One: Ghost Stories
Sitting in Philz Coffee Mission Bay, flipping through Haunted Baseball, by Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon; a book about visitations by Babe Ruth, stadiums built on a Native American burial grounds, and the metaphysical curses that keep teams losing. Outside, over Mission Creek, the fog falls like snow, but it’s warm.
Two: Pitching Duels
Dominated by pitchers, the first two games of this series have been brutally intense. With the playoffs at stake, runs will become increasingly difficult to manufacture against the quality pitching in the National League’s Western Division. For the hitters, it’s endless frustration. For the pitchers, it’s flying from one trapeze to another without a net.
Since getting bombed by Cincinnati in August, Giant starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez has allowed nine hits and just one earned run in three games. The man who epitomized the Giants’ inconsistent hurlers has finally begun pitching not only brilliantly, but consistently. He doesn’t get distracted like he did earlier in the season, doesn’t get flustered by mistakes and throws more strikes, a lot more strikes.
The Dodgers starter, veteran Ted Lilly, came in a trade to L.A. in July and won his first five games in Dodger blue. He pitched well against the Giants last week in Chavez Ravine, so like the first two games, tonight will probably be decided by an infield hit or a key error.
Three: Run Don’t Walk
Rafael Furcal hits Jonathan Sanchez’ fourth pitch, a 90 mph fastball low and inside, down the left field line past a diving Juan Uribe for a double. Ryan Theriot bunts toward third, cleanly fielded by Uribe who throws the ball past Aubrey Huff and into the Dodgers’ dugout. It’s the second time this series that a run scores on an Uribe throwing error.
The Giants get the run back after Aubrey Huff triples into the center field gap and Buster Posey doubles him home. In the third inning Huff comes up to bat with one out, Edgar Renteria on third and Freddy Sanchez on second. Lilly has been having a problem locating his fastball. For example, he throws Huff a fastball above the belt on the inside, the kind of pitch Huff loves to hit — onto the Promenade in right field for his 25th home run. Buster Posey follows, jumping on another fat fastball and driving it into the left field bleachers. Five runs? The Giants have scored five runs?
Four: An Uneasy Spirit?
Since the second inning the fog’s been steadily dropping, then hovering, almost like a dome, over the field. It blows away and returns, swirling, dancing, but the real odd part is that it’s not cold. It’s not warm, but it’s definitely not as cold as it usually is when the fog is so aggressive. Lilly hits two of the first three batters he faces in the fourth. Bye Ted.
Five: Section 311
If you’ve been to the ballpark this season, you’ve heard the chant when Juan Uribe comes to the plate: the first syllable in his name “Uuuuuuu!” followed by the last three “Reebay.” Sometimes it’s done as a call and response between two groups led by a single individual. A male voice hovers over the field like a tenor fog: “Uuuuuuuuuuu”, then the congregation, I mean the crowd, responds “Reebay.” I finally locate the “Uuuuuuu” guy in Section 311, where else? John Carolino, born and raised on 25th near Capp, is the Placido Domingo of baseball fans.
I try to get a picture of him and his friends, but I can’t find the camera and when I do, I fumble with the settings. “I’m going to tell your editor how incompetent you are,” says Linda. I want to say if competence was the standard I would have been gone long ago, but just as I begin to speak Jose Guillen hits a home run deep to left.
Six: And now leading off for your . . .
While Andres Torres contemplates the mysteries of the human appendix, manager Bruce Bochy has struck out trying to figure out how to plug the gaping hole in the team represented by Torres’ absence. Unbowed, Bochy tries again, this time leading off with Edgar Renteria, a smart veteran who has been sidelined much of the year with a series of injuries. Tonight he ignites the Giants’ rally in the third, surprising the Dodgers (and everyone in the stadium) with a bunt single. In the fourth he singled again, and he leads off the sixth inning with a triple.
My co-worker Kay thinks Sanchez is cute, as does Julia who sits next to me. As a pitcher, his potential has been evident for a couple years. Has he sometimes struggled to throw a strike? Yes, but tonight he strikes out a career high twelve batters and walks no one. He gets out in front of the hitters, keeps them defensive and hopelessly befuddled. When he leaves in the eighth, he receives a well-deserved standing ovation.
Eight: Problems of inter-marriage
Walking around Mission Creek Ballpark over the past three nights, I’ve noticed a number of Dodger-Giant couples like Rosario and Eric in Section 311. When Eric goes for a hot dog, Rosario, still wearing her Dodger cap, confides that she’s worried about their young son —he doesn’t look good in orange. Yes, her parents had warned her of the problems inherent in raising children without a clear team identity.
Nine: We’re Number One (for now)
Top of the 9th, Giants leading 10-2; I’m headed down to the bleachers for the celebrations when I see Stephanie and Brittany leaning perilously over the wall overlooking King Street. Dodger fans in despair? Will they jump? “Don’t do it!” I implore them. “It’s only a game.”
Only a game? Ha! They know I’m lying. The Padres lost earlier to the Cardinals so tonight’s victory means the Giants now stand alone atop the National League’s Western Division.