One: Weather Report
Rain was not predicted until much later tonight, but walking down Mission Creek from 16th and Harrison to Mission Bay, you can feel the humidity, the unusually warm wind as the sky darkens, lightens, and darkens again. Among the crowd outside the ballpark, camped out on the banks of Mission Creek, I find Pablo, who told me and anyone else who would listen during Game One that the Ohlone (locals before the Mission) spirits would determine when it would rain.
“I guess the Ohlone ghosts want to see Game Two tonight.” Spirits, he said, not ghosts — spirits!
Strange, unpredictable things happen all the time in baseball, but this year the Giants have taken weird and unpredictable to a new level.
Two: The Mystique of Matt Cain
While his comrades have gone up and down in the post-season, Matt Cain has been consistently up. No runs to either the Braves or the Phillies, and through the first three innings tonight, he maintains that streak.
Earlier in the day, ESPN posted a video showing ex-pitching great Curt Schilling breaking down how Cain pitches. In it Schilling shows that Cain doesn’t have pinpoint accuracy or overwhelming speed, but he’s flourishing. Why? Because he has good “stuff.”
If that’s true, Cain’s definitely got good stuff tonight.
What is “stuff,” and what’s so good about it? In baseball lingo, stuff is one of those expandable words, but it always refers to something the pitcher has or does. Mostly stuff has to do with the velocity of the pitch and the ball’s movement, either horizontal, vertical, or both. Stuff makes a ball hard to hit
So even if a batter gets a good ball to hit, Schilling explains, if the stuff is good, the hit is not.
Good stuff is “nasty.” You don’t think so? Ask the Rangers.
When Matt’s stuff’s not so hot tonight, luck carries him through. Like when Ian Kinsler opens the fifth inning with a solidly hit screamer to straightaway center field. It’s headed for a home run, but falls on the padding at the top of the fence, bouncing back into play. How weird is that?
Giants hitters could use some of that luck. After the noise they made with their bats last night, their silence this game seems even greater. Not that you would expect any less from the Giants this year — bushels of hits one game, none the next.
Give credit also to C.J. Wilson, the Texas pitcher who is blanking the Giants with a combination of cutters, fastballs and sliders. The report on Wilson is that he’s wild. The Giants do a good job of not swinging at every pitch, trying to wait and make him throw a ball they can hit. That plan doesn’t work because Wilson isn’t wild after all. The Giants wind up watching strikes fly by.
Edgar Renteria covers ground and makes plays like he did 13 years ago as a rookie from Colombia. Now he’s a grizzled veteran who increasingly relies on his wits rather than his fading physical skills.
This will probably be Renteria’s last year. Although I can never forgive him for hitting an eleventh-inning single to deny the Cleveland Indians their first championship since 1948, I have admired his willingness this year to work through multiple injuries and contribute meaningfully to the team’s success.
After throwing a cutter to Renteria on the first pitch, Wilson comes back with a fastball in a perfect location for Renteria’s powerful swing to meet it and send it well over the fence in left. It looks like Renteria expected it. Maria, a Colombian in SF for a year, shouts, “That’s how we do it in Colombia.”
Six: What Is to Be Done?
No one-run lead can be considered safe, even with Matt Cain on the mound. The Texans remind us of this fundamental principle of baseball when both Michael Young and Josh Hamilton open the sixth inning with singles.
Hamilton’s hit is key, because Cody Ross thinks he can catch it but suddenly realizes he can’t. Because of the angle he took, the ball will get past him and go for extra bases galore unless he can do something fast. He leaps at the ball, not to catch it, but to stop it with his body. Incredibly, it works. He prevents a score.
Cody’s image on the new “Ross is Boss” T-shirt looks like a bust of Lenin.
A hip young officer from the Army’s PsyOps Division sings “God Bless America” in such a sultry and seductive style, it gives me great hope for the future.
My hope is rewarded. Almost as soon as she sits down, the Giants score their second run on a bloop single from Juan Uribe, bringing Lenin home from exile Ross home from second.
But it’s after two outs in the bottom of the eighth that the game suddenly veers off into a landscape painted by Salvador Dali.
Eight: Walking Home
If you’re in the market for the uncanny, come to a Giants’ baseball game during the eighth inning. Tonight, Darren O’Day strikes out the first two batters in the bottom of the eighth. Buster Posey’s subsequent single doesn’t appear all that significant, but manager Ron Washington does not want to take a chance. He brings in Derek Holland, who walks both Nate Schierholtz and Cody Ross on eight consecutive pitches.
Either Washington is a victim of PsyOps or he’s a secret Giant agent. Why else would he let Holland pitch to Aubrey Huff? Holland walks Huff, walking home Posey, before he walks off the field in disgrace. He will soon be joined by Mark Lowe, who walks in another run before giving up a single to Renteria that drives two more runs across the plate.
Nine: Stuff Happens
In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, widespread looting broke out in Baghdad. Nonplussed, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld remarked, “Stuff happens.”
Does it ever!
Just after midnight, rain starts falling in the Mission.