Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bathing In Victory

Mesmerizing, isn't it? If there's any way to sum up the Giants' incredible, improbable, emotional, can't-really-believe-it's-true Game 7 NLCS win over the Cardinals, it's that broken-bat hit by Hunter Pence that turned a 2-0 Giants lead into a 5-0 rout.

I love to bash Fox and its intrusive, braying coverage of baseball. But credit where it's due: the remarkable replay you're seeing on this page is a window into the magic that seems to be crouched on the shoulders of the Giants.

Of course, the 43,000 of us who saw the game in person were unaware of Pence's magic act. We saw Cards shortstop Pete Kozma break the wrong way on Pence's bases-loaded grounder. We saw Cards center fielder Jon Jay botch the pickup, allowing Buster Posey to wheel all the way around from first to score. And we saw the game go from a nail-biting tension-fest to a backslapping, high-fiving party.

In all my years as a Giants fan, I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. More than just the roar of a crowd happy with a home-team win, it was the giddy outpouring of amazement from folks who could scarcely believe their good fortune. Let's not forget: a fortnight ago, the Giants slunk off to Cincinnati, a loss away from ending their season.

And then there was the Great American Comeback, punctuated by Buster Posey's epic grand slam off a cartoon villain named Mat Latos. Somehow, some way, the Giants came off the mat to win that series against the Reds and set up a showdown between the last two World Series champs for the right to go to this year's Series.

And then the script repeated itself. Down 3-to-1 in a best-of-seven series and facing elimination on the road, the Giants sent Barry Zito to the mound. And he pitched a game that will be spoken of in reverential tones as long as people gather to talk Giants baseball. 

In the last three games of this NLCS, the Giants outscored the Cards 20-1. The indelible moments included Zito's RBI bunt single, Pence's trick-show double, an endless barrage of hits by Marco Scutaro, Brandon Crawford's leaping catch of Kyle Lohse's scary line drive, a screeching homer and equally-loud triple off the bat of Brandon Belt, and a series of defensive boners by the Cards.

Oh, and the relentless grinding of Zito, Vogelsong, Cain and a host of bullpen heroes. When the indefatigable Sergio Romo got the call in Game 7, he bounded through the downpour, buoyed by a frenzied crowd. Romo's path is so improbable it would never pass muster in Hollywood, yet there he was, the man of the moment that seemed like it could never happen.

And of course, it had to end with newly-minted villain Matt Holliday popping up to Scutaro, the man he tried to shatter with his Game 2 "slide" at second base. Just before that play, Scutaro, a 36-year-old professional who has never been to the World Series, looked up into the rain and smiled broadly. Pure, unbridled, silly, giggly joy.

Meteorologists say it rained nearly a half-inch during the 8th and 9th innings of Game 7. During the regular season, the game would surely have been halted and then called, but Major League Baseball requires postseason games to go the full nine innings, no matter what it takes.

Few in the crowd cared. Few left, and few sought shelter. It was like a party no one wanted to see end, a party that was a party precisely because it was so unexpected. The best gifts are always like that.

1 comment:

CDrake said...

No matter what the outcome of the World Series, this team is really something special. Going 6-0 in elimination games in a single postseason pretty much tells you all you really need to know them. Everyone contributed in his own way. That's one of my favorite things about the 2012 edition of the Gigantes: they have some truly standout players, but there's no "I" almost anywhere to be found on the team ;) Think of all the setbacks during the season. Just when things seemed to be sliding off the rails, the team roared right back on track, time and time again. It's been fun to watch (although tough at times!), and it makes me proud.