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GIANTS WIN IT ALL! BRING TITLE TO SAN FRANCISCO END 56 YEAR SERIES DROUGHT

The Drought is Over Giants Win! (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

It was something that no one predicted at the beginning of the season, a Cinderella story of a team of journeymen unknowns, cast offs, rookies and a phenomenal staff of young pitchers overcame obstacle after obstacle to win the team’s first World Series title since 1954.  Back then it was the “Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays who electrified the nation with his back to the ball catch in deep center at the Polo Grounds while in 2010 it was a collection of misfits who bonded as no team ever has to win the World Series when no-one said they would even win their division.

Aubrey Huff in the Arms of Buster Posey (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

This team whose theme song was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” didn’t stop believing and did what no Giants team stocked with All-Stars and Hall of Famers had not done since they were the New York Giants playing at the Polo Grounds. The franchise that had known sudden defeat in a 1-0 bottom of the 9th inning loss in the 1962 World Series to the New York Yankees finally won.  The franchise that had endured the tragic Earthquake Series of 1989 when they were swept by the A’s overcame all to win in 2010. Likewise the franchise that when just 6 outs from the victory in game six with the Champagne chilling on the clubhouse lost to the Angels had finally overcame decades of despair to win a World Series that most experts said that they would never win.

Tim “the Freak” Lincecum and his wild hair were a trademark of the Giants

Throughout the year the Giants were accorded no respect.  At the beginning of the season the Giants were picked by most to place no better than 4th in the National League West.  They won the West on the last day of the regular season and then went on to beat the Braves in 4 games in the NLDS winning game 4 in Atlanta holding the Braves to just 7 earned runs and a .175 batting average.  They played and defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS in a series that no baseball writers that I saw, heard or read predicted them to win against the highly favored Phillies…well no one but me and ESPN 94.1 Norfolk’s Tony Mercurio.  The Giants held the mighty Phillies to just 18 earned runs in 6 games and to a .224 batting average. Asked on the Giants chances in 2011 closer Brian Wilson said “I like our chances, we were picked fourth in spring training. We should at least move up to third next spring. You’d think.”

Brian Wilson looks to the Heavens after striking out Nelson Cruz to end the World Series (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The Giants pitchers allowed just 37 earned runs in 135 innings for a 2.47 post season ERA holding the Braves, Phillies and Rangers to 94 hits in 480 at bats and a playoff opposing batting average of .196.  Any way that you stack it, the Giants pitcher’s dominated two of the most prolific hitting teams in baseball as well as a good hitting Braves team allowing only 9 home runs.

“The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.” Earl Weaver

Edgar Renteria gets his game winning home run off of Cliff Lee in the top of the 7th inning (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The story of the 2010 Giants is a story for the ages, a team composed of cast offs, second chance journeymen, veterans with their best years behind them and rookies who played like seasoned veterans overcame every obstacle and proved to the multitude of naysayers that they could win in a convincing manner.  Rookies including Catcher Buster Posey and pitcher Madison Bumgarner who both played the first months of the season at Triple-A Fresno played key roles in the last half of the season and the post season with Bumgarner’s win in game 4 being something that had everybody talking. Edgar Renteria in his second year of a 2 year contract that all expected to be his last year playing ball was the MVP.  He overcame a torn bicep and a lack of playing time to hit 2 home runs including the winning hit tonight after only hitting 3 in the regular season spending 4 months on the bench.  In the World Series he hit .412 with 6 RBI. To make it even more of a story Renteria called his shot in game 5 to Andres Torres and he had the game winning hit in the 1998 World Series for the Florida Marlins against the Cleveland Indians.

Cody Ross was picked up off waivers at the last possible moment after being released from the Florida Marlins had 5 post-season home runs and many key hits and at bats.  Aubrey Huff a free agent that no one seemed to want became the team’s home run leader and hit a massive home run in game four on Sunday night and a great sacrifice bunt that led up to Renteria’s home run.  Freddy Sanchez when not hitting with the bat made defensive play after defensive play. Andres Torres hit at a torrid pace, Juan Uribe with key home runs in the NLCS and World Series while numerous other Giants had key hits, defensive plays or pitching performances.

