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Bracing for Armageddon, with a side of pasta

ANAHEIM, Calif. – So, considering the Armageddon thing, Mike Scioscia confirmed that all his relievers would be available Friday night against the Atlanta Braves.

You know, there's no tomorrow, play 'em one Rapture at a time, all that.

He also confirmed that he'd have time for one more Italian feast.

"Maybe two," he said.

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Ervin Santana turned toward the heavens after completing a four-hit shutout of the Braves on Friday.
(AP)

Fredi Gonzalez, on the other hand, lacked the most recent scouting report. Informed some folks believed the world would end later in the evening, he said, "I missed that. Was it in USA Today?"

Maybe in a fun, colorful chart.

"Well," he said, "I hope we're in the middle of the game when that happens. I couldn't think of any better place to be."

Neither could 40-some-thousand other souls at Angel Stadium, where they came to see the Braves and Angels and wait out the apocalypse, which arrived as a six-run inning by the usually submissive Angels – ultimately resulting in a 9-0 win – a good three hours before the giant fireball.

See, baseball and Harold Camping, the old guy in Oakland who started all this, go back a ways. Hammerin' Hal has a history of apocalyptic dekes, religion's version of the fake-to-third, throw-to-first pick-off play, which also never works.

Two decades ago, Camping's dart hit Sept. 6, 1994. His followers said their goodbyes, gave away their worldly possessions and wandered off somewhere to be incinerated in peace. On Sept. 7, 1994, they asked for their money, cars and canned goods back.

A week later, with the rest of the world still standing, the World Series was canceled.

Aiming for the entire planet, God got baseball. In fact, the only leveled entities were baseball and Camping's reputation.

Think that's insignificant?

The Montreal Expos were the best team in the game. The Cleveland Indians were drawing big crowds. Mark McGwire's arms were stringy. Barry Bonds was going to the Hall of Fame.

So, 2011 arrives, the earthquakes are coming from, like, Pago Pago, and take a look at the standings. Clearly, Camping hates the Indians.

He expects the planet to go the way of the Expos. Full of joy and Youppi one day, gone the next.

Camping even told The Atlantic, "Everyone will be weeping and wailing because they'll know in a few hours it'll come to their city."

I'm pretty sure he was talking about interleague play there. Or the Minnesota Twins.

According to his plan, the initial wave of Rapture would knock out three percent of the Earth's population. Then, after five months, all of humanity would be gone. Except the cockroaches, of course. And Tim Wakefield(notes) and Omar Vizquel(notes).

That would put us right in the middle of … the World Series.

Again.

Shouldn't the NFL be taking some of this? It's used to concussions.

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Followers of Harold Camping believe that all of humanity will be gone around the time baseball is gearing up for the World Series .
(Getty Images)

With nothing to do but wait for Judgment Hour, the people at Angel Stadium watched with some restraint as their ballclub dropped a little Hand of God on the Braves.

All seemed quiet. Peaceful. Reassuring.

As they stood to leave, however, from over the right-field bleachers came a great beast, hairy and scowling and 20 feet tall. It leapt and danced and shrieked, and the people waved and called to it, lifting miniatures of the creature into the night.

And from the rocks in center field, fire rose a hundred feet in the air, reds and oranges and blues. The people were cast in an eerie and shadowy glare. They cheered the fire's thunderous crackles, accepting their vulnerability beneath its sky flowers and patriotic musical accompaniment.

Surely, the end was near.

And it was true. The stadium ushers said so, and wished fans a pleasant evening.

The faithful were gathered and, carrying their Rally Monkeys, guided to the parking lot, where they honked impatiently at their fellow believers.

Below, Scioscia glanced at the clock on the wall.

"Oh my god," he said, "we've got an hour and 10 minutes. Well, if I don't see you tomorrow, take care."

Plenty of time for a plate of pasta. Or two.

Forty minutes later, the Braves' manager left the ballpark. He walked slowly along the warning track toward the tunnel in left-center field, with no worries but an offense that hasn't yet become reliable.

If Rapture comes, and takes baseball with it, he'll know.

It'll be in all the papers.