Once again, we were toast. Done. Deader than the T-bone I left on the grill about five minutes too long, reducing it to a slightly spicy glove. Even more over than the mayor Ed Koch. Spark the funeral pyre. Toss the pizza box. Finish your beers and get the hell out.

Only, it wasn’t over. Even as I sat there expecting — christ, almost willing — every batter in the bottom of the ninth to end it, to put us out of our misery and just stop this charade. Pena strikes out swinging. Then Extra Crispy. And our hope lies in the hands of Doug Mirabelli? Thanks, I’ll be upstairs. Shut off the lights when you’re done.

But he takes one for the team and gets plunked. So it’s A-Gon, and you know he’s all done. But, wait — he’s been hit as well. Suddenly, it’s there. The hope. The magic. The utter inability of Indians closer Fausto Carmona to get the job done. Whatever, we’ll take it. And Youk does, earning the base on balls and suddenly the goddam bases are loaded and there’s Papi in the on deck circle and you start thinking that somehow, just somehow, mighty Ted Williams is arranging the chess pieces from beyond the grave. Or from a freezer in downtown Florida. Whatever the case, it’s real, it’s happening, and I’m so swept up in it all that I’ve almost forgotten a conversation from yesterday afternoon. In which I’d found myself wondering aloud if this team was built to go all the way. In which I conceded that, yeah, the injury to Tek may well have sunk the ship.

But then it happened. Mark Loretta happened. And all of a sudden, it’s go time. Screw the Yankees and Abreau and injuries and every episode of Welcome Back Kotter after John Travolta left the show. We knew New York had won. And a loss would have triggered a day’s worth of “we’re spiraling and they’re pulling away!” talk across sports radio. Across my office. Through the subways and barrooms of this fair land.

But this win, this spectacular Lazarus job at the absolute zero hour, has got me smiling again. Believing again. And counting the seconds until tonight’s series finale.