In some parallel universe yesterday, after Derek Lowe's disastrous second inning, with two men on second and third and two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, Nomar Garciaparra stepped up to the plate.
Nomar, named after his father Ramon, but backwards. Nomar, about to become one half of professional sports' Royal Couple. Nomar, the enigma, who in May and July batted .341 with RBIs in the triple digits. Nomar, who in the postseason has hit a measly .105.
You can see the way Nomar is taking the slump at this crucial time--hard. He's always a jumpy bundle of nerves when he steps into the batters' box, his complex system of tugs and touches at his arms and shoulders, his little dance as he awaits the pitch, but somehow, in this drought, his rituals have grown frenzied and frenetic. You can see him grimacing, swinging for the fences, pressing, trying too hard.
But this time, in our parallel universe, Nomar steps to the plate. He tugs at the gloves like usual, but this time his face is slack. He moves a little more slowly. He steps up to the plate, shuffling his feet back and forth, windmills the bat, and looks David Wells right in the eye. The runners tense at second and third. Suddenly, Nomar calls time out.
He steps out of the batters' box and just stands there. He puts the bat on his shoulder and looks around. The fans' tension builds in a gathering roar. Nomar looks up toward the seats on the Monster. He looks at Wells, who is holding out his hands, palms up, in a "What the hell?" gesture. He's jawing at the ump to get Nomar back in the box. Holding his hand toward the umpire, Nomar re-joins the game. Again, he shuffles, again, he windmills the bat, but as the pitch comes he is perfectly still.
And in our parallel universe, Nomar's slump is over. He gathers himself, calms his nerves, and hits a towering home run to the grandstand there in that fourth inning, driving in three runs to take the lead.
In this universe, though, we're going to New York just a single game away from elimination, with our worst pitcher on the mound, and I don't really know what to say.