Saturday, October 04, 2014

A Giant Epic

The superlatives start with this one: 18 innings, tied for the longest postseason game in Major League history.  Epic pitching on both sides but particularly by the Giants bullpen, which has held the Nats scoreless for 14 consecutive innings.  The Giants tied this game at 1-1 with two outs in the ninth, when the Nats made the fatal mistake of lifting the unhittable Zimmerman.  It was the length of a normal game later that (under the wind and temperature conditions prevailing in Washington) probably the only Giant capable of homering, did: Brandon Belt belted one more than 400 feet to right, it was gone off the bat and he knew it.  The Nats could not answer.  Now the Giants need just one of two games at home to take the series.

It was a pitcher's duel from the start, with Zimmerman getting stronger as the game went on, but Tim Hudson finding his pitches to mesmerize the Nats hitters.  But his wasn't the only "quality start" for the Giants in the game (as their announcers quipped): Petit--who figured to start a game in the series--was called in to pitch 6 innings of extras.  The flamethrowing kid, rookie Hunter Strickland, got the tense 18th inning save.

Bruce Bochy severely outmanaged the Nat's Matt Williams, who in addition to taking Zimmerman out, got himself thrown out of the game for arguing balls and strikes.  Catcher Buster Posey managed the parade of Giants pitchers brilliantly, got a key hit and almost scored the lead run in the ninth.  Pablo Sandoval doubled in the first Giants run and--though he's not having a particularly good postseason--has a record 12 postseason game hitting streak going.

The statistics and superlatives will continue to be compiled about this classic game, which clocked in at six hours.  But here's one stat that stands out: Brandon Belt's home run in the 18th was the first extra inning home run in a postseason game since one of the most famous homer in Giants history (in this case the New York Giants): Dusty Rhodes 10th inning homer to win the first game of the World Series in 1954.  That was the year the Giants swept the favored Indians.

Could these Giants sweep the favorite Nationals?  They have Madison Bumgarner on the mound for their first game at home on Monday.

I couldn't listen to every pitch for six hours, although I did hear more than 3/4 of the game.  Some of the announcers kind of got hoarse but it also meant 18 innings of Mike Krukow talking baseball, and that's worth it.  At one point he said that even when a batter decides to take a pitch, he should be watching and measuring velocity and so on, with his body as well as his eye.  He noted with some disgust that a Nats player hadn't done that, just spaced out for a pitch.  It's that kind of observation that adds to my baseball knowledge (I personally got maybe two or three tips from my so-called coaches in little and pony leagues, the rest I learned from other players, baseball novels by John R. Tunis and Joe Archibald and biographies, and mostly from Major League announcers) and that enhances my enjoyment of the game.

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