Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Little Redemption

Despite how it may seem lately, my blog isn't all about hiking, camping, critters and beautiful sunsets. Sometimes, it's about baseball.

We haven't made it out to see our beloved San Francisco Giants much this summer. Back in June, my dad joined us for a trip to Oakland to see an interleague game between the Giants and A's. Matt Cain was pitching. It was fun, even though the Coliseum is a pretty dreary place in general. It was a good game. Cain was just coming off his perfect game, pitched against the Astros on June 13th...a game I missed entirely because I was kayaking in Wyoming.
The Giants led for the entire game, but only by one run and ended up losing on the very last pitch when the rookie catcher the A's had just called up hit one out of the park for a two-run walk-off homer. Hard to feel bad about that.

Once we were back from San Diego and all our outdoor adventures, Smunch and I found a single weekday when we could both make it to an afternoon game. As luck would have it, Mam was invited for a playdate that day. Couldn't have worked out better! Well, wait..maybe it could have.

Aunt Karen, Spencer! and Lucas! were visiting. We'd had another grand time with them, but they were leaving that morning and it's our tradition to go out for breakfast before they hit the road. No one wanted to miss that. So, Smunch and I took the later train up to San Francisco and in the end, we missed the top of the first inning. Barry Zito was pitching...always a dubious luck of the draw if you're looking to see the Giants win.
Once upon a time, Zito was a fantastic pitcher for the Oakland A's. He even won a Cy Young award before he was traded to San Francisco. Since then, his monstrous, multi-year contract has become a joke among fans, even though I hear he still has the occasional brilliant curveball of yore.We made our train (something Smunch is always overly concerned about) and had a nice ride to the city.
As Smunch and I stood outside the park, waiting in line to get in, the local radio broadcast boomed over Willie Mays Plaza. "And on to the bottom of the first. Mets lead it, four to nothing." Ugh.I'd spent real money on the tickets and they were great, but I still had to wonder why we were waiting in line to get into a game our team was already certain to lose. Turns out the season ticket holders who sold us their tickets were sitting right next to us in our great seats. They were very nice. They apologized for taking our money.

We left in the 8th inning, but the Giants fate was already sealed. They were losing 9-1 and that ended up being the final score. I guess it might've been one thing if we'd gotten to see the Mets' star knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey, pitching. I've never seen a knuckleballer. And although I'm not particularly sure I could tell a knuckleball from a curveball from a slider, at least I could've said I saw him.
Smunch wouldn't have gone for that. He doesn't like to go to games where he feels like the team is going to lose. I would've had to have the company of a fellow knuckleball appreciator. (Turns out that although the Giants had a four game series against the Mets, R.A. Dickey never actually pitched at AT&T this year.)

So, you can imagine how thrilled Smunch was to find out that we had tickets to the game today...in which Barry Zito was the starting pitcher...again. He was NOT. And he's got a negative streak about 100 miles wide for these things. So he had to be reminded that the money was spent, that he gets to spend the day at the ballpark and that we're going to have fun no matter what.

This time, I had to find a babysitter for Mam. It's rarely worth the hassle of taking her to a baseball game. Fortunately, her favorite babysitters (twins who always come together) were available. Again we took the train, although this time we were careful to get there before the Giants started losing to the Colorado Rockies.

In fact, the top of the first went remarkably well and the Giants scored...three times...in the bottom of the inning. But Zito was still pitching. By the fourth inning, the score was tied, the Giants scored one more to go ahead in the fifth and in the sixth they finally turned the game over to reliever George Kontos, who promptly coughed up the lead. It was 6-5.

Round about the bottom of the 7th, I started wondering if we should leave early to catch the express train home. But it turns out that the Giants still have a knack for torture, even if it hasn't reached the epic levels of 2010. In the bottom of the 8th, they loaded the bases for their All-Star catcher, Buster Posey.
Posey hadn't gotten much to hit all day and had hit a single and walked three times. He fouled off pitch after pitch, until, with a full count, he hit a long fly ball. It didn't make it out of the park, but it was enough for the guy on third base to score. And up came Hunter Pence.Hunter Pence has been with the Giants for less than two weeks. He was their big acquisition at the trade deadline and the Giants traded beloved outfielder Nate Scheirholtz to the Phillies to get this guy. He'd been in a slump since coming to San Francisco. He hadn't hit a single home run as a Giant. "Come on, Pence," I said. "Now's the time to hit it out of here. It's been long enough."

I know he didn't hear me. The sell-out crowd was roaring. There's nothing quite like the sound 40,000 fans make when the new guy hits a 3-run homer to go ahead in the bottom of the 8th. I know. I heard it.
The top of the 9th came and went without any drama. Sidewinding Javier Lopez struck out one. Sergio Romo got the other two.

It wasn't one of Mr. Zito's finer outings, but it was possibly one of the best and most fun games I've ever seen and I think Smunch learned a little something about his own negativity. Even when there's evidence to suggest the outcome won't be great, there's always hope that things will surpass your wildest expectations.

Welcome to San Francisco, Hunter Pence.

Postscript: Turns out, this was the first of 10 11 games in a row that the SF Giants would win behind Barry Zito on their way to the 2012 National League West Championship. Nice job, Mr. Zito. Perhaps that curveball's still there and there's some redemption for you after all.

1 comment:

Barrett, Melinda, & Angel Trinity Adams said...

There's nothin like a good ol' Giants game at AT&T Park :) We took Zander to his first Giants game a few weeks ago...he did great, and it was quite an interesting experience breastfeeding him at the game on the bleachers ;)