Tim Lincecum holds the World Series Trophy (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Giants featuring the arms of 4 home grown pitchers outpitched the Rangers shutting down the most potent offense in the Major Leagues like they were a luckless Triple-A team belonging to a dismal major league franchise.  Tim Lincecum defeated Cliff Lee twice and in game 5 pitched 8 innings allowing one run and on three hits while striking out ten.  Matt Cain blew through the Rangers to shut them out in game two and finished the post-season allowing no earned runs. When Jonathan Sanchez struggled the bullpen came in and shut the Rangers down as they had the Phillies and who could believe the poise of Madison Bumgarner.  The Giants’ closer Brian Wilson was locked on and the Rangers definitely had reason to “fear the beard.”

This was an everyman’s team that embodied real America, guys getting second chances, men who worked for years unnoticed before landing with the Giants and young men that played with strength and maturity throughout the season.  There was something special about this team that transcended the parts and turned them into World Series Champions, they believed in themselves and their team took care of each other and didn’t listen to the naysayers.  Bruce Bochy the Giants’ manager managed them like a great General took charge and put players on the field each night that he knew would give the team the best chance to win. He moved players around for defense in the late innings when he got a lead, trusting in the arms of his pitching staff to shut down the vaunted Rangers’ offense which many experts said would overcome the Giants pitching staff.

“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver

Well they were wrong. Just as the Giants had throughout the playoffs the Giants’ pitching staff dominated their opponent.  The Rangers who had a .276 team batting average in the regular season and hit .304 against the Yankees in the ALCS had just 29 hits in 153 at bats for a .190 batting average against the Giants scoring just 12 runs in 5 games and were shut out twice. In the final 18 innings the Rangers managed just one run against a Giants pitching staff that finished the series with a 2.38 ERA.

By contrast the Rangers’ staff could not stem the tide in games that were blowouts and games that were close with the exception of Colby Lewis in game 3 who held the Giants to 2 runs.  The Giants scored 29 runs 28 of which were earned on 42 hits in 169 at bats for a .249 team average while the Rangers’ had a 5.86 team ERA.  Cliff Lee who had never been beaten in the playoffs and had two World Series wins against the Yankees in 2009 allowed 9 earned runs on 14 hits in 11.2 innings work for a 6.94 series ERA.  His opposite Tim Lincecum allowed 4 earned runs on 8 hits in 13.2 innings for a 2.72 series ERA.

This team was amazing and was supported by the Giants greats from the past including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou, Jack Clark, John Montafusco, J. T. Snow and many more including Barry Bonds. I’m sure that the spirits of men like Bobby Bonds, Rob Beck  and Bobby Thompson were cheering them on as Judy’s cousin Bill who died during game one and my father Carl who died in June were.  The outpouring of support and emotion by these great who had never experienced a World Series victory in San Francisco was amazing.  Likewise the fans who came to endure a season of what has been named “torture ball” finally found that it paid off.

The Last Time 1954 Willie Mays makes “The Catch”

After 53 years of suffering in San Francisco the drought ended, the decades spend in the icy and unforgiving confines of Candlestick Park, the ravages of an earthquake and disappointment that left fans saying “maybe next year” was over.  The Giants led by cast offs, rookies and home grown pitchers featuring characters who sported “luck thongs” in the clubhouse, wild hair and beards that made them look like they might have a few screws loose had overcome the curse, whatever curse it might be and brought the World Series trophy home to the most beautiful city in America, San Francisco. Willie Mays commented after the game that “Oh, man, I don’t get overly excited about baseball, but looking at these kids and how excited they were, I had some tears in my eyes, because you never know, this might be the last time something like this happens to some of these kids. It’s a wonderful feeling for me, and I’m sure it’s a wonderful feeling for these kids and their families.” Mays knows that from experience, there is a sense of grateful appreciation in his manner that rings true, for none of us ever knows what tomorrow brings.

