I was at a Fangraphs gathering last night, and I had a great time talking baseball and stats (and not necessarily in that order). But that doesn’t mean I can’t get as superstitious as a wasted KNBR caller when needed.
I wasn’t looking for a bad omen as we walked to our seats (yeah, my wife and I got tickets last night — frugality and Friday nights don’t agree with us), but I found a couple.
First, the A’s, despite a performance from Pat Neshek that makes the word “heroic” sound trite, lost 3-1 in Detroit. Forget 1989, or remember it for all I care — like it or not, it seems like the A’s and Giants have been following the same path (vanquish shopaholics from Southern California, roll into the postseason) for a couple months now.
Second, Alex Smith, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback whose decision wear a Giants cap during postgame press conferences allowed the NFL to exert its corporate dominance and the Giants to find something to give a crap about after clinching the NL West earlier than most thought possible, threw the first pitch.
I am not exaggerating — Smith’s first pitch was the worst I’ve ever seen.
Sometimes you’ll see CEOs from Cupertino throw an eephus. Sometimes it’s a young girl or boy who stands in front of the mound and throws a pitch that doesn’t quite make it to Sergio Romo, the regular “first pitch” catcher. Smith didn’t impress with his velocity, but still bounced his throw at least eight feet in front of the plate and forced Romo to lunge to his right to stop the ball from bouncing into the backstop. Somewhere, Michael Crabtree nodded glumly.
AT&T Park was ready to go off. When Johnny Cueto looked up to the sky with body language that screamed “why me?” it seemed like the Giants had it made. Matt Cain looked like Matt Cain, the Cincinnati Reds lost their No. 1 arm, Marco Scutaro was walking to the plate.
All three things meant close to nothing on Saturday night.
Dusty Baker used to manage the Giants, and unlike Bruce Bochy he isn’t known as a bullpen maestro. However, Baker managed Game 1 of the NLDS like it was a Wild Card play-in game. Mat Latos, the presumed Game 3 starter, came in after Sam LeCure performed admirably with zero notice. Over four innings, Latos destroyed the Giants. The familiar nemesis drove the Giants crazy by allowing them to put the ball in play. Yet — besides a Buster Posey HR that almost grazed the top of the left field wall on its way out — Latos kept the Giants from scoring.
The two biggest concerns going into this series were (1) the Reds’ power on offense (translation: they can hit home runs everywhere, including AT&T) and (2) their bullpen, which on paper is much more impressive than the Giants’ committee.
Ding … DING!!!
Not a good night for AT&T Park
The Giants weren’t stellar. The stadium crew also had a performance to forget.
- The scoreboards down the right and left field lines were frequently incorrect. In the first inning nothing was registering at all; in the 7th inning the scoreboard said it was the 5th inning and that the Giants were down 3-0 … they were actually behind 3-1.
- They trotted out that insipid fist-pump song in the third or fourth inning, almost like they wanted to get it out of the way. (Crazy idea: how about not using it at all?)
- I’ve never seen a more awkward kiss-cam (and that’s saying something). There was a 30% success rate on people actually kissing, when usually even siblings will throw in a courtesy smooch for the cameras. The bit didn’t even finish with two senior citizens kissing, which usually gets the crowd into a tizzy.
- After Santiago Casilla gave up two runs in the top of the 9th, forget a reason to believe. Giants fans were looking for a reason to stay interested. Enter James Van der Beek’s locker room speech from Varsity Blues. Nope, not a typo.
There goes James Van der Beek… Watch him VAN DER BEEK!!!
Mr. Eli Brightside
Before we proclaim that the season is over now that the Giants have to win three of the next four games, four things to consider:
- The Giants were supposedly done when Melky Cabrera was suspended.
- The Giants were supposedly done when the Dodgers made that trade.
- Brandon Belt, Joaquin Arias, George Kontos and Gregor Blanco (besides a certain called third strike) all looked quite good in their first postseason action.
- Take out the final homestand (where they went 8-2 against the NL West teams that stopped caring weeks ago), and the Giants were a better team on the road in 2012.