Friday, October 26, 2012

A Miracle Every Night

As I write, it's been less than a week since the Giants were washed up and left for dead on the banks of the Mississippi River. If you bleed orange and black, you're free to admit that last Friday morning, you were ready to let go of baseball. The Giants trailed the Cardinals 3 games to 1 and the oft-maligned Barry Zito had the ball for a game the Giants needed to win to stay alive.

No need to review the details of what's happened since then. The Giants have won five straight pressure-packed postseason games--three of them "do or die" matches in which a loss would have ended their season.

5 wins in 7 days; a gloriously crazy week that surely must rank among the most remarkable sports weeks anywhere, any time.

But it's not just the wins that make all this so stupendous. It's the way the Giants have been winning. In every one of these games, there's been a moment when you just knew the fates were on their side. You can call it luck or call it a balancing of the scales (does anyone really think the 2010 Word Series win completely makes up for all those years in the desert?), but it's proof that baseball is about more than just honest effort.

The Week That Was has delivered the glorious insanity of that NLCS Game 7 with its rain-soaked finish. It included the "where-did-THAT-come-from" undressing of Tigers ace Justin Verlander (and another Zito gem) in World Series Game 1.

And then there was the nail-biting tension of Game 2, a taut pitching battle that went to the bottom of the 7th in a scoreless tie. You could say the Baseball Gods had already interceded when Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder was thrown out at the plate in the second inning, but that was just an example of human frailty (what could Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont have been thinking?).

No, the moment when everyone looked to the sky and laughed was in that bottom of the 7th, when the bunt everyone knew Gregor Blanco had to get down eased its way to a stop inches inside the third-base line. Hume plate umpire Dan Iassogna looked like a cat crouching over a mouse hole while he waited for the ball to stop, and his emphatic "fair" call blew the lid off the place. The play loaded the bases and set up the only run the Giants would need.

As Giants third-base coach and resident mystic Tim Flannery would later say, "You just go home and thank the higher power of whoever's in charge." Exactly. But what Flannery added may be equally important: "Try not to piss the other ones off."

No one's ever seen the Gods of Baseball. But few who follow the game doubt their existence. For now, they seem to be favoring the Boys of McCovey Cove.

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