“I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.” – Walt Whitman

I think that there is a lesson for us in our country today, that if you believe and pull together you can win even when everyone predicts your demise.  Maybe Americans can look at this team and take this lesson that you don’t have to spend excessively to be successful, that success does not have to be bought and that friendship and teamwork matter more than having a bunch of elite super-stars who can’t get the job done in the clutch.  Maybe that’s the lesson that we need to learn again.  The lesson so eloquently put by James Earl Jones as Terrance Mann in Field of Dreams “The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”

The Giants took home the World Series as I predicted with their pitching, defense and clutch hitting being the difference. Congratulations Giants.  I guess that I will have to hang a 2010 San Francisco Giants pennant next to my 1989 Giants NL West Pennant in my kitchen. Like many fans I have spend my entire life waiting for this to happen enduring the cold of Candlestick where I saw Ed Halicki no-hit the Mets in 1975, took in the beauty of AT&T Park, watched Barry Bonds tie and break the Home Run record while deployed to Iraq but nothing compares to this. It was worth the wait. Go Giants!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Giants Defeat Rangers 4-0 Stand One Win from Series Title as Bumgarner Shines

Rookie Madison Bumgarner became the 4th youngest player in MLB history to win a World Series game (AP Photo/Matt Campbell, Pool)

On a night that featured the appearance of two Presidents for the ceremonial first pitch’ the San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers and stand one win from their first World Series title since they played in New York’s Polo Grounds in 1954.  Once again it was pitching and timely hitting that won the day for the Giants with the Giants’ pitching staff led by Madison Bumgarner shutting out the Rangers for the second time in four games leaving the potent Rangers’ lineup in a state of bewildered befuddlement.  The young rookie held the heart of the Rangers’ order; Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz to 1 hit in 9 at bats and only allowed 3 hits in 8 innings work striking out 6 and walking just two. He became the fourth youngest pitcher to win a World Series game shutting down an offense that feasted on left-handed pitchers all season. He allowed just three singles and only one runner reached 2nd base for the Rangers.

Aubrey Huff homers in the top of the 3rd inning against Tommy Hunter (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Giants’ hitters had timely hits when they matter the most. They were led by journeyman Aubrey Huff who led the team in home runs in 2010. Huff plastered a pitch by Rangers’ starter Tommy Hunter deep into the right field seats in the top of the 3rd inning.  The Giants added another run in the 7th inning when Andres Torres doubled to score Edgar Renteria and a final run in the top of the 8th inning when Buster Posey hit his first ever World Series off Darren O’Day to deep center.

Defense: Freddy Sanchez makes a play on a fielders’ choice (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The Giants used closer Brian Wilson to finish the game in a non-save situation with Wilson mowing down the top of the Rangers order taking 11 pitches to get Elvis Torres to fly out and to strike out both Michael Young and Josh Hamilton to end the game leaving the Rangers perplexed and Nolan Ryan visibly bothered at the lack of hitting exhibited by the Rangers.

Former President’s George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush with Nolan Ryan during the ceremonial first pitch (Photo by Matt Campbell-Pool/Getty Images)

The Giants had 4 runs on 8 hits leaving and an error leaving 6 men on base. Edgar Renteria went 3-4 and Andres Torres 3-5 in the effort with Huff and Posey adding the home runs. Meanwhile the Rangers continued their dismal hitting with no runs on 3 hits and no errors leaving 3 stranded. Vladimir Guerrero struck out 3 times in 3 at bats against Bumgarner. They will have to solve the riddle of Giants pitching against Tim Lincecum in game 5 on Monday night.

Buster Posey looks on as his blast goes over the Center Field Fence in the 8th inning (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

With the exception of a booted ball by Juan Uribe in the 8th inning the Giants played spectacular defense, especially Second Baseman Freddy Sanchez.  It was like Earl Weave said “the key to winning is pitching fundamentals and three run home runs.  The Giants didn’t get the three run blast but they did get two homers while the pitching and defense took care of themselves.

Befuddled and beaten the Texas Rangers look on in the bottom of the 9th inning (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Bumgarner got the win while Tommy Hunter got the loss.  Monday night the teams meet for game 5 with a pitching rematch between Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee.  I expect the matchup to be good and for this to be another game of tortureball no matter which team wins as the Rangers stand at the brink of elimination and the Giants on the precipice of history.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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And so the Giants Can’t hit….tell me about it: Giants Crush Rangers 9-0 go up 2-0 in Series

Matt Cain dominated the Rangers (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

So the San Francisco Giants can’t hit….tell that to the Texas Rangers who have given up 20 runs in the first two games of the World Series.  Of course when the opposition scores no runs it makes it a lot easier to win and in game two of the 2010 World Series the San Francisco Giants not only shut down the hitting machine that has been the scourge of the American League but clobbered their pitching staff for the second night in a row.

