Friday, August 19, 2016

At the Ball Park

The Giants beat the Mets on Thursday night 10-7, behind Madison Bumgarner who also homered to put SF into the lead.  It broke a 4 game home losing streak.

I was there for two of those games: the 8-7 loss to the Orioles, another Casilla blown save after the Giants were leading 7-1; and Monday night's loss to the Pirates 8-5, which they also led 2-0 early.

The Pirates-Giants game was double loyalty for more than me.  The Pirates starting pitcher was Ryan Vogelsong, a Giant until this season.  He got a warm ovation before the game and an even warmer one when he left, despite getting the victory over his old team.  At an on-field event celebrating the retirement of another pitcher late last season, Vogelsong famously said, "I don't know where I'll be next year, but I'll always be a Giant."  At the game Monday I was close enough (thanks Cameron!) to see how moved he was when he tipped his cap to acknowledge the SF applause from the dugout, after he'd been lifted.

There were a surprising number of Pirates fans at that game, attending in team regalia as elaborate as the Giants fans in theirs.  I talked to one, another exile of the steeltown diaspora, who was transferred to SF in 1986, but is still a Pirates fan.

Despite the Giants losses, which I find really hard to take at home, I enjoyed being at the games.  The Giants played well--fine fielding by Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence and Nunez, who got knocked to his can by a hot grounder and threw out the runner from that position, then hit the deck again to spear the next hot grounder but this time got to his feet to throw him out. And a Crawford-Panik-Belt double play which I've long wanted to see.  Some big hits, including homers by Pence, Nunez and Span.  On the Pirates side in that game, a homer by Polanco and the deciding moment of the game--a fantastic catch by Andrew McCutchen in center that saved at least two runs.

But the Giants couldn't put it together--the Achilles heel of relief pitching against Baltimore (it will be awhile before I can erase the image of Pagan climbing the wall in vain for the 3-run homer that won the game), and some crucial baserunning mistakes against Pittsburgh.  Giving up too many home runs, which continued for the Pirates series, which they swept, enhancing their playoff chances as the second wild card.

Meanwhile the Giants finally fell out of first, and have to be thinking about the wild card now themselves.  They have a crucial series upcoming against the Dodgers in Los Angeles which will determine a lot.

Thursday offers another Pittsburgh connection--it tied Bruce Bochy with Jim Leyland on the career win list for managers.  Leyland was the manager of the last Pirates team before the current one to get into the playoffs, during the early 90s. When the Pirates essentially sold off that team (and Barry Bonds went to San Francisco), Leyland went on to Florida where he finally got his much-deserved World Series ring.  Then he went to Detroit and won another pennant.

Leyland finally retired--to Pittsburgh.  Between jobs he was often seen in the stands at PNC Park, in the company of Chuck Tanner (who managed the last Pirates world championship team in 1979.) Leyland had succeeded Tanner as Pirates manager, and the two became close friends. I saw a bunch of games at Three Rivers Stadium when those two managed the Pirates.

" Jim is somebody I've always revered," Bochy said. "What an unbelievable career. I'm humbled to reach this milestone with somebody who's done so much for the game and is one of the best managers ever in the game. I've said this so many times: I'm fortunate to have been doing this as long as I've been doing it."

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