”That’s why,” said Azaz, “There was one very important thing about your quest that we couldn’t discuss until you returned.”
”I remember, said Milo eagerly. “Tell me now.”
”It was impossible,” said the king, looking at the Mathemagician.
”Completely impossible,” said the Mathemagician, looking at the king.
”Do you mean—” stammered the bug, who suddenly felt a bit faint.
”Yes, indeed,” they repeated together; “but if we’d told you then, you might not have gone—and, as you’ve discovered, so many things are possible just so long as you don’t know they’re impossible.”
——The Phantom Tollbooth
So it was Tommy Hanson versus Stephen Strasburg. In the first inning, Tommy Hanson gave up a 3-run homer to Michael Morse: 3-0, Nats. In the fourth inning, Tommy Hanson gave up a 3-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman: 6-0, Nats. In the fifth inning, Hanson gave up two straight singles to start the inning, and Luis Avilan came in to walk the bases loaded, walk in a run, and give up a two-run single. 9-0, Nats.
Against Stephen Strasburg. It was impossible. Completely impossible.
Brian McCann came up in the 6th and hit a two-run homer. Strasburg came out of the game at that point, giving way to our old friend Mike Gonzalez, the former Automatic Lefty. In the same inning, Martin Prado hit a two-run double. It was 9-4. Cristhian Martinez came in and held the Nats scoreless for two innings despite giving up four hits.
Then, in the 8th, Dan Uggla singled — one of his three hits on the day, his first multihit game since June 5 — and then stole second. Janish walked. Prado walked the bases loaded. Heyward walked in a run. Chipper singled in two runs. Freeman singled in one more. It was 9-8. Medlen pitched a scoreless 8th.
In the 9th, Uggla walked and took second on a wild pitch, and Janish was hit by a pitch. Then, Fredi Gonzalez pushed all of his chips to the table and actually sent David Ross to pinch hit. Ross struck out, but Michael Bourn hit a two-run triple. Prado struck out and Heyward grounded out, the second day in a row that they’ve stranded Bourn at third after a one-out triple, but never mind. It was 10-9 Braves. And Kimbrel was coming.
It would not be that easy, because it was the Nationals. Kimbrel gave up a home run to Danny Espinosa, and it was 10-10, and you could feel the hope deflating from your body.
But you were wrong.
O’Flaherty held the Nats scoreless in the 10th. In the bottom half, Uggla reached on an infield single, took second on a throwing error, and took third on a passed ball. The Nats fatefully pulled in their infield, and Paul Janish did the sort of thing that Luis Gonzalez did to Mariano Rivera in the World Series in 2001, except this wasn’t the World Series, but still. He blooped an RBI single over the drawn-in shortstop. 11-10 Braves.
Chad Durbin, fresh off becoming the first pitcher in major league history to give up two three-run homers in the same inning in extras, retired the Nationals in order. The last play, fittingly, was a terrific diving stop on a grounder up the middle, with Dan Uggla throwing out Danny Espinosa — the man who’d tied the game in the 9th — from his knees. The Braves won, after being down 9-0 to Stephen Strasburg with 12 outs to go.
Before tonight, the best win of the season was clearly this one: down 6-0 to Roy Halladay and the Phillies, the Braves won 15-13 on a Chipper Jones walkoff homer in the 11th inning. But the Phillies aren’t a great team this year. We play them just for pride and old times’ sake. We play the Nationals for all the marbles. They’ve been the best team in the league all year, and they have killed us for years. Tonight, the Braves got smashed in the mouth and they stayed on their feet and kept punching. Today, the Braves showed some heart.
Walk tall, boys. You did yourselves proud.