Edgar Renteria hits a 2 RBI single (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Giants’ starter Matt Cain was dominant in the second game of the series while Rangers’ starter C. J. Wilson pitched well but not well enough until handing the game over to the Rangers bullpen which imploded in the 8th inning.  Wilson allowed just two runs on 3 hits, one a costly solo shot with two outs in the bottom of the 5th by Edgar Renteria. Cain on the other hand was masterful getting hitter after hitter out allowing just 4 hits and giving up two walks in 7.2 innings work allowing just 1 hit in 8 attempts by Rangers’ sluggers Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz.

The game was a pitcher’s duel with the only mistake being committed by Wilson in the bottom of the 5th inning when he left a fastball in the middle of the plate for Renteria to put into the left field seats to give the Giants a 1-0 lead which it would remain until the bottom of the 7th when the Giants Juan Uribe singled to score Cody Ross who Wilson had walked to lead off the inning.  The walk to Ross was the end for Wilson who ceded the mound to Darren Oliver.  Oliver gave up the single to Uribe and the Giants led 2-0 after 7 innings.

Cain pitched into the 8th inning and after giving up a walk to Elvis Andrus was relieved by Javier Lopez with two outs.  Lopez got Josh Hamilton to fly out to end the Rangers’ half of the 8th inning. In the bottom from it all came apart for the Rangers’ bullpen. Darren O’Day got the first two Giants he faced, Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez out on strikes before giving up a two out single to Buster Posey.  Ron Washington chose not to use Neftali Feliz and instead sent in Derek Holland to relieve O’Day with Nate Schierholtz coming to the plate. Holland walked Schierholtz and followed with a walk to Cody Ross to load the bases and yet another to Aubrey Huff to score Posey.  That walk was enough for Washington who replaced Holland with Mark Lowe.  Lowe walked Juan Uribe to score Schierholtz and then gave up a single to Renteria which scored Ross and Huff.  With the game rapidly slipping away the Rangers reacted to Bruce Bochy sending up Mike Fotenot which Ron Washington countered not with Neftali Feliz but Michael Kirkman and Bochy once again countered with Aaron Rowland instead of Fotenot.  Rowland delivered a triple which scored Uribe and Renteria and then a double to Andres Torres which scored Rowland.  The inning ended with the Giants scoring 7 runs to make the game 9-0.  The Giants put Guillermo Mota into the game and Mota despite allowing a walk put the Rangers away.

It was another stunning blow to the Rangers who now go back to Arlington down 2-0 in the series and seemingly having no answer to Giants hitting or pitching. Matt Cain has not allowed an earned run in 21.1 innings and on Saturday the Rangers will send Colby Lewis against Jonathan Sanchez.  The Giants have done well on the road this post season closing out both Atlanta and Philadelphia in their houses. This could be a tough climb for the Rangers unless they dramatically turn things around.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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So Much for a Pitcher’s Duel Giants down Rangers 11-7 as Cliff Lee is Suddenly Mortal

Freddy Sanchez flying down the baseline, Sanchez had three doubles in Game One of the World Series

Well the promised pitching duel ended as did Cliff Lee’s undefeated record in the playoffs and with it the predictions of almost everyone including me that this would be a close game.  Giants’ starter Tim Lincecum struggled in the early innings giving up a run in the first inning and got out of a bases loaded situation with 1 out when Juan Uribe made a difficult double play at Third Base.  He gave up a second run in the top of the 2nd inning as Cliff Lee helped himself with a double.  The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the 3rd inning when Edgar Renteria reached on an error by Michael Young at 3rd base and Cliff Lee uncharacteristically hit Andres Torres to bring up Freddy Sanchez who doubled to left to score Renteria. Buster Posey singled to score Sanchez to tie the game before Lee recovered his composure to strikeout Pat Burrell and Cody Ross to get out of the inning.

