Tuesday night, scant minutes before Francisco Liriano took the mound against the Cincinnati Reds, I predicted that the key moment of the game would be when Francisco Liriano took the mound. In the event, this probably ranks as one of my better predictions. Blind squirrels and truffles and all that.
But for the millions of Pirates fans and the millions of Reds fans, it's The Drop Seen 'Round the World that will forever be the defining moment of this game ...
That's Russell Martin batting. The batter before him, Pedro Alvarez, had lined out. The batter before him, Marlon Byrd -- and by the way, why didn't the Reds claim him so the Pirates couldn't? -- had homered. So we wouldn't have been shocked if Russell Martin had homered, too. We wouldn't have been looking for a reason, other than Johnny Cueto not pitching well, maybe because he was a little rusty.
But when the Pirates fans were chanting and then Cueto dropped the baseball and then Martin, on the very next pitch, hits another home run? There's your moment.
It didn't have to be, though. In the third inning, Todd Frazier stepped to the plate with two outs, two on, and a shot at giving his Reds a 4-3 lead. Remember that prediction I made? It came along with a passage in which I noted that Dusty Baker's "best right-handed hitters are Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier, neither of whom was particularly good this season."
Still, it seemed to me that if the Reds were going to win, they'd probably need something big from one of those right-handed hitters, since the deck was stacked so severely against their left-handed hitters. They never did get much from those right-handed hitters, as both Cincinnati runs would actually be driven home by left-handed hitters ... but it didn't have to happen that way.
Frazier homered off Liriano twice during the regular season. Liriano's third pitch didn't get in quite as far as Liriano probably wanted, and Frazier drove a fly ball down the left field line. It missed hitting the foul pole for a three-run homer by ... oh, maybe a foot. Maybe three. Either way, it was a close-run thing.
But it was foul. Frazier struck out on the next pitch. The Reds lost by four runs. Maybe the Reds lose the game if Frazier's drive hits the pole. Probably they do. But either way, the game has an entirely different feel. And maybe Dusty Baker is a little more aggressive with his relief corps. Maybe Liriano doesn't last seven full innings, which give another Pittsburgh reliever a chance to make a bad pitch.
We can't know. Except we can know that nothing is inevitable until after it's happened. Todd Frazier could have been the hero instead of Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin. Someone else could have been the goat instead of Johnny Cueto. And before anybody crows too loudly about a prediction that came true, he should try to remember all the ones that didn't.