Pregame: Weather Report
The morning dawns cold in the Mission. Not being able to sleep after that game last night, this would be a good morning to stay in bed. The only reason to get up would be to move to Dolores Park if the sun came out, to lie back and let the earth entomb me for a millennium or two. Instead, I go to the job; always a mistake. I miss Madison Bumgarner‘s start.
Inning One: Going Through the Motions
I arrive just in time to see Andres Torres swinging beautifully through the ball. Strike three. Otherwise the fog has blown away from Mission Bay; a cracked sunlight deeply etches each line of Freddy Sanchez’ grimace when he hits a liner right to Dan Uggla at second. In his new blog, Aubrey Huff says there’s no better place to play a day game than on the banks of Mission Creek. He flies out to left. Big difference between today’s first inning and yesterday’s, when the Giants scored four runs. That’s baseball. And who is this pitcher Anibal Sanchez?
Inning Two: Be Careful when Being Cautious
Madison Bumgarner, who is 20 until Sunday, comes into today’s game on a roll, having given up four earned runs in his last 28 2/3 innings. After what I’m told was an efficient first inning, he begins the second inefficiently, walking Dan Uggla because he can’t control his slider. The slider is a slower pitch than a fastball, but faster than a sinker; a pitch that breaks away from right-handed hitters. Before you berate the kid for walking the first guy in the inning, consider that the guy in question has torched the Giants over the past three games. A little caution would not have hurt Brian Wilson over the past two nights, when Uggla homered and doubled off him. Two strikeouts later, the strategy is looking pretty good. Mike Stanton changes that perception when he bangs a fastball off the wall in left and the Marlins have a 1-0 lead.
Inning Three: Hanging Out
On the View Deck, Israel, an usher who lives in the Mission, tells me Anibal Sanchez has pitched a no-hitter before, and he throws a lot of different pitches that keep hitters on their toes. I hang out with a couple of friends who are at the game today with a grandson and a nephew. The usual small talk: nuclear weapons, post-alcoholic children, the state’s fiscal crisis. Is that breeze from the fog rolling in or from the waving of Giant bats at virtual objects? Even up here you can tell the Giants are back on their heels, not on their toes.
Inning Four: For Whom the Bell Tolls
You know it’s bad when you get this recurring nightmare of Uggla coming home with a big bat in his hand, a bat that looks bigger than Bumgarner. Will the Giants avoid him again? Nope. Madison will try to fool him with a lot of curveballs, the last of which Uggla hits right into Huff’s glove out in left field. Shouldn’t a curveball be hit on the ground? Bumgarner returns to his fastball, which Jorge Cantu (traded to Texas after the game) hits for a single. How about a changeup? Cody Ross hits that for a single. OK, Mike Stanton to the plate again. In the second inning, Stanton victimized a fastball. Bumgarner’s not going to let him get away with that; he comes back with a fastball, but it’s way inside. Who wants to bet another fastball’s coming? The group next to us bet “contact – no contact.” Stanton doubles again and it’s 3-0.
Inning Five: Stealing Signs
Uncertainty is a hitter’s biggest curse. Good pitchers maximize uncertainty. They don’t overpower you, they fool you; they induce ground balls, but what’s worse, they induce doubt — doubt about what you see and what you think you see. How difficult it must be day after day for a hitter to maintain that mental edge! That’s what seems to be missing with the Giants today. Sanchez is tangling them up in unworldly fictions, leading them into one dead end after the other. If only they knew what he was throwing and where.
If only it was 1951, when the Giants, 13 games back with 10 weeks left in the season, suddenly started hitting. They caught the Dodgers and won the National League pennant when Bobby Thompson hit the “shot heard ’round the world.” Thompson knew Ralph Branca would throw a fastball. Good guess? Better. As reported by Jonathan Prager 50 years later, the Giants had stolen the catcher’s sign, as they had been stealing the opposition’s signs throughout those last two months.
In the bottom of the fifth, Juan Uribe, who’s had a big bat this series, gets to first on an error. Pablo Sandoval, back from Venezuela, loops a single to center. A hit! Giants on first and second with only one out. An awakening! A rally!
Inning Seven: Stealing Home
My friends complain they’ve spent a small fortune and the game’s not even over. How much? About $200, slightly below this year’s average Fan Cost Index at Mission Creek. The most expensive ballpark? Fenway in Boston. More on the ballpark food experience” to come.
Inning Nine: The End of a Streak
Buster Posey got three chances to keep his hitting streak alive; will he get another? All game Sanchez has been throwing a heavy mix of off-speed and breaking balls. Now he just wants to end it. Ten fastballs. Travis Ishikawa, Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez never see what’s coming; Buster will have to start all over again.
Marlins 5, Giants 0.
Oh well, still time to make it to Dolores Park before the fog obliterates what’s left of the day.