Both pitchers seemed to find their groove until the top of the 5th inning when Cliff Lee was removed rather violently from the pedestal that many sports writers and fans had placed him on. I knew that he was beatable in game 5 of the ALDS when he had to gut out that game against the Rays, he got the win there but had to work hard and only lasted 6 innings. In the bottom half of the 5th in game one of the World Series Lee was shredded by the Giants. After retiring Tim Lincecum he gave a double by Torres and was driven in by Sanchez who hit his third double of the game.  In game one Lee could not get his curve ball over the plate so Giants hitters patiently waited on his fastball and hammered him time and time again. Lee struck out Buster Posey for the second out and it was downhill from there. He then walked Pat Burrell and then gave up an RBI single to Cody Ross. Aubrey Huff followed with an RBI single and Lee was done. Ron Washington trotted out Darren O’Day to face Juan Uribe who hit a towering home run to left center field to clear the bases and make the score 8-2.  Seven runs were charged to Lee, his worst game in his playoff career.  Lincecum then got the first two batters of the 6th inning out striking out both Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz.  He had a 2-0 count on Ian Kinsler but walked him and then gave up a double to his former catcher Benji Molina which scored Kinsler from 1st base and a single to Mike Moreland which hit him in the hamstring for an infield hit. Pinch hitter David Murphy singled to score Molina before Sergio Casilla relieved Lincecum and struck out Elvis Andrus to end the inning with the score 8-4 in favor of the Giants.

The score remained 8-4 until the bottom of the 8th inning when the Giants put another crooked number on the board. Edgar Renteria singled to right and went to second on an error by Vladimir Guerrero. Pinch hitter Travis Ishikawa doubled to score Renteria and the hits kept coming.  Sanchez singled to right scoring Ishikawa and then took 2nd base on another error by Guerrero. Nate Schierholtz singled with two outs to drive in Sanchez to make the score 11-4.  The Rangers came back in the 9th inning scoring three runs off of Giants relievers but could not complete the comeback as Brian Wilson got Ian Kinsler to fly out to end the game.

Rangers’ pitchers Darren O’Day and Cliff Lee after being battered by the Giants for Lee it was his worst outing in the playoffs and his first loss in post-season play

Cliff Lee got the loss, his first of his playoff career as the Giants worked him over good driving him from the game after 4.2 innings hitting him hard, 7 runs (6 earned) on 8 hits forcing him to throw 104 pitches in the effort.  Tim Lincecum got the win going 5.2 innings giving up 4 runs on 8 hits.

Giants’ hitters acted like they were the Rangers blasting 6 doubles and a home run, three of the doubles by Freddy Sanchez, a World Series record.  The Giants also scored 6 of their runs with two outs, excellent production which gave them the victory.  In the end the Giants had 11 runs on 14 hits with two errors to defeat the Rangers who had 7 runs on 11 hits and committed 4 costly errors.  Tonight they meet again with Matt Cain going up against C. J. Wilson.

Until then,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Thoughts on Baseball and the World Series in a Time of National Turmoil

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.” – James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams

“Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.”  ~Saul Steinberg

“Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” ~Sharon Olds, This Sporting Life, 1987

I’m sitting down watching game one of the World Series and as usual the Giants until the bottom of the 5th inning were playing it close in their unique “tortureball” way that drives Giants fans as well as their opponents absolutely nuts.  Now at the end of the 5th they lead 8-2 after beating up the vaunted Cliff Lee for 7 runs in 4.2 innings pitched.  But that is not the point of this article; it is an article about hope in a time of turmoil.  I could write about the Lord being a hope in time of trouble and that is certainly true but unfortunately so many people are using God as a bludgeon against their political opponents I’m not even going to go there. I figure that the Deity is pretty sick of how he or she gets used by people for their own agendas and although I believe with all of my heart that God is a refuge and help in time of trouble.

As anyone that reads this site on a regular basis knows that I am a member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish and that baseball is much more than a game to me. Yes I love the details, statistics and nuances of this beautiful game played upon that lovely and lush diamond but the game is much more than that it is the heart and soul of America.  I know that Football is now the most popular sport in the country but it is different, it is a sport of combat, speed and violence a sport which while there are lessons that can be learned from it its’ appeal is to our violent and warlike side.

As John Leonard in the New York Times said back in 1975 “Baseball happens to be a game of cumulative tension but football, basketball and hockey are played with hand grenades and machine guns.Roger Kahn one of the nation’s most gifted sports writers said “Basketball, hockey and track meets are action heaped upon action, climax upon climax, until the onlooker’s responses become deadened.  Baseball is for the leisurely afternoons of summer and for the unchanging dreams.”

I think that this year’s World Series is symbolic of the Spirit of this country where we see two great teams that embody all that is good about this country.  There are the stories of excellence in Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum, the stories of second chances and redemption in men like Josh Hamilton and Texas Manger Ron Washington recovering from addictions to drugs and alcohol, the stories of players cast off by other teams like Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff and the stories of young men like Neftali Feliz, Buster Posey, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Elvis Andrus, stories of the eccentric epitomized by Giants closer Brian Wilson, natural born Americans and immigrants and so many other stories. These are stories about us, stories that hearken back to the times when Americans actually believed in a good future and were willing to work with each other despite political differences to make it happen.

The teams were not considered among baseball’s elite at the beginning of the season and neither was picked to win their divisions.  Their payrolls pale in comparison to the Yankees, Phillies and even the Cubs and the Rangers were just rescued from bankruptcy by baseball legend Nolan Ryan.  In a time of recession and uncertainty such teams relate to everyday Americans because they seem to be real, made up of flawed people, people that needed second chances and have triumphed.

Both the Rangers and Giants have special fan bases, the Rangers fans epitomize middle America and the Giants fans, well they are as diverse as the city that their Giants represent.

I agree with Bill “Spaceman Lee” who said “I would change policy, bring back natural grass and nickel beer. Baseball is the belly-button of our society. Straighten out baseball, and you straighten out the rest of the world.” Baseball is the bell weather of America and a place that we can all go to if we want.  Thankfully it seems that baseball after the gratuitous excess of the steroids era has recovered itself, maybe we will never get back to nickel beer but we can recover our soul as a nation.

In baseball you have opponents, not enemies and while you play them hard you never dehumanize them.  I think that in the poisonous political and social environment of 2010 where political or ideological opponents are no longer fellow Americans that we may differ with but enemies to be defeated destroyed and trampled under violently if necessary.  In baseball there is a decorum that is seldom breeched but in our society such decorum is sadly lacking and there is blame on all sides of the body politic.

Maybe we can learn something as a nation from this World Series which happens to share the national stage with one of the vilest election seasons that I have ever seen where Republicans and Democrats alike share the blame for the mess that we are in.  Maybe we can learn from the game that was with us during our Civil War, through the Great Depression and World Wars, through the social upheaval of the 1960s and the current wars and worldwide economic crisis that has so severely impacted the people of our country.

For me baseball has been there in good times and bad and in the worst and most desolate time in my life, the two years after I returned from Iraq damaged in mind, body and spirit that diamond was the one place that I could find peace.

Here’s to the Rangers and the Giants, the men and their stories and their fans.  I hope that we all learn something from them this year.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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“Experts” Wrong, Padre Steve Right: Giants Win the Pennant! Defeat Phillies in Six to Advance to World Series

Ryan Howard looks as he is rung up on a called third strike as Buster Posey celebrates (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Phillies and their fans looked on in stunned disbelief as a team of no-names, cast offs and some remarkable starting pitchers and relievers defeated the Phillies in six games to advance to the World Series.  Once again it was a nail-biting tension filled decision that would have driven the Dalia Lama to drink and drink heavily if he is a Giants fan.  It was a game that exemplified the Giants season, a comeback win in the late innings that came down to the Giants closer Brian Wilson against Phillies slugger Ryan Howard in a battle of power against power with two men on base and a full count and on that count he stuck the Phillies slugger out looking.

Juan Uribe hits the winning home run in game 6 (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The game started with the Phillies getting out to an early 2-0 lead in the 1st inning. Giants’ starter Jonathan Sanchez had trouble finding the plate and was hit early. Placido Polanco walked and took second on a wild pitch and scored on a Chase Utley double. Utley took third when Ryan Howard singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jayson Werth. It looked like the Phillies were on their way to forcing a game seven and judging by the noise of the partisan Philadelphia crowd it seemed that the Giants just might get smacked around hard.  Sanchez was able to finish the inning and send the Phillies down in order in the second inning.  Phillies starter Roy Oswalt seemed in control early but the Giants tied the game in the third inning when Jonathan Sanchez hit a leadoff single and took second on a single by Andres Torres.  Freddy Sanchez then grounded out to advance the runners. Aubrey Huff singled to score Sanchez and Torres scored when Ryan Howard botched a ground ball by Buster Posey.

