The similarities were abundant, so let’s get those out of the way. The 2012 San Francisco Giants clinched the National League West Division at AT&T Park against the San Diego Padres, a team managed by Bud Black with Chris Denorfia hitting leadoff and Chase Headley playing third base — just like back in 2010.
The differences between the two clinching games are more plentiful:
- The 2010 San Francisco Giants clinched the NL West title against the San Diego Padres on a cloudy afternoon in October. The 2012 San Francisco Giants clinched against the San Diego on a clear evening in September.
- The 2010 Giants clinched with zero games remaining. The 2012 Giants clinched with 10 left to play.
- The 2010 Giants clinched against Mat Latos. The 2012 Giants clinched in part because Mat Latos pitched 8 shutout innings against the Dodgers.
- The 2010 Giants clinched in part due to Jonathan Sanchez pitching five solid innings and hitting a triple. The 2012 Giants were connected to Jonathan Sanchez in ways they’d rather not talk about.
What’s the point? While it seems like the 2011 season was a blip that, if we just close our eyes and try hard enough, we can pretend didn’t happen, that offensively-challenged bunch is the reason the Giants sprinted away with the NL West. Forget torture, this team systematically bludgeoned teams by playing clean games and hitting so well on the road that over time they couldn’t help but take that offense home with them this past week.
Textbook 2012 Giants
Madison Bumgarner gave up a hit to Denorfia to start tonight’s game, Denorfia should’ve been picked off, but Bumgarner took what seemed like two full seconds to throw to Belt, who was charged with a throwing error when he tried to retire Denorfia at second base (a tough call on Belt, as it looked like Brandon Crawford misjudged the throw). After Chase Headley hit a slow grounder to Crawford, the Padres had a 1-0 lead.
Unlike the reaction to any such deficit a year ago, nobody seemed to worry. The Padres didn’t “take the fans out of the game” or any other such thing; instead the fans screamed in appreciation when Angel Pagan stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the inning, and his walk and Marco Scutaro’s single that followed just boosted the anticipation — not just for a big first inning but for a bounty of hits and runs the 2011 team could never possibly match. Same with the 2010 squad, not without homers.
Maybe I’m going a little overboard…
The Giants can still pitch; Bumgarner was solid until giving up a humbling 2-run blast to Yonder Alonso, and the relievers followed up with four straight strikeouts (one for Mota to end the sixth, while a resurgent Jeremy Affeldt struck out the side in the seventh). The Giants have also morphed from one of the sloppiest defensive teams in baseball over the season’s first 50 games to one of the steadiest Giants teams in recent memory in that category.
Lately the Giants have been winning … a lot. And after most of these recent wins, Bruce Bochy has mentioned how his team “played a clean game.” But let’s take a moment to remember Sandoval’s grab as he fell over the railing that protects the luxury field level seats next to the Giants’ dugout. Should we call it “The Bubble Catch”? Sure.
The skill of Scutaro
It seems like the last two months have been all about Buster Posey. The “M-V-P” chants are getting louder, his stats keep getting gaudier, and his trophy case keeps getting fuller. But save for another sacrifice fly (the Giants lead the Majors in that category with 57, four ahead of the Minnesota Twins … so take that stat and try to figure out what it means, because I’m fresh out of ideas), Posey’s night was quiet.
Scutaro, on the other hand, had a game that perfectly represented his brief yet dominant Giants tenure. 3-for-5, so that extends the hitting streak to 12 games. Pretty good. But can anyone hit singles the way Scutaro did tonight? In the first, he hit one to left. In the fourth, single up the middle. In the sixth, single to right. All he needed was an infield single to go for the single cycle.
The development of Crawford and Belt this year is so obvious yet nuanced at the same time, it’ll deserve at least a chapter in Baggarly’s next book. Crawford had a fine night, with a single, a run scored and his customary wizard-like defense. But Belt hit two balls to the opposite field that showed that the marriage of his hit-to-all-fields approach and the Giants’ desire for him to swing for the bleachers (forget the fences) has reached the point of bliss for all parties. In 2010, Posey’s home run to left let the fans know they had the Division Title in the bag. In 2012, Belt’s homer to left did the same.
Alright, I’m going to head down to the clubhouse and attempt to avoid getting soaked with too much cheap beer and champagne. but I probably won’t try that hard. Videos and general chaos forthcoming … along with a lot of looking forward to seeing what this team will do in the playoffs.