The Summer when I was 16 years old, my friend worked at Six Flags, and could get one buddy pass per day. One morning, another friend and I split the cost of a ticket so we could each go for half-price. He took the pass, and I took the cash and went through the longer line; I was to meet them at a predetermined location, since none of us had cell phones.
Except when I got to the ticket booth, I discovered that five dollars had fallen out of my sock, and I was short the requisite cash to buy a ticket. (Again, no cell phones). I panicked and did something that I don’t recommend. I jumped a fence and snuck into Six Flags.*
But here's the thing. It was excruciating. I should have been having fun at a place that is designed to be Heaven For Sixteen Year Olds but instead, I spent the entire day with a gnawing sense of dread that someone was going to blindside-tackle me and drag me to jail. It wasn’t until we all got back in the car that night that I breathed a sigh of relief.
There’s probably a shorter example I could have used, but I could not a more accurate one to try to relate what tonight’s game felt like, except by the time the 7-6 loss was all said and done, tonight’s “sigh of relief” was instead ...a sigh ...at the relief.
For all the many heartbreaks the Blue Jays have dealt the Rangers in the last year and eight months or so, there has been this redeeming value: Sports are for entertainment, and these two teams have been anything but boring. Tonight, Austin Bibens-Dirks continued his storybook season, getting through the first three innings having only allowed a solo home run to Justin Smoak. Meanwhile, Marco Estrada had done exactly the same with the Rangers and Nomar Mazara’s solo shot.
In the fourth, however, baseball dumped the game out on the table and mixed up all the pieces. It took 37 minutes to sort them out and move on to the fifth. By then, the Jays had scored four runs (three of them on a bases-loaded double by Steve Pearce), and the Rangers had clapped back with five of their own (three of them on a bases-loaded double by Adrian Beltre). Texas had a 6-5 lead, and it was officially a wild game.
But here's the thing. It was excruciating. We should have been having fun at a game that was designed to be Baseball Fans, but instead, we spent the entire night with a gnawing sense of dread
Austin Bibens-Dirkx returned for the fifth inning, and everyone cringed, but… what's this? He pitched with all the moxie of a baby iguana outrunning a pit of vipers. He struck out Kevin Pillar and Josh Donaldson and got Bautista to ground out to third.
But every time the Rangers went out and couldn’t score again, the dread returned. Tanner Scheppers made his 2017 big-league debut in the sixth inning by striking out Kendrys Morales, and then proceeded to load the bases with one out. Is that security guard looking at me? Does he know? Am I going to jail? NOPE: Pop up, fly out. We’re good. Let’s go ride another roller coaster.
Then Banister sent Scheppers out to pitch the 7th. After a pop-out and a walk, we all put our arms up and screamed as our stomachs went into our throats, because Jose Bautista (who had homered as part of that fourth inning already) was up with the tying run on base. AAHHHHHHHH we all said as we went into freefall. WHHHEEWWWWWW we all said as Scheppers struck Bautista out on an 81mph curveball. Then Dario Alvarez came in, pulled the brakes and struck out Morales, and–danger safely averted–we removed our seatbelts and looked around like we might actually make it through the day.
If Bibens-Dirkx was the gutsy iguana, Jose Leclerc is a mongoose. He walked one, but struck out two in the 8th. It looked like we might be in the clear.
But in the ninth, it was not Bibens-Dirkx, nor Scheppers, nor Alvarez, nor Leclerc that got us busted. It was Matt Bush. the closer. Ryan Goins led off with a double, Josh Donaldson singled him home, Bautista walked, and Morales singled home Donaldson to give the Blue Jays a 7-6 lead.
This is the equivalent of getting away with sneaking into Six Flags only to be robbed in the parking lot by your best friend.
In this case, the dread was real, it was just misguided.
*Do not ever try to sneak into Six Flags. We have cell phones now, you don't have to do this. Also I'm sure they have upped their security significantly in the last 20 years.