Fear the Beard: Brian Wilson throws in the 8th inning (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The bottom of the 3rd inning was interesting as Sanchez hit Chase Utley with a pitch to the back. Utley seemed to innocently pick up the ball and lob it back to the mound. A stare down and words between Utley and Sanchez resulted which escalated to words and then benches cleared as both teams took the field to be broken up by the umpire crew and cooler heads on both teams. Bruce Bochy took the angry Sanchez out of the game and send in Jeremy Affeldt who sent the Phillies down in order.

Let the celebration begin: Brian Wilson and Buster Posey great each other after striking out Ryan Howard (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The game settled down as neither team could get their offense going although both teams had chances in the 4th and 5th innings.  Affeldt retired the Phillies in order in the 4th inning and was relieved by Madison Bumgarner.  Bumgarner gave up a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins and then retired Placido Polanco and Chase Utley on fly balls. Ryan Howard slammed a double to left center which sent Rollins to third.  Bochy had Bumgarner intentionally walk Jayson Werth to get to Shane Victorino who grounded harmlessly to Bumgarner to end the inning.  In the bottom of the 6th Bumgarner gave up a leadoff double to Raul Ibanez who went to 3rd base on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Carlos Ruiz but was left stranded when Bumgarner struck out Ben Francisco and got Rollins to fly out to end the inning.

Unlikely and improbable victors (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Ryan Madson relieved Oswalt in the 7th and was able to keep the Giants off the board in that inning while Giants’ reliever Javier Lopez came in for the bottom frame and got Polanco to Fly out, Utley to ground out and sent Ryan Howard down swinging. The game went to the top of the 8th inning still knotted at two runs apiece and Madson came back out to pitch the top of the 8th.  Madson has been a one inning reliever all year so this was a change for him. He retired Pat Burrell on a ground out and Cody Ross on a deep fly ball to left which brought Juan Uribe to the plate. Uribe had jammed his right hand sliding into first in game one of the NLCS and sat out game two and took a pitch off the same hand in game five.  Uribe took Madson yard on a fly ball which kept going and tailing away in right field until it cleared the wall by a couple of feet.  The Phillies and their fans went silent as Uribe rounded the bases and scored the go ahead run.

Phillies look on in the 9th as hope fades away (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Giants brought in starter Tim Lincecum into the game to pitch the bottom half of the 8th and he struck out Jayson Werth to begin the inning. He then gave up consecutive singles to Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez and was lifted for closer Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson. Wilson got Carlos Ruiz to line out to first baseman Aubrey Huff who threw to second to double up Victorino for the final out of the inning.

Buster Posey helps hold up the NL Championship trophy (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Phillies sent out closer Brad Lidge in the top of the 9th inning to keep the game close and he did that though things did get a bit sporty for the Phillies when the Giants had runners on second and third with 2 outs with Buster Posey at the plate and Wilson on deck. Charlie Manuel had Lidge intentionally walk Posey to load the bases and Wilson grounded out to first to end the inning causing the entire Phillies nation to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

In the 9th inning Giants fans were treated to another inning of Giants’ baseball sometimes known as “torture ball.”  Wilson got the leadoff batter, pinch hitter Ross Gload to ground out and then walked Jimmy Rollins.  Rollins advanced to second on a ground ball fielder’s choice by Polanco and Wilson then walked Chase Utley to put runners on first and second to bring up slugger Ryan Howard who worked to count to a full count before going down looking on a called strike three to end the game. Silence engulfed the stadium as the Phillies and their fans sat or stood in stunned disbelief, a few boos were heard but the bulk of the noise in the stadium came from a group of cast offs, has beens and never weres who were dismissed for much of the season by almost every baseball expert, even the series MVP Cody Ross was sent home by the Florida Marlins before being picked up by the Giants in August.

Picked by most to finish no better than 3rd in the NL West the Giants were 7 games back of the Padres at the beginning of August.  They won the division on the last day of the season, defeated the Braves in the NLDS and were picked to lose the NLCS to the Phillies in 5 or 6 games by the same experts who gave them no chance at the beginning of the season.  Even in the pre-game show the commentators were picking the Phillies to force a game seven which the Phillies of course would win, I think hoping against hope to justify themselves.  I on the other hand picked the Giants to win by looking at the numbers, match ups and statistics as well as the psychological factor that the Giants had nothing to lose because all the experts were saying that they had no chance. I really think that the Phillies believed the experts.

