ST. LOUIS -- The two outfielders are friends and colleagues. They're bonded by many things, but Thursday night, they came together in a different way, a way which neither of them had envisioned nor wanted.
"It's funny," Tigers left fielder Craig Monroe said, "To be on this stage, in the World Series, you can't script that. I don't know how that happens, but it did."
What happened was what first baseman Sean Casey called "flukish." What else to label it when outfield ghosts seemingly whipped around Busch Stadium, forcing a line-drive shot to be just out of Monroe's grasp? How else to explain it when Monroe's partner and friend Curtis Granderson just happened to slip on a routine fly ball in the center-field grass, as if the spirits temporarily took hold of him? Whatever the case, the end result of their miscues, or misfortune, was a 5-4 loss to the Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series.
Afterward, the two men sat in the Tigers' cafeteria as friends and losers, across the table from one another, eating their postgame spread and reviewing the odd set of circumstances that has their team now facing elimination.
What was harder to grasp: Granderson losing his footing -- looking as if he pirouetted in center field -- on David Eckstein's leadoff double in the seventh inning, when he has never missed a play like that before? Or the ball that was hit to Monroe -- another double by Eckstein, this time in the eighth inning -- just out of his diving reach and off the tip of his glove, giving the Cardinals the lead for good?
"It is kind of weird to go ahead and do it, and do it now, so late in the season," Granderson said about their series of unfortunate events, including Eckstein coming around in the seventh to tie the score at three. "After so many attempts all season, we have a situation like that happen."
Monroe wanted to make sure after the game that they were not making any excuses for the wet outfield, or for their positioning. Monroe, in particular, was playing slightly in against Eckstein. But he also expressed a brief moment of frustration long after the pack of reporters had left. The competitor in him wanted to make that catch, and felt disappointed by his failure.
"You say, 'Man, I had a chance to pick up my teammate right there," Monroe said. "You can say, 'Awww, you should have done this.' But I can look at myself in the mirror and say I did everything I could to make that play."
Just one inning earlier, Monroe was stunned to see Granderson fall, when he thought for sure his partner would catch it. After the play there was a moment to pause. Monroe walked up to Granderson, and in that moment, which the two friends shared amid 46,000 screaming fans, Monroe turned to his partner.
"That's baseball. This is what we're dealing with, so let's come out and be ready to play a game tomorrow."
-- Craig Monroe
"How 'bout that, Curtis?" he said.
The two men laughed. It was funny, too funny, that such a thing could happen. Of all the games they spent together in the outfield, for this one to be the one in which Granderson spills it, was almost laughable. Granderson rhetorically asked Monroe if it was for real: "Are you serious, dude?"
And Monroe, in an aw-shucks kind of way, came back to his friend. "That's baseball," he said, "This is what we're dealing with, so let's come out and be ready to play a game tomorrow."
And when they take the field Friday for possibly their last game of the season, they'll be there together. And whether they win or lose, they'll likely know where to find one another afterward. In the cafeteria. At the table.
Amy K. Nelson is a writer/reporter for ESPN The Magazine. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.