You actively rooted for this. Last winter, this spring, throughout the summer, you cared about everything the Giants did, every move they made, because you wanted them to get to a game like that. You were specifically hoping for the playoffs.
Because there's more of this coming. It would have been so easy to go gentle into that good night. Instead, there's another elimination game. And if the Giants are lucky enough to win that, there's another elimination game after that. And their reward for winning that would be a totally different playoff series that would be even more stressful.
Okay, so it's kind of cool. Winning on Tuesday was better than the alternative. But I didn't think it would be like this.
I figured there was a spectrum of hope for this game. On the left was a hope that the Giants didn't embarrass themselves. On the right, of course, was a win that led to 10 more wins. But I already had the good-season hosannas ready in the back of my mind if they lost. In 2012, the San Francisco Giants won the West over the Dodgers, had the MVP of the league, and enjoyed the first perfect game in the history of the franchise. That's a great season. That's about as good as it can get. Nothing was going to take that away.
And then reality struck: If the Giants were swept out of the playoffs on a no-hitter, 2012 would become The Season the Giants Were Swept out of the Playoffs on a No-Hitter. That would have been the headline, and the footnotes would have come later. Remember 1993? Yeah, that's the season the Giants won 103 games but missed the playoffs. Remember 1997? I do! That was fun. Remember 2012? Sure, that was when the Giants were swept out of the playoffs on a no-hitter.
Goodness, that would have been an ignominious way to slink away from a season that was once bursting with hope.
Instead, it was a game that allowed me to dust off my favorite, if overused, words at first. Feckless. Moribund. Soporific. The offense was a tranquilizer dart shot straight into your eyeball. It wasn't supposed to hurt. But then, you know, the eyeball part. It hurt. It hurt watching the Giants flail and fail, swing and miss and miss and swing, making Homer Bailey look like Matt Cain with an extra two feet on his fastball. You kept waiting for the Reds to drop the piano from the sixth story and get that bases-clearing double or two-out RBI bloop.
But it never came. The Reds had one hit after the first inning -- and that hit was a nubber by Scott Rolen. The Giants broke out the weaponized Padres ray and ignored the Geneva Conventions, spraying the hell out of everything in sight.
In the end, the Giants won on their second solid single of the night, a 53-hopper through the left side of the infield, a passed ball, and an error. That was like when Charlie Brown got the used valentine with someone else's name scratched out. Damn straight, we'll take it.
After all that, after your heart leaving to go get a pack of cigarettes and never come back, we get to do it all again tomorrow.
With Barry Zito.
Let's just enjoy tonight. And, hell, you know what's unlikelier than Zito pitching a swell game? Winning a game on an error in 10 innings after getting three hits. I think we're past the point where we need to think about "likely."
Also on that spectrum of hope: Hoping Ryan Vogelsong was the pitcher we came to expect this year. It wasn't that long ago he was leading the NL in ERA, remember. It was, like, a month-and-a-half ago. That's how little time has elapsed since Vogelsong went from a walking win to a postseason bullpen option.
He made the rotation, and I was desperate for him to do well. Not just because he wears the laundry I like, though that's a big part of it. But because this was even more validation than the All-Star Game last season. He didn't pitch in that game. Pitching well in the postseason would have been a bigger milestone.
There are two kinds of Ryan Vogelsong, though. There's the grinder that we grew to love and respect, the guy who teases the edges of the zone, hoping that either the hitter will chase or the umpire will be fooled, He's the guy who'd walk a guy with runners on first and second with two outs because damned if he was giving in.
Then there was the Ryan Vogelsong who would walk Zack Cozart in front of Joey Votto. That Vogelsong doesn't have the command to do what the other guy does. We got the bad Vogelsong in the first inning, the one who was supposed to be locked away in the Phantom Zone with General Zod. And everything started falling apart. The season was over. Vogelsong wouldn't get that one good postseason start after 14 pro seasons.
Does this all seem melodramatic? Yeah, okay. But I've rarely pulled for a player like I have for Vogelsong. The fact that he was a Giants prospect back when I started becoming an obsessive fan is what puts it over the edge.
Vogelsong came back. He found his command, he found his curve, and he pitched like the guy we grew accustomed to. After the first inning, he was brilliant. And he gets that validation, that reward for sticking with baseball years after he should have retired.
Now the Giants have to win two in a row. It doesn't sound so crazy when you put it like that. And the reason they can say that is because Vogelsong settled the hell down when he could have melted into a puddle of goo. Yep. That's what Vogelsong is supposed to do. It's great to have him back.
Oh, no, this feels like an awards ceremony when they start playing the music. I have so many more people to thank! I'd like to thank the bullpen! The beautiful, magnificent bullpen, who did what they did so well! And Jeremy Affeldt! He's something of a playoff thing now, I guess! And Buster Posey for getting a hit off Jonathan Broxton! And Jonathan Broxton! And ...