Are you SF Giants fans feeling a touch nostalgic about 2010’s “torture” yet?
That was when the Giants were “all pitch and no hit,” and we wondered how they’d eke out a score on anything but a bases-loaded double-play.
Now the Giants spot teams like the Rockies two-runs early, as the starters try to keep the pitch count to under 70 in the first three innings. Meanwhile, Giants’ batters figure out how to work themselves into a rally frenzy to win it all in the end.
It’s very much like Sea Biscuit, the legendary champion race horse who would spot his challengers 10 lengths or more, only to turn it on late to win by a nose.
So which do you prefer? Slow drip or late rush? To paraphrase the Bard, would torture by any other name smell as sweet?
Depends on how you want the excessive drama in your life.
The two victories over the Rockies this weekend sure fit the come-from-behind nature of the 2013 Giants.
From Giants stats machine: Over half of the Giants’ 27 wins this season have been come-from-behind victories…their 14 such wins are tied for the fourth-most in the bigs…SF also has 10 wins in their last at-bat, tied with the D-backs for the most in the Majors.
As for one-run squeakers? Saturday’s was the 11th this season, tied with the D-backs, Reds and Indians for the most in the Majors.
Saturday also provided this obscure first, according the folks at Elias: The 10th inning victory was the first in 4,408 games in San Francisco in which they won after overcoming a deficit of four or more runs and in extra innings.
Glad that’s settled.
Personally, when it comes to victories, I’ll take mine in nine.
Hunter Pence had played every inning for the Giants so far this year, and is the only Giant to do so (that’s 30 games, 271.1 innings coming into the final game of this Dodger series).
Good thing he didn’t take Sunday off.
Pence drove in 4 runs, breaking out of a slump where he had just 5 hits in the last 32 ABs (.156)
It’s a hidden stat. While he’s .328 with no one on base, he’s just .211 with runners on.
But on this night, Pence was hotter than the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla, as the Giants staved off the Dodgers 4-3.
In the first inning, Pence’s fielder’s choice with the bases loaded, scored a run, but seemed like a mild improvement over his norm.
Then in the 3rd, with two runners on, Pence took advantage of Dodger starter Hyun-Jin Ryu’s control issues. After walking Buster Posey on four straight pitches, Ryu threw three straight balls to Pence before coming into the zone for a strike. Pence promptly punched it down the left field line for a double, scoring Marco Scutaro for a 2-0 Giant lead.
Then in the bottom of the 5th, after Ryu walked Sandoval on four pitches, and gave up a hard Posey single to center, Pence came up and delivered again— a double off the brick wall in right.
Both runners scored, giving a four-run margin and confidence to Matt Cain.
The Giants ace, who entered the game winless in six starts with an 0-2 record and an ERA of 6.49, was in control on this night.
After 6 innings, he was cruising on 91 pitches and 57 strikes. The Dodgers never seriously threatened.
Only in the 8th when Cain left, did the bullpen struggle. The Giants had the lead, so this wasn’t a comeback situation like the previous five victories, but it almost became one.
Adrian Gonzalez, pinch-hitting with the bases loaded and two outs, singled through the hole at second and drove in two runs off Jeremy Affeldt, the third reliever for the Giants in the game.
Affeldt’s quick appearance ended after Dee Gordon’s infield hit scored a third run in the inning to shave the score to 4-3.
With runners on first and second, Jean Machi came in to get pinch hitter Jerry Hairston to hit a grounder to Brandon Crawford at short, whose throw just barely got the speedy Hairston.
That set up the bottom of the 9th for closer Sergio Romo, and on Cinco De Mayo no less.
Romo, facing the top of the order, got Crawford to fly out to center. Then Nick Punto flied out to left.
It left a classic showdown for the final out between Romo and the Dodger slugger Matt Kemp.
Romo had the count to 1-2 on Kemp, who then flied out harmlessly to Torres in center.
Could there be a better finale on a Sergio Romo gnome giveaway day? A better way to end a Giant/Dodger series sweep?
