There is nothing like the drama of a close baseball game when all the chips are down.
When undrafted, unheralded Tampa Bay infielder Mike Brosseau homered in the 8th inning off Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman this past Friday night Oct 9, it sent the Yankees towards another early October exit, their eleventh in a row since they last won the World Series in 2009.
There are some baseball laws that apply even to the outrageously entitled Yankees: If you hit home runs and very little else and have a thin starting pitching rotation, you are bound to run into October trouble.
The low-budget but multi-talented Rays will certainly be the sentimental favorite in their matchup against the unrepentant sign-stealing Houston Astros, the team everyone wants to hate (especially now that the Yankees are out).
They got off to a good start last night (Sunday Oct 11) with another come-from-behind nail-biting 2-1 victory. The RBIs came on a home run from sizzling Cuban defector Randy Arozarena and a rare single by catcher Mike Zunino.
From A to Z, the Rays are abundant with great baseball stories. Arozarena, a mere 25, is in its first season as a Ray. He arrived in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for minor leaguers who have yet to reach the majors (though pitcher Matthew Liberatore is considered a good prospect).
Zunino, 29, came two years ago in a trade with the Seattle Mariners who only have utility outfielder Mallex Smith to show for it so far. Zunino was an All-American at the University of Florida and played on three College World Series teams.
In 2012 he ran the table of college baseball awards - winning the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser trophies and the Johnny Bench award. By 2013 he was in the majors.
Talk about having baseball in one's blood! His father Greg met his wife Paola in Italy when he was catching for a Bologna team and she was a catcher on the national softball team. Greg has since become an area scout for the Marlins and more recently the Reds.
Yankee killer Mike Brosseau, 26, is another fascinating story about the vastness of the Rays' scouting net.
From Munster, indiana, Brosseau went undrafted out of Oakland University in Detroit, a weak team in the not-exactly-powerhouse Horizon League. He improved each season in the Rays farm system and also spent a winter playing in Perth, Australia.
Kudos to Curtis Granderson, who working for TBS on a post-game panel after Brosseau's dramatic homer, noted Brosseau's lineage. Curtis, the former Tiger-Yankee-Met outfielder, played for the University of Illinois-Chicago Circle in the same conference.
Talk about the connection of baseball present to baseball past. When I heard the name Brosseau, I immediately thought of Eddie Bressoud, the journeyman shortstop who played for my New York Giants after Alvin Dark left in the mid-1950s. Last I checked, Bressoud
was still alive at 88. Hope he felt a connection to Brosseau, too.
There's still a lot of baseball left between dangerous and playoff-tested Houston and Tampa Bay. But let's give a salute to the gritty multi-talented Tampa Bay boys and their ability to make its whole far greater than the sum of its parts.
More next time on the National League Championship Series featuring two unbeaten teams in the playoffs: Everyone's betting favorite, the Los Angeles Dodgers, winners of eight straight NL West titles but still no World Series victory since 1988. And the Atlanta Braves
who haven't won it all since 1995 and have endured their share of playoff agony.
For now, let's be glad we have a heaping helping of October baseball in front of us. Almost seems like normal which of course it isn't. But to watch baseball is to dream so here's to more of it.
And always remember: Take it easy but take it!