The margin for error is so slight. Two losses, two crummy losses, one by one point and another by one run, putting one team on the verge of a summer full of tee times and the other in a position going into Sunday afternoon of having to protect a half-game division lead.
After what happened in tonight's final at-bat of the Rangers-White Sox game, the fact that Vicente Padilla takes the hill in tomorrow's series finale gives the game a little extra texture.
There's not a lot of good to take out of the Mavericks' loss. The officials didn't cost Dallas that game, but an inability to hit free throws down the stretch and a head-scratching decision by the great Dirk Nowitzki to launch with eight seconds left in regulation - even though there was a four-second differential between the shot clock and game clock - sure did put the Mavs in a position they shouldn't have been in, a position where a referee's call mattered. Dallas didn't handle its margin for error well.
As for the baseball game, there are no moral victories, especially when your team is in the hunt, but there were a couple very good moments. Derek Holland was thrown right back into the same fire that burned him a week ago, called on to face Jim Thome with the bases loaded and the game on the line. Three lively fastballs, located perfectly, and bases-loaded-no-outs (with a Hall of Famer at the plate, one who doubled off the top of the wall in the same situation off Holland eight days earlier) became bases-loaded-one-out after Holland sheered Thome's bat into shards (the largest of which beaned Holland on the leg) and Ian Kinsler made a standout play, taking a slow grounder and making an off-balance throw to the plate to force the speedy Chris Getz and, for the moment, maintain a 2-2 tie. Great work by Holland.
That kicked off a solid 15 minutes for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whose stretch at the plate to catch the Kinsler throw, accurate but not with a lot of juice on it, took every bit of the onetime first baseman's 6'4" frame.
Next play? If Marlon Byrd doesn't fumble the handle on the medium-depth fly and double-pump, or if Darren O'Day (who pitched well) doesn't fall asleep after catching Byrd's throw while backing up the plate, maybe Carlos Quentin is cut down and the game stays tied rather than go to 3-2, which minutes later was the score frozen on the scoreboard after Kinsler struck out to end the top of the ninth. But O'Day's braincramp was made possible only because Saltalamacchia did an outstanding job blocking the plate and keeping Quentin off it until he reversed field following his slide, scampering back to touch the plate.
The margin for error.
One out later, Saltalamacchia had a solid at-bat against Bobby Jenks to start the top of the ninth, battling for seven pitches before heading back to the dugout as the 13th of 14 strikeout victims on the night.
And then, after Chris Davis fanned, Kinsler (whose third-inning flare down the right-field line, with a runner on first, was ruled foul on a call that could have gone either way) popped out to second base three pitches after a Jenks fastball sailed behind his waist. Wondering if it was intentional? If you recorded the game, watch Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski on the pitch. Barely moved his glove.
It was intentional.
Then again, so was Antoine Wright's obvious effort to commit a foul on Carmelo Anthony with two seconds left - a foul that Dallas had to give - in a game in which 61 others fouls had been called.
(By the way, the NBA's president of league and basketball operations issued this statement after the game: "At the end of the Dallas-Denver game this evening, the officials missed an intentional foul committed by Antoine Wright on Carmelo Anthony, just prior to Anthony's three-point basket." Seriously.)
Will the Mavs respond on Monday with enough pride to scratch out a win before this series ends their season, or will they lay down?
Will Texas, which had hit two White Sox hitters earlier in the game and two others in last week's Arlington series, respond to the Ozzie Guillen-commissioned fastball behind Kinsler's back in tonight's final at-bat and return some sort of message on Sunday? With Padilla, can it be ruled out, regardless of what the gameplan is?
Will we find the awesome Mother's Day card that Erica and Max made for Mom today, but misplaced this afternoon, before she wakes up in the morning?
Mess with the margin for error, and you're playing with fire.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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