In the sports biz, the quest for the ring keeps aging jocks in ointment.
But what about the sports fan? Does the Giants opening day celebration weekend– three days of hoopla and some OK baseball—really have to feel like Wagner’s Ring cycle?
(True, Wagner had four operas, but the Giants seemed to skip over “Siegfied” and end with Sunday’s game that felt a bit like “Twilight of the Gods”).
In some ways, it’s almost too bad they have to play a game.
It’s so much more fun to see Tim Lincecum get his ring and greet the Giants legends ( today it was Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Cepeda, and Gaylord Perry). It’s certainly easier on the emotions.
It’s all ups, no downs. Unless you’re looking at your ring.
So early in the season, compared to a “celebration” an actual game is somewhat anti-climactic.
Or at least, sets up a game for the drama we saw on Sunday, where we start high, rise to a peak, then finish tragically.
Oh, well. That’s why they play 162—and we endure all of them.
The celebration was a total Giants extravaganza with the Tiffany rings brought into AT&T Park via cable car, and then hand delivered by the city’s finest grip men to the Giants.
There were symbols galore in such a dramatic entrance.
Rings were given out.
And the streamers flew.
Oh yeah, and then there was that game.
All I can say this morning is, it’s a good thing Maggie Thatcher died.
The Iron Lady wasn’t Lou Gehrig, but the passing of a world leader puts things in perspective and flushes the news cycle of the trivial. (Though if you are still mourning the 49ers Super Bowl loss, you can’t be helped.)
The Giants lost the game 14-3, and if you’re wondering when did David Akers join the Giants and doesn’t he usually miss his field goals, once again, you can’t be helped.
No, we’re talking baseball and Matt Cain here, and as perfect as Cain was for one special night in 2012, he was just as abysmally imperfect for Sunday’s garish loss.
For the first three innings, Cain seemed like Cain, retiring the Cardinals in order, with two strikeouts.
Cain really was perfect. But then came that 4th that was beyond imperfect: nine runs and no explanation.
The Cardinals hit six singles, two walks and a ground-rule double to go up 7-2, and Cain was out of the game.
Cain talked later about how the game can be humbling. Perhaps, the Giants needed that on the weekend they celebrated the highs of last year.
To see the pitching—felt to be the Giant’s strength—be so ineffective is definitely humbling (one pitching bright spot has been the relief work of Chad Gaudin). Giants’ bats have already been humbled. The Giants continued to be hapless with runners in scoring position, 2-21 coming into the game. They added to that negative stat in the first inning that initially seemed so joyous at the start. Angel Pagan, the hottest of all Giants coming into the game 6-20, hit a sinking line drive into the left-center alley that enabled him to dive into third. But he died there like a bridesmaid. Scuataro, coming into the game 2-19, took a called third strike. Then Sandoval, hot with two HRs and 4 RBI in five games, struck out swinging. And then MVP Posey added to the futility with a meek groundout.
Some sliver linings: First hits for rookie Nick Noonan, and third-string catcher Gullermo Quiroz. Quiroz’s hit came in the 9th, a pinch-hit single that gave the Giant’s one last gasp of offense.
Oh, well, the team has their rings, and a full season yet to go.
Let the people talk about whether the weekend was a bit too much.
What we’ve seen the last few years is how a winning Giants team has truly become tantamount to a public institution.
A lot of it I trust is due to Giants CEO Larry Baer growing up a Giants fan and a native San Franciscan. I knew Larry growing up. We both attended Lowell High, and were on the debate team together. (I did play JV Baseball). The other day when we talked, it wasn’t about the Giants, but our families. He told me where his kids were going to college, and I told him my kid was going to Cal, Larry’s alma mater. That deserved a fist bump. The exchange revealed how all that personal stuff, the human stuff, really matters.
That makes three-day baseball celebrations, where the players and legends and the fans gather over the game, more important than we think.
Baer and the Giants more than just connect the dots between the past and the present.