Sunday, October 10, 2010

They Might Be Giants

The San Francisco Giants had everything going for them in the second game of their playoff series with Atlanta. They had an unaccustomed early lead of 4-0, and with Matt Cain pitching, that normally is very comfortable. Thanks to Tim Lincecum's brilliant complete game 1 after the off-days, their bullpen was rested, and they had the strongest stoppers and savers in the league. They were playing before a huge and enthusiastic home crowd, a sea of orange.

But their stoppers didn't stop and their saver didn't save. Yet in the bottom of the 10th, they still had a clear advantage: the bases loaded and one out for their clutch-hitting rookie catcher, Buster Posey. There was only one thing he could do wrong. If he got a hit or just a ball to the outfield, the Giants win. If he struck out or popped up, the Giants would still get another chance with the bases loaded. If he got a walk, as the previous batter had, the Giants win, and go up 2-0. And it did appear that the three pitches he saw were out of the strike zone. He swung at one and missed. He took the next. Then he swung at the third and did the only terrible thing it was possible for him to do, he hit into an inning ending double play. Atlanta promptly got a run in the 11th, the deflated Giants didn't answer, and the series was tied 1-1 going to Atlanta.

This is how Atlanta breaks your heart. It's how they did it to the Pirates in the 90s.

In the third game, the Giants again got a very strong pitching performance, from Jonathan Sanchez. And again, they failed time after time to get timely hits. They left tons of baserunners, and practically dared Atlanta to pull the game out in the late innings with the Giants up 1-0. And that's exactly what they did--with one swing, a pinch-hit homerun that barely got over the fence in fair territory, put Atlanta up 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth.

Fortunately the Giants did get a timely hit and a lucky bounce in the 9th, and their saver saved. Frankly I didn't expect them to win their first game in Atlanta, and they'll probably have to play better to win the series. The fact that they're in the driver's seat now--needing one more win, and with their ace Lincecum available for the fifth game if necessary--doesn't mean a thing when it comes to the Atlanta baseball club. They specialize in breaking your heart.

No comments: