Worst. Game. Ever.
It all started out so well. Pat Burrell staked the Giants to an early lead with a 3-run homer in the 1st off of a tough pitcher. Matt Cain was mowing through Braves hitters, and singled in an insurance run. The Giants had a 4-1 advantage going into the 8th inning, with a bullpen that had been rock solid throughout all of September.
And then the seams came undone. Line drives were hit, crucial errors were made, and not even our bearded psychopath of a closer could stop the 8th inning onslaught of ineptitude. But that wasn’t all. Oh no. Things start to seem as though they’re looking up. Edgar Renteria sneaks on base with a perfectly placed bunt off of uber-closer Billy Wagner in the bottom of the 10th. One batter later, Wagner hurts himself and is forced out of the game. Kyle Farnsworth of all people hits the first batter he sees, walks the second, and suddenly Buster Posey is up with the bases loaded.
If someone asked you to pick one hitter on the Giants to be up with the game on the line in extra innings, odds are you’d probably pick Posey. So when he grounded into an inning-ending double play, the game felt pretty damned finished. Enter Ramon Ramirez for his second inning of relief work to face Rick Ankiel, and the recipe for disaster was complete. Ramirez throws a fastball down the middle that Ankiel’s grandmother could have parked in the Cove, and suddenly a pall is cast over the optimism that was the first 7 innings of this game.
With the series now tied 1-1 going into Atlanta against the best home team in baseball, it’s hard not to feel like the sky is falling. There are few factors to be taken into account now that may or may not help dissolve that black thundercloud that’s been hovering above your head all morning.
- The Braves are really good at home. No other team in baseball has a better home record (56-25).
- Momentum. If you believe in momentum, then the Braves have it in spades. The Royals’ castoffs the Braves possess probably sacrificed a goat to actually become competent ballplayers in the postseason, and now here we are.
- The 2003 NLDS. This series is starting to feel eerily familiar. In 2003 we had home field advantage against a team we were picked by the experts to beat. After a lights-out pitching performance in game one, the Giants blew a 4-1 lead in game 2, and followed that by losing two straight in Florida. Freaky stuff right?
- The Braves are really good at home; this bares repeating.
- Momentum? Really? If there was really such a thing as momentum the Giants wouldn’t have dropped two straight to the Padres with the season on the line. Or blown a three run lead in the 8th inning only to be undone by Rick Ankiel, he of the .389 slugging percentage. Momentum is a myth propagated by guys in the announcers’ booth who think that Bengie Molina is a “clutch” hitter. No, I refuse to believe in you, momentum. You are a figment of my imagination created only to me make me miserable.
- Home field advantage in game 5 (if it gets that far). The Giants only need to win one of two games in Atlanta to send the series back to San Francisco for a game 5. Let’s go to hypothetical world for a brief while. Let’s say Jonathan Sanchez takes some of that Padres mojo from game 162 and pitches the Giants to victory in game 3. With a 2-1 series lead Madison Bumgarner gets the ball for game 3 and loses. We go back to San Francisco now, with Tim Lincecum taking the hill. Not terrible odds if you ask me.
- Tim Hudson. He may statistically be the staff ace, but in September, he sucked. Really. He sucked to the tune of a 5.32 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP, while opponents hit .263/.335/.491 off of him. And while that’s not exactly getting teed-off on, it exceeded his season statistics by a long shot. On top of all this, he made seven starts, which tells us there’s a good possibility he was overworked, and could be going the hill tomorrow with a tired arm, even with the extra rest.
- 2003 has absolutely nothing to do with 2010. To believe that it does is to believe in voodoo, clutch hitting, and Santa Claus. The past performance of a completely different Giants team in 2003 has no effect on the outcome of a postseason series seven years later. And while in some ways you may have acknowledged this a long time ago, there’s always that little voice in the back of your head that sounds like Gollum from Lord of the Rings that tells you otherwise. Silence that voice and let the logic sweep over you.
After experiencing what can only be described as a rage blackout after last night’s game, there’s some solace to be taken in “The Good.” Two games in, this series is far from over. I refuse to believe that I sat through 162 games (now 164 if you want to split hairs) of complete and utter torture just to see my team go down to the Braves. No sir, I will not. If you thought that this series would be cake-walk going in, then my friend, you were in a coma during the regular season, only to wake up in time for the playoffs.