Last year, when the bullpen came in and a 5-4 lead became a 7-5 deficit, watching the last inning of a Giant game was about as entertaining as driving on the Bay Bridge during rush hour. And if you happened to be driving across the Bay Bridge in 2008 while listening to the Giants try to come back in ninth inning, God help you.
This year it’s different. I actually looked forward to the bottom of the ninth tonight. I didn’t roll my eyes when Emmanuel Burriss stepped up to the plate with two outs and nobody on. Once Burriss knocked a single into centerfield, it seemed destined to be, and an errant pickoff throw sending Burriss to second only helped boost my confidence. Edgar Renteria worked out a nice walk off Joe Beimel, and the Panda stepped up to the plate just a couple innings after bailing face-first into the infield dirt trying to stretch a double into a triple (hey, you try sprinting around the bases while chewing on a gigantic piece of bamboo).
Did the Giants hit a game-winning home run last year? I’m sure they did. They must have…right? All I know is watching Pablo Sandoval yank that pitch into the left-field bleachers was a pretty unfamiliar experience. The Giants proved they’ve been watching Sportscenter though, because they had the modern-day walk-off celebration dance at home plate down pat. Like the fans watching the game, Fat Ichiro’s homer didn’t seem to shock the team, either. Are they that much better than last year? Is Sandoval/Molina a poor-man’s version of Bonds/Kent? It all seems possible at this point.
The Giants are still a pathetic offense relative to the rest of the Majors, and they’re going to have rough days against good pitching. However, against a team like Washington who doesn’t even really have a closer? Lights out, especially as confidently as they’re playing right now. The days of Jose Castillo and Omar Vizquel hitting in the late innings of already-lost games are long gone.
With all that said, what better time than tomorrow to check out the old ballclub in person? I haven’t been to a Giants game all year, and tomorrow will be the first. That’s right, Barry Zito versus ex-Giants farmhand Shairon Martis. Great bleacher seats, sunshine and “sweep” chants. (Although I’d never bring a broom to a game — having to carry something that big at the same time you’re jinxing your team? No thanks.) From a national angle (pun intended, as they all pretty much are), there’s also a little Ryan Zimmerman 30-game hitting streak action to pay attention to.
Steve Holm better be ready, because after Sandoval’s fall between second and third he’ll be in no position to catch. Hell, he might even sit out, which would force Molina upon Zito. Drama! I hope Sandoval’s OK, and not just because he’s the best hitter on the team and I want to see him play. Zito just seems to do better without Molina behind the plate, and if the Giants need a comeback in the ninth inning, Molina on the bench will just make it easier to pull off what they couldn’t last year — another comeback victory.