It’s Pennant Inside!
The scene in Auto Battery was electric. It’s the 1st inning, and every Giants fan in attendance is cheering every strike and every out. Each time the umpire calls a ball on a close pitch, the room groans in frustration, screaming all manner of obscenities at the TV. Jonathan Sanchez decides that Game 6 is a good time to completely melt down and is out by the third inning. Jeremy Affeldt comes in with the game tied, no one out, and runners all over the place. He proceeds to get six outs, each of which are greeted by fist-pumping, emphatic yelling, and high-fives all around.
By the time Madison Bumgarner comes in for a relief appearance after starting Game 4, every person in the room has been reduced to a nervous wreck. The Giants threaten to score in just about every inning. The bullpen continues to get out after out, escaping jam after jam unscathed. Ryan Madson, one of the two competent relievers the Phillies possess, comes in to pitch the 7th inning, and proceeds to strike out the first two hitters he sees. He comes out for a second inning and mows down the next two hitters.
Juan Uribe steps up to the plate, and every fan at Auto Battery has conceded that the Giants will have to wait until the next inning to score. Uribe swings and lofts what originally appeared to be a routine fly ball to right field. The ball carries, and carries, and carries, until the room erupts in noise. College football fans on the other side of the bar glance over bemusedly at the crazy-eyed rabble of bearded orange-and-black-clad maniacs.
Then the countdown begins. Tim Lincecum makes an appearance in relief and strikes out Jayson Werth. 5 outs to go. Shane Victorino lines a single into right field. Raul Ibanez follows suit. Bruce Bochy looks at his watch and realizes that it’s half past beard-o-clock, and brings in Brian Wilson for the five-out save attempt. Wilson grooves a fastball to Carlos Ruiz, who scorches a line drive right into the waiting glove of Aubrey Huff who doubles off Victorino at second. The room exhales. 3 outs to go.
The bottom of the 9th rolls around, and everyone is on the edge of their seats. Ross Gload leads off and grounds out softly to second. 2 outs to go. Then Jimmy Rollins walks and everyone begins to squirm. Placido Polanco grounds into a fielder’s choice and the squirming subsides. 1 out to go. Chase Utley walks on a 3-1 count, as people begin pulling out their hair. Giants fans begin clutching their chests as they feel their respective hearts begin to fail. The count runs full to the slugger Ryan Howard.
The Bearded Closer takes one long look into the steely-eyed rookie catcher calling for a slider. The Closer comes set. The slider drops into the base of the strike zone, as the umpire hesitates right before emphatically calling it strike three. Howard can do nothing but stand at the plate in shock, as complete strangers embrace each other in complete and utter joy.
The Giants, who defied all the so-called “experts,” have knocked off the two-time defending NL Champs. My phone rings moments after the final pitch, and it’s one of my friends in Santa Clara. It rings again, and it’s a friend in Berkeley. 3 seconds later, it’s my family calling. Text messages pour in during the phone calls, as fans across the country rejoice. The Giants have won the National League Pennant. They’re going to World Series.
I woke up this morning hardly believing that it had really happened. One of my close friends summed it up beautifully in saying that “today is real, because last night was an adrenaline-induced blur of altered and utterly strange realities.” Hard to describe it any better than that. World Series on Wednesday folks.