It was an inauspicious beginning. Madison Bumgarner was having one of those starts where he was catching too much of the strike zone. The Dodgers were hitting him. Four of the first five Dodgers got a hit, and the only reason things weren’t worse was because Gorkys Hernandez can throw a baseball. The Dodgers were up, 2-0, the Cardinals and Mets had already won, and the collapse was imminent.
Be honest with yourself. If the game had finished by that score, would you have been surprised? Would you be at home right now, cartoon birds and stars orbiting your head, wondering what happened? You would not. With each groundout to the second baseman, you would have slunk back into your seat a little bit more. This is how it shall be, forever more. The fog would roll in. A seagull would land on your face and start feasting on your flesh. This is how things are now.
Instead, the Giants came right back against Rich Hill, who is suddenly one of the most annoying opponents possible. Two years ago, he was an afterthought, a pitcher from the past (born in the same year as Noah Lowry, for perspective). A year ago he was a random curiosity for a sad Red Sox team. Now he’s Bert Blyleven without the fart shirt. And he’s been killing the Giants. Just not this time, at least not immediately.
So, fine, the game is tied, even though I was mostly finished with the outline of the eulogy in my head, but then something happened. Everything got wacky. There were fans rushing the field. Angel Pagan body slammed a dude with a flower. Buster Posey pushed another dude with a flower, and then a Dodgers pitcher yelled at him. And maybe Carlos Ruiz yelled at him? Dunno, but it was enough for Posey to respond, which he never does.
What did he say?
Pistols. At dawn.
Just a guess. He probably escalated it in the most honorable way he knows how, and that's what the movies tell me happened, but whatever went on, it was a weird night. And the Giants had a choice. They could either choke on the weird and curl up under the dugout bench, or they could ride it like a pegasus to the moon.
They did the latter. I think it’s a euphemism for scoring a bunch of runs.
If the Giants do anything this postseason — make it at all, down the Mets, ruin the Cubs’ season, et cetera — they’ll remember that sixth inning. The Dodgers took the lead with three straight singles, the last one a dumb one just under the glove of Brandon Crawford, and that curl-up-and-sleep option from the first inning was available again.
Instead, it went like this:
- Line-drive single
- Line-drive single
- Line-drive double
- Line-drive double (from the pitcher)
- Line-drive single
- Long home run to center field
It doesn’t matter that other teams do this all the time. It matters that the Giants did it against the Dodgers in this particular game, a game they needed to win if they were going to have any confidence at all.
It’s time for the post-game wrap, and I’m pretending I’m one of the cool kids, and you’re asking me who my player of the game is. Bumgarner kept his cool and had a couple of hits, that’s outstanding. Conor Gillaspie is the Muse to Travis Ishikawa’s Radiohead, but I’m okay with that, and his double with the bases loaded really was the hit of the game. Brandon Belt had a bunch of hits, including that long homer.
Give me Kelby Tomlinson, though. In the top of the second inning, right after the Giants had tied the game, Bumgarner walked the leadoff hitter. Not ideal! That was followed by a sharp grounder to Crawford, who turned and made a wild throw to second. If Tomlinson let it get past him, the blame would have been Crawford’s. Hey, even the best make mistakes like that.
Instead, Tomlinson made an incredible diving stop, and when he turned around, Kiké Hernandez was ... screwing around on his phone, no idea. Without that stop and tag, Bumgarner throws extra pitches. There are runners on second and third, no outs. Everything is collapsing. EVERYTHING IS COLLAPSING.
As is, there was a runner on first and one out. The pitcher struck out. Howie Kendrick grounded out. Play of the game. And then Tomlinson futzed up a bunt enough to get a chance to swing, and he was that third bullet point up there, a line-drive single over the leaping Chase Utley. He kept the line moving, which is what the Giants are supposed to do every now and again. That’s the plan, dang it, even against good pitchers.
Anyway, Tomlinson is the hero, and fight me if you disagree. Maybe he was the missing ingredient in August, fight me if you disagree.
It was a heckuva game, that’s all I’m saying.
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One of my favorite notes of the game: Hunter Pence was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and six left on base. Did you notice? I didn’t. That’s how this lineup is supposed to be. If one hitter has a lousy night, there are enough hitters left to pick him up.
On a related note, I’m actually very proud that Gordon Beckham had nothing to do with this win. Not because I have anything against him, but because I wanted to rule out voodoo and general witchery.
He’s cool to hit three homers tomorrow, though.
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Angel Pagan taking down a flower-bearing miscreant:
Buster Posey initially not having it:
I don’t know. Don’t support running on the field (if only as proof that, hey, I can get this close to a public figure with something in my hand), but danged if this didn’t get the crowd motored up even more. Not that they needed it, as it was the best crowd I’ve heard over the airwaves in a month, if not all season. But there was something about the weirdness of this game. It added, not subtracted.
I got a press release from the activists in my email! Whoa. What did they want?
Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.
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Giants win. If they win one more game, they’ll at least play past the 162nd game of the season. If they win two, they’re in. They charged up a Friday night Giants/Dodgers crowd, even if they took a circuitous route to get there.
Man, the Giants/Dodgers NLCS is going to be something else. I can’t wait to see how Bryan, Doug, Jen, and Reuben recap it while I’m in the hospital, throwing up my mortal essence.