“Tomorrow we’re getting those good-for-nothing Texas Rangers. Good night, Coach,” Crawford said, walking down the hotel corridor.
“Good night, JP,” Servais said and entered his hotel room.
He stayed in the entryway, listening with his ear to the door for the sound of the last door on the floor being closed. And as soon as he heard it, he quietly slipped out, walked out the front door of the hotel, west, away from the city and far into the Texan desert.
He ran and ran and ran until his feet blistered and rubbed against his age-appropriate New Balance sneakers. He walked on, hamstrings clenching and thirst gripping his throat.
He walked until he could no longer, falling to his knees while the barrel cacti stood silent witness to his pilgrimage. He began to slowly crawl forward in the darkness, mindlessly, until he found he couldn’t crawl either and collapsed under the stars – alone.
With all his energy, he sat back down on his heels and breathed heavily. He felt his forearms and shoulders clench as he pulled the incredibly heavy, incredibly black knife from his pocket. He hesitated only slightly before pricking his finger, letting a single drop of blood fall to the desert floor.
The blood’s rotation rate must have been satisfactory, for the void before him roiled a storm of pure energy, a dark, crackling smoke that slowly formed into a shadowy humanoid form. Scott swallowed and looked around to see that the desert, the cacti, the stars – all gone, replaced only by a deep, charcoal infinity.
The energy seethed before him. “Back so soon, Scotty?” the form cooed.
Scott said nothing, gritted his teeth. God he hated the sound of that voice.
“After the last time you said I would never see you again. Does it hurt to be wrong?” Scott kept his jaw clenched and refused to be prodded.
“What, you thought you didn’t need me anymore this season? Thought you’d done enough this offseason to win a championship? the emptiness purred at him.
“You know damn well I don’t set the budget,” Scott snapped, finally breaking his silence. “You know why I’m here. I want to make a deal.”
“Such a brave man to believe he can make demands of the God of Chaos,” murmured the darkness.
Scott hated what he was about to say.
“Please. We’re in a hole… please.”
“OK.” Scott raised his head suspiciously.
“It’s that simple? What’s the price?”
“Oh, of course not. Last season you set the price – this season I will. Goodbye Scott.”
Scott held out his hand, started screaming, haggling, but instead fell down, down, down until he woke up in his Arlington hotel room. He was exhausted. He hoped he hadn’t made a mistake.
For about three hours, the game went as uneventfully as possible while Scott cursed himself for believing in such a fickle god.
Not everything was bad. George Kirby looked pretty good on the hill. The rookie, making his sixth start, put on a solid if unexciting performance, the third straight good start of the rotation. He had delivered six strong innings, only five hits and, as usual, not giving up any walks. The fastball looked lively even if it was a bit lacking in the zone, and he placed the slider well despite ripping it up on the only two runs he gave up, two big solo homers from Adolis García and Marcus Semien.
Scott thought back to the Lookout Landing article he read the night before, where Zach Mason wrote that getting off to a good start is really about giving your team a chance to win.
And damn it, Kirby did that thought Scott, apologizing for his language.
Eugenio had also continued to kill the Rangers. After a strong streak, he continued trying to single-handedly pull the Mariners afloat with a massive home run right into midfield.
He even threw in an RBI single an inning later, sending a happy Julio home from second base. That run was as much Julio as it was Eugenio – Julio, who finished second, made it possible, and Eugenio, taking the mantle as 3B Tormentor of Texas from Kyle Seager, delivered.
Scott wasn’t one to complain about runs, but he had made a deal with a god with one Specific skills, and that game wasn’t messy at all with three solo homers and an RBI single.
Scott wryly wished he’d prayed to another god as he watched Texas being favored in the strike zone over and over again – he wondered where Woodward had been last night.
He practically settled into a night of angry Twitter scrolling on his Burner account @ServaisStan420 as he watched his bullpen slowly let the game slip away on a sleepy Texas afternoon. Hey, at least he could look forward to retweeting the referee scorecard tomorrow. Muñoz gave up another solo home run to relinquish the seventh-place lead and continued to disappoint with his command. Throwing the fastball more apparently wasn’t quite working for him just yet.
There were sparks in the top of the eighth inning – Dylan Moore (above average hitter?) had delivered a double across the board that ricocheted off a referee’s shin, so at least that was something. Servais began leaning forward, holding his breath and wondering what was going to happen next – would some chaos enter this game? Maybe Adam Frazier would give a ball the old Baltimore Chop and Heim would trip over his feet after catching the ball? Or maybe a bird would somehow fly off with Brett Martin’s hat and disrupt his concentration, and he’d give up a home run?
nope Just a floor out. Scott sat back, dejected, and watched helplessly as Romo, in all his bearded, awkward glory, gave up a two-run home run. It would then do he thought as the game went into the ninth inning.
Except that the game got exciting pretty much for the first time that day. Ty France, amid what is believed to be a slump for Ty, hit a home run that just crossed the wall the other way to make it 5-3.
It would have been the game-winning run if Romo hadn’t been shot with two runs a half-inning earlier, but Scott didn’t think so. He stood a little taller. His team could do this without the intervention of dark forces, he prayed, unsure who else he was praying to.
They agreed with him. Julio hit the hardest hit ball of the night, a 110 mph single. JP followed up with the third softest shot of the night to put Julio on third base. Scott felt his heart race as Texas’ sexiest man, Eugenio Suarez, hit the plate. His mind raced. Was Geno due for a regression or was he the hot hand?
The latter turns out.
Scott watched as Julio and JP howled with delight and the boy and captain circled the bases to close the gap. He joined them from the dugout, grinning from ear to ear, pleased with his team and especially that the darkness would not win today. Nothing about that inning came cheap – even JP’s soft single had a .640 xBA.
They couldn’t win it there, but Scott wasn’t surprised when Diego ended things in the ninth – his last six games had been phenomenal and today was no different. Seven puffs (in just fourteen pitches) later, and the Mariners went to extra innings.
Toro jogged to second base, Manfred Man himself. Scott remembered all the nasty messages he’d sent Rob about this rule (from his Burner phone). He didn’t feel sorry for any of them.
Dylan Moore, who had his best game of the year — in a couple of years, really — did his job and grounded Toro into third place.
Frazier got to the plate, quickly made it 3-0, and stepped out to adjust his gloves. Scott was fine with a walk. He would take it.
Scott turned left to speak to Manny and saw nothing. He turned back to the field and again saw nothing – the same limitless inkblot world.
He felt a cold grip his back and a whisper in his ear.
“You are in my domain, Scotty. Extra innings are mine, and mine alone. Who do you think let Rob adopt the Ghost Walker?” Scott felt bile rise in his throat.
“Anyway, a deal is a deal.” The voice began to fade. “Remember, you needed me today and you will need me again…”
Scott came to when ball four bounced off Heim’s glove to the backstop. Toro was running at top speed, but it didn’t matter – there wasn’t going to be a throw. “The Chaos Ball is back,” Mariners tweeted.
Scott felt an adrenaline rush as they took the lead, forgetting the means for a moment. He signaled Pete for the bullpen to make sure Sewald was ready to come in to earn the save. They stopped getting runs, but that was okay – they had one of the best in the business.
“Let’s just hold on now,” Manny said to Scott as he came back from the field, patting him on the shoulder.
Scott had a feeling it wouldn’t be a problem – he felt a chill run through his veins. He grimaced and prayed that the price wouldn’t be too high this year.