One: The Disappeared
Shortly after winning Game Two over the Texas Rangers in the 2010 World Series, the San Francisco Giants dropped out of sight. Don’t get all paranoid just because they were flying to Dallas to play George W. Bush’s old team; I’m not suggesting the team was kidnapped by a death squad (although “stuff happens”).
It’s just that they seem to have completely fallen off the radar of the national sports media. How is it possible for the NYT to report on only one team in a World Series? The losing team? I’m confident the Giants still exist and will show up on time for Game Three. But uncertain.
Meanwhile, the dog is sick and wants me to stay home with him to watch the game. He says he can’t stand to be alone when Jonathan Sanchez is pitching.
I sympathize with him. Sick as a dog or not, the stress of a Sanchez start can be debilitating. As a pitcher, Sanchez this year began to realize his promise. Consistently inconsistent until the end of August, he had three or four excellent outings until faltering recently in Philadelphia.
What he apparently learned was not to fall apart if he was having trouble at the beginning of a game. He learned to hang in there, not get ruffled, keep challenging hitters, keep trying to throw strikes. In other words, he knows how to keep his cool when he gets into trouble.
Wish we could stay cool when he gets into trouble, moans the dog.
Is Sanchez afraid of him? asks the dog.
Molina was Sanchez’s first catcher when he came to the big leagues. More than a teacher to Sanchez and the other young Giant pitchers, Molina was like their nanny. He cared for them; he knows how they tick and where they’re vulnerable. Does he know how to get inside Sanchez’s head?
Sanchez pitches like Molina is the second coming of Barry Bonds. Five pitches thrown, each worse than the one before.
Four: First Bite
I thought you said Sanchez was going to throw strikes.
So you’re going to blame me because after walking Molina, he starts off the rookie Mitch Moreland with two balls?
The dog just growls. Sanchez responds by throwing a strike with a fastball, then another. Go Giants, I whisper. The dog sniffs, wags his tail. OK, Sanchez is going to end the inning with a slider; Moreland fouls off two in a row. OK, end it with a changeup. Same story. Why not a fastball?
That’s why, curses the dog, as we watch Moreland’s home run sail into the right field stands. It’s OK, I say, only three runs. No big deal.
That’s what you think. You know those strikes Sanchez was supposed to throw but isn’t? Lewis is throwing them. He’s ahead of practically every hitter.
The dog refers to Colby Lewis, the Ranger pitcher. I notice that as the game goes on he’s using more and more off-speed pitches and breaking balls. A sensible strategy to keep the free-swinging Giants off base.
Lewis flirts with danger, serving up some bad pitches with the good. The Giants flirt with scoring, missing Lewis’ bad pitches. The innings come, the innings go.
The dog has a thing for evangelical recovering junkie alcoholics, so he’s not as put off as I am by all the relentlessly heart-warming Josh Hamilton press releases that the MLB keeps recycling to pat itself on the back and to make believe it’s improving its image.
Morally distracted by the smell of pot smoke wafting into centerfield from the bleachers, Hamilton suffered two poor games in SF. Will the smell of stale beer in Texas set him straight?
That’s the last thing Sanchez needs after a great double play in the fifth. He throws breaking balls. His fourth pitch to Hamilton, a curveball that stays up on the inside. Not the best of locations.
Result: 4-0 Rangers.
Seven: Signs of Life
Even though the Giants have demonstrated a commitment to quality dramatic performance, they sometimes fall flat. That’s baseball.
The television cameras catch Madison Bumgarner yawning in the dugout. Had there been television cameras in our house, they would have seen the same from the dog and me. The Giants are like the engine of a car out on the street that just won’t turn over. It’s getting old.
The sparkplugs fire but don’t spark; the catalysts don’t catalyze.
Since the debacle in the eighth inning of Game Two when the Giants scored seven runs off an imploding Ranger bullpen, Texas manager Ron Washington has been subject to unrelenting criticism for not using Neftali Feliz, undoubtedly the Rangers’ best reliever.
Now, with a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth, here, finally, comes Feliz. He ends the game in 13 pitches, 12 for strikes with an average speed of at least 98 mph.
I nudge the dog; check this guy out! But it’s too late. The dog’s passed out.
Nine: A Critical Flop
As dramatic theater, the game had a lot of problems unless you’re a Texas fan. Although decided by only two runs, it never felt like much of a contest. The Giants could not find the right buttons to push or incantations to chant to make it close or even entertaining. They challenged Lewis to throw strikes and he threw them. Lewis challenged the Giants to hit the strikes he threw and they couldn’t.
The good news for the Giants is that the bullpen once again held the Rangers scoreless.
There is no bad news — because it’s not news when the Giants score only score two runs. That’s why they need their pitchers to be astounding.
Wake up, MadBum. Your turn. Game Four, Sunday at five.