Sunday, October 31, 2010

Giant Win

So now what's up with the San Francisco Giants? Nothing, again. This time the hero has the very unsportsherolike name of Madison Bumgarner, the 21 year old pitcher who blanked the Texas Rangers for the first (or maybe second) time this year at home---and definitely for the second time in the World Series.

Texas won the game they absolutely had to win, the third. But San Francisco won the game that they probably needed to win, the fourth. They figured to have the better pitcher on the mound in that fourth game, where pitching is always a bit dicey. But even though Bumgarner has shown he's capable of a performance like this one, no one could reasonably expect it--his first World Series start, on the road, with two ex-Presidents and First Ladies in the house rooting for the home team.

But this time the Giants won it their way--getting an early lead, shutting down the opposition with stellar pitching and solid defense, then adding demoralizing runs in the late innings so the other team is looking at a few runs in the last inning or two as an insurmountable mountain.

Now the Giants have a commanding lead in the Series, needing to win just one of the next three, with two of them at home. Texas must win them all. And the next pitching match-up pits the Texas ace against the Giants', and though you have to guess that Cliff Lee is not going to have two bad outings in a row, but Lincecum is no slouch either. What did that guy on ESPN say? The Rangers could win the fifth game but they won't. I'm not sure what that means.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't get it done at New Orleans against a Saints team that suddenly looked like last year's. Big Ben is clearly not sharp yet, but if a few key plays had gone the other way, the Steelers still could have won this game. A stripped ball late in the fourth quarter sealed the deal.

This was a big win for the Saints. As shaky as their early season was, they are now expected to win most of their remaining games against weaker opponents and get into the playoffs. The Steelers face stronger opponents and tougher road games, but while losing to this NFC team is consequential, it isn't as bad for them as it is good for New Orleans. These two teams probably suspect they may meet again in the big one.

I haven't had the opportunity to watch the Steelers on TV since the preseason, though they're coming up with several Sunday and Monday night games. This time I was switching between the Steelers game and the Giants game. Maybe that took a little sting out of it, but this was a good football game that came down to a few key plays that the Saints made and the Steelers didn't. Dru Brees was the better quarterback today, and the Saints defense was a match for the Steelers.

The Giants game was also a well-played baseball game, with terrific fielding plays by both teams, and some clutch hitting by the Giants (most of which they did while I was on the other channel, nuts!) I don't know that I'll have many more of these afternoons and evenings wasted in front of the TV watching sports, but at least this time the games were worth watching.

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