I said that it would come down to pitching and in this both teams were pretty evenly matched with the Giants having a slightly better team ERA of 3.06 to the Phillies staff 3.08.  However the Phillies continued not to hit the ball well just as they did in the NLDS against Cincinnati, where only 7 of the 13 runs that they scored were earned runs.   The Phillies mustered 20 runs of which 18 were earned s opposed to the Giants total of 19 runs of which 18 were earned.  The Phillies hit a dismal .218 for the series collecting only 41 hits and the scrappy Giants hit .244 with 49 hits.  The Giants had a better on base percentage and better slugging percentage than the Phillies in this series.  This did not surprise me because of the Phillies dismal hitting in the NLDS and the fact that the Phillies and Giants had very similar numbers in all departments of offense except for stolen bases in the regular season. The experts had sold a myth that the Phillies were a massively better offensive team that would not let the Giants pitching staff get away with anything but the numbers told a different story a Phillies team that had a regular season batting average of .260 and 166 home runs and 1451 hits with a .745 OPS (on base+ slugging percentage) going up a Giants team that hit .257 with 162 home runs, 1411 hits and a .729 OPS.  The Phillies did score more runs than the Giants during the regular season but one always has to weigh run-production with the other numbers. I think that many people simply saw that the Phillies had 75 more regular season runs than the Giants and assumed that they would pound the Giants pitching anytime a Giants’ pitcher made a mistake.  They didn’t seem to look at the fact that the teams split their season series 3-3 and that the Phillies won two of those games in the Giants’ worst month of the season which was August.

Padre Steve Celebrates the Giants’ win and his prediction

The Giants now go home to face the Rangers in Game One of the 2010 World Series. I am sure that once again that they will be dismissed.  I will analyze the series as thoroughly as I did the NLCS and make my pick later in the week putting my obvious bias for the Giants aside in order to make an accurate pick.  Until then my friends have a great Sunday and great week.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Lemony Snickets: Phillies Double-up Giants to Force Game Six in Philly

Roy Hallady gutted out his first win against the Giants of the season (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

It was a pitchers’ matchup on a soggy San Francisco night when two of the most feared pitchers in baseball faced each other. This time it was Roy Halladay who got the breaks as both pitchers ground their way through batter after batter in a constant battle. The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the first inning but fell behind in the third inning on what could be best described as a “Lemony Snickets Series of Unfortunate events that included a flare single, a foul bunt that was ruled fair and an inexplicable by Aubrey Huff error that scored runs. This was added to when Cody Ross got himself thrown out at 3rd base on a fly out to Jayson Werth with only one out which ended the inning and a Giants’ threat.

Cody Ross tagged out by Placido Polanco  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Roy Halladay was forced deep into the count on almost every batter and struggled through much of the six innings that he pitched but benefitted by the grossly unusual third inning which like so many innings this post season continues to lead me down the evil path of replay with an “eye in the sky umpire” who is part of the Umpire crew and could reverse obviously missed calls.  Not the silly NFL style replay but something that would take under a minute as the “eye in the sky” would have a direct link to the crew chief on the field.  There have been few games this post season without some grossly distorted bad call and Baseball will have to face the music as if it were not for great performances that caused people to forget almost every team in the post season has seen bad calls against them that in some cases influenced how the games played out, as was the case on Thursday on Halladay’s bunt. 

Tim Lincecum pitched well allowing two earned runs on 4 hits striking out 7 and walking only one in 7 innings work but was sabotaged by the bad call on the foul bunt as well as the costly error by Huff and the base running mistake by Cody Ross.

Jayson Werth added a needed insurance run in the top of the 9th to secure the win and the Phillies finally got a solid outing from their bullpen following Halladay’s departure at the end of the 6th inning.

The series now heads back to Philadelphia with the Giants up 3-2 with Jonathan Sanchez facing Roy Oswalt.  This could be interesting because Oswalt pitched his normal practice day on Wednesday and then went into Wednesday’s game in the 9th inning surrendering the winning run as the Giants were able to hit him with impunity.  With the exception of Werth’s home run Phillies hitters were still anemic with Ryan Howard going 0-4 and the team only mustering six hits. 

This series will be good; I predicted the Giants in 7 but think that they will bounce back and take it in six on Saturday night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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