How many times have we heard that wonderful line from Mike Shannon – "Ol' Abner has done it again." After about 30 years of listening to that Shannonism, I've come to believe that Abner, like Zeus, Eros, and the rest of the god-like gang perched above, continues to exert his influence over the game of baseball that he allegedly invented like some cosmic chessmaster. If the last few games are any indication, Ol' Abner has gone off his celestial rocker.
The Atlanta series was nothing short of a Cardinal sweep lacking only the wins. Although leaving Georgia with only one win in three attempts, the Cardinals certainly played well enough and absolutely pitched well enough to have swept through Atlanta like Sherman. Ol' Abner had other ideas.
The Cardinals lost the last two games of the series by a total of 2 runs. In Saturday's game, starter Matt Morris certainly pitched well enough for the win. Had home plate umpire Dale Scott not joined his buddy Ferris Bueller in taking the day off, the outcome might – might – have been different.
I always thought the strike zone was essentially a rectangle, a little taller than wide. Geometry professors everywhere ran to their chalkboards after observing Scott's performance to see precisely how a strike zone shaped like a decalateral ellipsoid will affect the game of baseball in the future.
Sunday's game was a clear Cardinal victory. Oh, okay, so the final score favored the Braves. The winds in Fulton County Stadium made it clear that the Braves had conspired with The Weather Channel gang to force Mother Nature to knock down no less than three Cardinal home runs. By all rights, Scott Rolen's shot to left should still be soaring, but the gales of May shot it down and into waiting leather. The hand of Abner? The world wonders.
The torture inflicted during the weekend series with Atlanta was still a sore spot with Cardinal fans going in to the series with Cincinnati that began Monday night. What further abuse would the baseball gods heap upon the Redbirds. The total package – offense and pitching – clicked in Atlanta for no good result. What destiny would Abner-from-on-high hand to the Cardinals at the Great American Ballpark? Just the greatest ninth inning comeback in franchise history.
Monday night's game in Cincy was just as curious as those in Atlanta. Solid starting pitching, decent hitting, but some weak defense set the stage for the startling conclusion. As Morris and Jeff Suppan did before him, Chris Carpenter pitched well enough to win but was denied by some defensive lapses and set-up relief pitching. Although the Reds scored five runs on seven hits against him only two of those runs were earned.
Going in to the top half of the ninth, the Cards were down 9-3. Twelve batters, seven runs and a 10-9 lead later, Abner had been at it again. As the boos rained down on stunned Cincy closer Danny Graves, John Mabry's two-run homer left the park completing a franchise-historical comeback for the win.
The recent remarkable outcomes to these games can only be attributed to the mighty Abner as the god of baseball. The Cardinals played well enough to win in Atlanta and lost. They played poorly enough in Cincinnati to lose and won. Fate? I don't think so. The only reasonable explanation can be found in the philosophical musings of one Thomas Michael Shannon, and he is right. Ol' Abner has truly done it again.
You can write to Rex Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org