Giants Narrowly Escape Curse of Heightened Expectations, Avoid Sweep

The Giants have won the first two games of a three-game series a cool ten times this year. They're 2-8 in the final games of those series.

For fans of a team in first place, Giants fans can be a grumpy, whiny lot. Of course, I'm as guilty of that as anyone. But the Giants have an aesthetic problem with how they win. It's like the Giants need warnings on the things they eat: "WARNING: THIS PRODUCT WAS PROCESSED ON THE SAME MACHINERY THAT MAY PROCESS MOMENTUM." It's mostly meaningless -- the important thing is that they've won enough games to stay in first place -- but that could be why a first-place team elicits this kind of grumbling. A loss yesterday combined with a win today? All you're thinking about is the series win and the successful road trip. The results have been an overall success. The marketing campaign sucks.

Because in the abstract, the road trip was an unqualified success. Apologies if you think that's a cop out, but it's true. A 3-3 East Coast swing is acceptable. A 4-2 trip is just swell. Dingers were hit. Lincecum pitched a good game. The Braves are a good team, and the Phillies with Howard and Utley back in the lineup aren't the same team that's spent the last four months sleeping at the bottom of the NL East, using a newspaper for a blanket. Would you have taken a 4-2 road trip last week? You would have paid money to guarantee it.

Yet all we can think about was that stupid game. That stupid, turgid, lousy, unwatchable game. It took about five minutes to get from Brandon Crawford sliding into second base with a 12th-inning double to Brad Penny pitching. And you knew. It's easy to get all advanced and intellectual, pretending that momentum doesn't exist in baseball. Or, more accurately, if it exists, our puny brains aren't capable of telling the noise apart from the trend. But in the five minutes between Crawford and Penny, you figured out how things were going to go.

With Crawford on second, Brandon Belt came up. Emmanuel Burriss was on deck. I was half-hoping for a bunt, just because I didn't want to see Belt get humiliated. But with Burriss on deck, you can't do that. You can't give up an out to hope that Burriss can hit a fly ball over 200 feet from home plate. So Belt got to hit. He was humiliated. Welp.

It was an embarrassing at-bat. A hitter has to think he'll be pitched away with a runner on second and no one out. That's high-school stuff -- make it hard for the guy at the plate to pull the ball. And the Phillies didn't even attempt to disguise that approach. Carlos Ruiz could have had a lawn chair in the other box. The adjustment that Belt made was to wave through pitches instead of foul one or two of them off. He's switching things up. And it lead to the worst at-bat that Giants fans would have to endure for 17 seconds.

Emmanuel Burriss then came up and waved through three Kyle Kendrick pitches. Before Belt, the last hitter Kendrick struck out was Kent Hrbek in '85. Yet the Giants turned him into vintage Billy Wagner. Burriss couldn't make a lick of contact. At least Belt watched a ball go by. His at-bat was merely wretched and depressing. Burriss's at-bat was something deeper -- morally objectionable, even.

Then Ryan Theriot had one o' them home-run cuts that he's good for every so often, which makes you endure a split-second of "OH MAN, DID HE JUST????" before you realize that you were just watching a Ryan Theriot at-bat, and no he did not.

Then Brad Penny was pitching.

And that's how you spent your Sunday, you fool. Now you're reading this. I don't know what your New Year's resolution was, but either you failed with it, or you needed a better one.

The Giants have been one of the hottest teams in baseball, though. So you're supposed to stop being greedy and just appreciate the successful road trip. And tomorrow, you'll understand that.

Right now, though, it's all about that stupid, stupid, stupid game. And just about everything stupid with it happened in those five minutes between Crawford and Penny. Just a debacle.

Star-divide

I had other notes! I spent time on them. About 800 words, I'd reckon. They're not horrible. But they're not funny or interesting, and you don't want to read them, so they've been excised. They'll go on the second disc of the McCovey Chronicles Criterion Collection set.

There was a joke about Hunter Pence being an alien, a passage about Nate Schierholtz's two home runs, and something about George Kontos being better than Brad Penny. Just use your imagination. Or, even better, resume not thinking about that game.

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