10/02/08 4:36 AM ET
Welcome to October: Enjoy the ride
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
James Loney will hit a grand slam, and a party crowd will fall silent.
Brad Lidge will throw 35 pitches, but he still won't blow a save, and his best pitch will ring up a red-hot Prince Fielder in a pressure-packed ninth.
Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay will show why their teams acquired them.
You will pay the price for walking too many runners, misjudging fly balls, baserunning blunders and gaffes to capitalize when a guy like Jon Lester is in trouble early.
The CNA tower in downtown Chicago will be lit up at night in a way that makes a giant "GO CUBS" sign on one side and "SOX" on the other.
Rays fans will be beside themselves at the mere fact they are playing. And then they will remind you that they want more than that.
Ramirez will start to walk out of the interview room, and then suddenly walk back to the microphone and say, "I just wanted to say that I changed my name to Dave Roberts."
You will spend the next several minutes trying to figure out what it means, and indeed, what it all means on the first day of a postseason.
The playoffs are under way, and if you were like most baseball fans, you probably were glued to TBS all day and night, immersed in worldseries.com, going through your own emotional highs and lows and just thinking how happy this day makes you.
So this is October.
You will laugh as Dennis Eckersley takes some good-natured abuse from his colleagues at the TBS studio desk, when he is reminded that the last time the Dodgers won a Game 1 was, um, 1988, when, um ...
Then he will remind himself: "I am in the Hall of Fame" (and Kirk Gibson is not).
Cheeseheads will have a serious baseball crush to keep them occupied at a time when they normally would be all about the Packers.
Angels fans will go "uh-oh." The Red Sox kind of own them in the postseason. They swept the Angels in three to start both of the 2004 and '07 title runs. Fans will be reminded that the A's once had Boston's number like that -- winning a combined 10 in a row if you include the 1988 and '90 American League Championship Series, as well as Games 1 and 2 of the 2003 AL Division Series.
Red Sox fans will note that the Red Sox won the next three of that 2003 series, and after a little problem with Aaron Boone that month, their fortunes changed for the better. Angels fans can find solace in knowing things can turn around like that.
You will be reaching for Game 1 trend stats like these: Teams that win Game 1 on the road are 6-7 in the ALDS; teams that win Game 1 at home are 10-2 in the NLDS; and teams that win Game 1 on the road are 13-1 in the NLDS.
Cubs fans will remember not the way Carlos Zambrano had to be removed early in that start at Arizona in the 2007 NLDS -- but rather the way he threw a no-hitter recently. They will hope for that Big Z when Game 2 of this NLDS begins on Thursday.
You will remember the first time you felt the importance of October baseball, whether it was decades ago with a transistor radio in your ear or earlier this decade when Derek Jeter made a backhand relay toss to the catcher or just last year when a Jacoby Ellsbury emerged as an October sensation.
You will watch Ellsbury make a stunning diving catch and then later flash remarkable baserunning instincts to set up a key insurance run on a David Ortiz RBI single. It will feel a little bit like 2007, and you will wonder if perhaps this might be the year that Major League Baseball finally has a repeat world champion for the first time since the 2000 Yankees.
So this is October.
Jim Belushi will lead the Wrigley Field denizens in the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch, and you will wonder if there is anything in the world better than that moment right there if you're in the crowd.
Those same fans will try hard, very hard, to absolutely ignore that statistic that says Atlanta's 1999 team was the only one to lose Game 1 at home and win an NLDS.
Someone will remind you that Daisuke Matsuzaka is 9-0 on the road this season. And that he is starting the next game against the Angels.
Derek Lowe will look like he's been here once or twice before.
So will Dodgers manager Joe Torre.
The White Sox will have the luxury of a day and a half of mostly rest following that high-pressure survival act to make the postseason. Then they will be the opponent as a TBS audience eagerly looks on to see just what this thing is called Rays playoff baseball.
It is pretty much what you expected it to be after one day of the playoffs: Unpredictable. Dramatic. Stomach-churning. Filled with costly mistakes and dominating performances. Satisfying, meeting your annual need at this time of year.
Wrigley will be hard to walk away from as the cleaning crews are doing their thing in the twilight hours. It will be beautiful to see, especially in October, when the ivy is just about to start changing its colors on the wall.
Eight teams will do everything possible to be among four teams and then two and then one.
A Tiffany-made World Series trophy will just wait to be held and kissed.
Legends will be made. There will be a Loney.
This is October. It is back, and it is good.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.