Friday, October 26, 2012

Game 7

I mentioned something, somewhere back there, about the San Francisco Giants' improbable run through the National League Divison Series (NLDS) and their arrival at the National League Championship Series (NLCS) where they promptly went down 3-1. I lamented that Barry Zito would be pitching Game 5 against the Cardinals. It was an elimination game and Barry? Well, he hasn't had a particularly celebrated history with the Giants.
Still, Zito put on a stellar show and the Giants won Game 5 in St. Louis, 5-0. Because they were not eliminated that night, it meant the series returned to San Francisco. Now, for the uninitiated, those who do not have season tickets for the Giants, but want tickets to a playoff game, have to enter a lottery. If your email address is chosen in said lottery, you have the privilege of paying a lot of money to purchase tickets to the series. I think I put my email address in the lottery a day too late to be chosen for the NLDS. And I wasn't chosen for the NLCS at first either, but then they had what they called a "second chance lottery" and I was chosen. The only options were for "Home Game #3" or "Home Game #4".
Had the Nationals defeated the Cardinals in their NLDS, the Nationals would have gone on to play the Giants. And the Nationals would have had home field advantage. There would not be a "Home Game #4". I found myself some nice tickets in the upper deck for "Home Game #3"...and then I realized, as I sat at my desk at work, that I'd left my wallet in the car. I ran down to get it, but by the time I got back? My browser session had timed out and I could no longer get tickets for "Home Game #3". So...I settled for purchasing two tickets for "Home Game #4".
Now, what that meant is is that my tickets would automatically be no good (and refunded) if the Nationals beat the Cardinals. It also meant that should the Cardinals win, the Giants would have home field advantage, but the series would have to go to seven games if I was to get to go. The chances that all the stars would align for that to happen seemed pretty remote. No worries, I thought. At least I'll get my money back.

But what do you know? Those Giants won Game 6, 6-1, behind Ryan Vogelsong on October 21st. And that meant I had tickets to the tie-breaking game of the series...the game to decide who would go on to the 2012 World Series. Holy cow.

And so it came to pass that I picked up one very happy little boy half an hour early from school on Monday...and we drove to the train station, where we caught the train to AT&T Park.
Now, as parenting moves go, this is an arguable one. The kid had stayed out super late the previous night...when his dad took him to Game 6. It was another school night. I took him out of school early. And then there was the weather forecast. Rain.

When the series was in St. Louis, it had rained. There was a 3.5 hour rain delay in the middle of Game 4 (I think). I was envisioning a real nightmare...a stadium packed with people trying to get out of the rain, sitting there for hours with my bored 10-year-old. What was I thinking?

Fortunately, my imagination was wrong. It was a beautiful day at the ballpark. We arrived just after the rain stopped. There were boats in McCovey Cove, puffy clouds, sunshine, a floating Delorean. (A what?)
Matt Cain was pitching against the Cardinals' ace pitcher, Kyle Lohse.
Cain pitched a perfect game earlier this year and is currently considered the Giants' ace. But he wasn't at his best. The first few innings were a little tense. But the Giants scored against Lohse and they scored again and again. By the end of the third inning, it already felt like the ninth. The score was 7-0, Giants.
The Cardinals had come back from a 6-0 deficit to win the NLDS against the Nationals. It was an awesome feat. So, a seven run lead didn't necessarily seem like a lock either. But it made the crowd...the very, very noisy crowd...a lot less tense. It was just one big party out there.
And with his team winning, Smunch was having a blast.
Sometime around the seventh inning, it started to drizzle. There was enough wet to make both Smunch and me put on our rain ponchos, but a few minutes later, we felt kind of ridiculous and took them off. However, by the end of the eighth, the rain started for real.
New playoff rules say that they can't call a game because of rain. They can delay it, but with just an inning left to play and the score now at 8-0, that seemed silly, so they let the game go on.
And it rained, and rained and rained. Brandon Belt hit a home run that almost made it to the Cove. 9-0. The infield began to flood. It was the top of the ninth. Javier Lopez, the Giant's sidewinding lefty was pitching. He walked Carlos Beltran. From everything I could tell, he walked him because he couldn't keep from sliding down the muddy mound. With two runners on and two out, Bruce Bochy strode into the rain and took the ball from Lopez as the grounds crew ran out to the infield and tried to repair the mound and spread sand on the basepaths. As soon as the crew retreated, you could no longer see the work they'd done. Rain came down in sheets.
We were sitting in the upper deck, so our ponchos provided the only protection from the rain...and our backpacks didn't have ponchos. I hear that if you were under the overhang in the lower decks, you stayed dry, but you couldn't see a thing with the rain cascading off the decks above.

To the giant roar of the soggy crowd, Sergio Romo jogged from the bullpen to the mound and induced a pop fly from Matt Holliday, which was caught by the game's hero, Marco Scutaro. And poetic justice was served. Just days earlier Matt Holiday mowed Scutaro down as he "slid" into second base and Scutaro had to leave the game with an injury to his hip. Now the mostly-healed Scutaro squinted through the heavy rain to make the last out and send his team to the World Series.

As baseball experiences go. This was EPIC. Memorable in every way.

Like most of the crowd, Smunch and I did not leave. We stood in the pouring rain as the team celebrated on the field below. The National League trophy was presented and Marco Scutaro was named MVP of the NLCS.

Couldn't have happened for a nicer guy.
Then we hightailed it toward the train, where a crowd of wet people awaited a happy trip home. We won't be in attendance at the World Series this year, but you can bet we'll be there every step of the way.

Barry Zito is slated to start Game 1...

Epilogue: Less than one week after Smunch and I attended Game 7 of the NLCS, the San Francisco Giants won the 2012 World Series by sweeping the Detroit Tigers. Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 and Barry Zito got the win. Game 4 was the most exciting by far, going 10 innings. And guess who drove in the winning run...Marco Scutaro.

1 comment:

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

LOOOOOOVE watching this year's world series!!! GOOOOOO GIANTS!!!