys making a comeback, my money would have been on Carp. But John Maine got the win in Game 6, not Chris Carpenter. And I’m not sure he really even pitched better.
Oh, maybe Maine pitched better. He struck out an extra batter in two-thirds less of an inning and allowed five fewer hits and one fewer homerun. But he also walked four more batters, hit another, and threw far fewer strikes.
In all honesty, Maine didn’t really seem to pitch that much better than he had during Game 2. The difference was that the umpiring seemed a little more consistent (though that had little effect on the actual number of strikes Maine threw), and Maine was able to get out of his big jam in the first. On the other hand, Carpenter allowed a run in his only jam of the night, coming in the fourth inning.
I don’t say this to pick on Maine at all. He did what he needed to do, which was to pitch competently and let the game hinge on other factors, like the Cardinal bats’ utter failure to get anything going until the ninth inning. I just find it fascinating that the playoffs are as unpredictable as they are. I’m apparently not the only one who thinks so; in the New York Times, Will Leitch, Cardinal fan and editor of Deadspin, also underlined this same unpredictability. The playoffs are no more chaotic than any regular season game, but we all tend to only notice it when it’s all on the line.
Last week, I published a column here entitled, “Four Reasons Why the Cardinals Could Shock.” In that article, I was very careful to stick to conditional verbs, like “could,” for two reasons. First, I didn’t want to be laughed at when the Mets swept, and second, I just didn’t know what we’d actually see, just what we might. At times, three out of my four possibilities have been dead on: the Cardinal offense looked very much alive in a couple of games, Jeff Suppan pitched fantastically, and the Cardinal bullpen was lights out here and there. The one prediction that hasn’t worked out was the one I felt most confident about.
Tomorrow’s match-up of Jeff Suppan versus Mystery Met once again favors the Cardinals. Suppan owned the Mets in Game 3, both on the mound and in the batter’s box. But I’m not worried, because I know better now. One game is impossible to predict. Trends are just trends, streaks can be broken, and the mighty humbled. It’s going to come down to a coin toss.
And because of that, in my own twisted mind, it’s going to come down to everything. The umpiring. The winds at Shea. What I eat for breakfast. It may come down to the number of comments we get during the game. It could come down to Eric Simon’s Endy shirt. Or my lucky Mets cap that I started wearing on September 28th in an effort to change the team’s mojo and have worn ever since, despite ripping it off my head after Game 2 and stomping all over it.
It could come down to karma. Last week, I was sure it would, and I don’t even believe in the stuff. Heck, I don’t even really know what it is or how it works. There’s nothing like an uncontrollable situation to turn a rational being into a superstitious mess.
And here we are at Game 7. Another coin flip. Or maybe one last series of coin flips. I’m hoping for lots of “heads.”