Strange as it may seem, Washington Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott has come up with a good baseball analogy for Tea Party-backed congressional representatives approaching the debt-limit debate. He likens them to a batter in the box.

Now picture the Washington establishment as the pitcher on the mound, a master of deception able to throw everything; from an evil curveball that drops away like a stone to that high, hard inside fastball, usually thrown at the rookie with the shaky legs at the plate. Plus, searing sliders and floating knucklers.

You can guess where the Tea Partiers are in this scenario. Obama’s demand for a “clean” debt-ceiling increase was the establishment’s first pitch, followed by an assortment of dastardly curves like the Gang of Six plan, a slider in the form of an $800 billion tax increase, and, finally, three Boehner/Reid/McConnell plans, which were all screaming fastballs.

Despite catcalls, taunts and worse from the home crowd, and conflicting signals from their coaches, the Tea Partiers hung in there, got a full count, crowded the plate, and then, whack!

Sure enough, the ball stopped. For the first time in 50 years, federal spending next year will be lower than it is this year.

But now the ball is smashed flat as a pancake against that Louisville Slugger, hanging motionless, ready to spring back in the opposite direction. We won’t know where it will go until the batter completes the swing, which in this game takes months.

If the Tea Party swung under the ball, it will just be a pop-up into shallow left field. A late swing probably means a twisting liner to the first or second baseman, or maybe a soft fly to right field.

But, if that Tea Party bat’s sweet spot collided with the ball, it’s headed into orbit and ain’t nobody in the ball park gonna catch it!

In other words, what the Tea Party folks in Congress and out there in the heartland do in the weeks ahead will determine the direction of the ball that is the debt-ceiling deal. They’ve got to follow through.