Travis Ishikawa hit a home run to win the pennant for the 2014 San Francisco Giants. Here, video proof:
Oh, you're still here. What time is it? Just been replaying that moment on a loop. Kinda dizzy. Little thirsty. If you want to read all sorts of words on Ishikawa, unlikeliest of heroes, you can go here.
I only wish I could argue with 2012 Grant about which player I was happier for.
2012 Me: I've never felt happier for a player than I do for Ryan Vogelsong. He climbed from the molten core of the underworld to be here, and now he's a hero.
2014 Me: I don't know, I'm pretty sold on Travis Ishikawa. I think I'm happier for him than any player I've ever followed.
2012: Are you ... that's nuts. So he took a walk, and that's great, but at least give me Cain or Lincecum in 2010, and maybe you'll have an argument.
2014: I'm from the future. Travis Ishikawa plays left field for the Giants, and he hits the three-run homer that wins the pennant.
2012: Well, that is great. I am done with this world. I will see you in the next.
2012: /flies on invisible jetpack to the moon
There were other players on the team who helped, you know. It is time to laud their ridiculous feats with the help of video.
The transcendent story of how Panik hit the first home run was first relayed by Gregor Blanco after the game. Blanco said that Panik kept watching video of Bill Mueller demolishing Mariano Rivera's cutter. Look at that video, all grainy and 10 years old. Now picture Panik hunkered down in the clubhouse and watching it over and over and over again. What was he looking for? How Mueller's arms came in, or how he kept his head still? Here's a still shot of the homer:
What wisdom can Panik glean from that video that was shot on a Speak & Spell? Enough to do this:
The Giants were having great at-bats against Adam Wainwright at one point. His fastball was up, and the Giants were hitting it hard. That slowly started to slip away, and after two quick outs, Gregor Blanco singled. That allowed Panik to channel that Mueller magic.
Reminder: Mueller is one of my all-time favorite Giants. He dabbled in Dodgers at the end of his career, but I still dig his early stuff. I still listen to my Police albums without feeling weird about it. And I've been screaming for as long as Panik's been up that he had Mueller's left-handed swing. I'm a stridently terrible baseball analyst, so I didn't expect anyone to listen, but it's all I could think of over the first two weeks Panik was up.
Someone in the Giants organization saw the same thing. Someone sidled up and told Panik that he had a Bill Mueller swing and it stuck with him. Or maybe Panik's known it for years. However it happened, it led to Panik watching ancient video of his forefathers to see how to hit a danged cutter.
That video helped Panik hit a dinger in the NLCS game that sent the Giants to the World Series.
I don't think we can possibly imagine how much the Giants wanted him to be healthy for the first two rounds of the postseason. They were desperate for it. I imagine Bochy watching Morse take batting practice and grimacing. "Good to go, skip. You won't be sorry," through gritted teeth. It must have been a close call. But Morse was off the roster against the Pirates and Nationals. The chance of dingers went way down.
His first pinch-hit appearance was underwhelming, if successful -- a broken-bat single to help spark a rally. His second was forgettable. His third was going to be the story of the game if the Giants won on a walk-off balk or something:
I spent the previous half-inning looking up Pat Neshek's career splits. Wasn't he just a latter-day Steve Reed at some point? When did he become death, destroyer of lefties and righties alike? I figured the pinch-hitter was going to be Morse, but shouldn't the Giants send up a left-hander and ...
The Giants didn't have a left-hander on the bench. Because Travis Ishikawa was literally starting. The Giants have a bench of right-handed options and a lineup of left-handed hitters. They're set up well against the Randy Choates of the world, but not so much against a guy like Neshek. It had to be Morse or bust -- they couldn't tap dance around, hoping for Matt Duffy to start a sequence of singles.
That was going to be one of the most famous home runs in San Francisco Giants history, you know. It still is, just not the same way. No one cares. The only reason Morse didn't do a limpy chainsaw move as he rounded second base was because he was too busy hopping around like an idiot.
He was in disbelief in the dugout.
Yeah, us too. Us too, Michael.
After he gave up the run -- on an Ishikawa flub! -- he struggled and struggled some more. He walked Tony Cruz, who came around to score the first run, and he gave up a homer to Cruz two innings later. He was fastball fastball fastball like I've never seen him. There were no slutters in sight, no curves on the horizon. He was in that mode where he was wild in the zone, rarely out of it. Hitters got too comfortable. Everything was dooooomed.
And then, he snapped into place.
He's the NLCS MVP, possibly because they vote on it before the game is over. Which makes exactly zero sense. But he's a worthy recipient. It could have been so much worse. I kept telling myself that his ERA was nearly 3.00 this year, which means that he gives up a run every three innings, on average. That's all that was going on, he was just taking that ERA literally, no big deal.
He's 25 and going to his third World Series. None of this makes sense.
"That ball got shot into the pinball machine ..."
- Jon Miller
Here, we have a metaphor for the entire Giants team. The Giants are in the middle of screwing up, see. They're in the middle of screwing up so hard. There was a leadoff walk and a single from a hitter who shouldn't single off Santiago Casilla. Doom. Kolten Wong, surprise nemesis, was up. Extra doom. The Giants were about to screw everything up.
Then they got a little lucky. The ball could have clanked off Sandoval's mitt and gone away from Crawford. Bases loaded, one out. Everything changes. Except it caromed right to Crawford. That's a little lucky. Okay, it's a lot of lucky.
Crawford, though, had to have the natural talent and ability to do the right thing when he was handed that gift. Giants screwing up, Giants getting lucky, Giants having enough talent to make the most of it.
The 2014 Giants are the new "Aristocrats!" Just say it when things are getting out of hand and don't make sense. That play was the embodiment of the entire season to this point.
There are managers who would have stuck with Casilla. Even after his final two pitches to Cruz -- when it looked like he tweaked his plant foot, ankle, or leg -- managers would have doubled down on the closer-is-a-closer mentality. Bochy wanted Affeldt to face Taveras more than Casilla to face Peter Bourjos. He wanted to bring in the non-closer to face the more talented hitter.
It was the smart move. And it worked.
Jon Miller's call was perfect: "Touchdown!" A walk would have meant a Game 6. A single would have meant a Game 6. This bedraggled bullpen would have had to dig deep, so deep, and figure out how to beat the Cardinals one more time. Instead, Affeldt shook off the curveball to get to the fastball. He knew what Taveras was looking for, what his strengths were.
Later in the game, the Giants won the pennant. Affeldt was a huge part of that. So was Travis Ishikawa, which ... does that seem weird to anyone else? Kind of feels weird to me.
My goodness, can he play defense.
And he can hit. His patience this postseason is bizarre and welcome. He took a hanging changeup into right field to start the ninth-inning rally, and he did it on a 1-2 count. He scored the winning run in spirit, with Joaquin Arias scoring the actual run.
Because I feel like I've earned something good after listening to that crap every commercial break. I don't even feel guilty about the trolling. I earned this. You earned this.
The Giants are the "Born Free" song of baseball to fans of the other 29 teams. Maybe I can appreciate it more if I think of it like that.
I'm not going to include a video because I respect you as a person.
The Giants are going to the World Series. Oh, how this season looked like a complete flop at one point. Instead, The Giants played well and hit dingers at just the right time, and they won the pennant. Look at those videos. Look at those dingers. Look at this team.