Madison Bumgarner throwing 94 mph fastballs on the corners, with Gerald Posey setting the target. That’s the lasting impression of this game that will be talked about for decades to come … but not tonight. Because as much as this game was a revelation about the future, that image is something that’s best left to the record books/files of the future. Tonight, this game was about the Giants winning a game they wanted, but one that the Phillies needed. It was about tonight, even though tonight was so much about what lies ahead.
The future and present collided in the form of Posey’s night at the plate, which was a reassertion of present dominance. Along with his otherworldly short-hop stab and tag of Carlos Ruiz at the plate (more on the throw in a bit), Posey flashed the brilliance that even Giants-fan-pessimism can’t hold down. He’s one of the 10 best players in baseball, right now. Did you see how he chuckled to himself after he hit that fly ball that landed 6-feet foul in the right field corner off Roy Oswalt, before knocking a line drive fair to the same area? Posey knew he had Oswalt owned. OWNED.
Back to the future. Bumgarner was the reason why the Giants won tonight. Because pretend he doesn’t exist. Or, like most 21-year-olds, his elbow got tight in September or he got shelved due to or a lack of command late in the season. Instead, the Giants have a strike-throwing left-hander who doesn’t worry about giving up home runs who can give Bruce Bochy 4-6 quality innings. No Zito. No Lincecum on three days rest. A pitcher who forces Manuel to stick Blanton in there, even though with the Giants’ record against Halladay is the best of any Major League team (against any other NL team down 2-1, Halladay pitches Game 4, and you can’t convince me otherwise).
Bumgarner gave up some hits, but so what? Name any other 21-year-olds who throw 94-mph whose problem is that they throw TOO MANY STRIKES. And at the beginning of this season, the Giants’ brightest hopes were that they would get an MVP-season from Pablo Sandoval and Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain would combine for 40 wins. Not that Posey would be their best player and Bumgarner make everyone forget Tropical Depression Zito.
The Phillies are hardly dead. No team with Ryan Howard (the Robinson Cano of this year’s Phillies) can be counted out in 2010. But wasn’t it strangely wonderful to see the Giants look so much younger than the Phillies tonight? Bumgarner vs. Blanton, who’ll pitch for another 4 teams before 2014 rolls around. Posey was the best player on the field. Sandoval’s double off that high fastball was pure delirium.
But it wasn’t just about the youngsters.
— Aaron Rowand’s throw was quite something, the only good important throw he’s ever made in a Giants uniform, then he was immediately replaced in center field with Andres Torres. Bochy Ball.
— One of my favorite moments of this game was when Pat Burrell faced Ryan Madson, and they showed the split screen, and Burrell looked so cocky up there. He had that look of, “I know I can hit you. And I know you don’t want to go back to Philly after giving up a big hit to ME, so I’ll wait for a strike,” before walking.
— Juan Uribe. JUAN URIBE!!! That play where he went deep into the 5.5 hole and threw out Ross Gload, fresh off the bench, with a hurt wrist and 250+ lb body to get warm, was truly unbelievable. The call may have looked unbelievable to Phillies fans, too, but that’s what happens when the runner’s last name is Gload. And his sacrifice fly was straight butter (why Oswalt decided to throw him a slider there, we’ll never know … Uribe hasn’t been able to hit 95-mph fastballs for quite a while, and Oswalt’s stuff wasn’t bad tonight).
— You can’t fault Casilla and Romo for giving up a couple hits. The Phillies absolutely had to win this game, and they made several pitches that pushed this game along.
— Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson, however, are absolute gold. Funny how Wilson’s such a beast, all the reporters get flustered when he isn’t warming up for a potential 6-out save.
— Speaking of old, Chase Utley kind of looks like Jesse James without the tattoos these days.
— The Giants need to learn how to collect HBP’s without getting hit on their actual body. The Phillies wouldn’t have made it this close without all those times Giants’ fastballs hit their jerseys. Then Cody Ross gets plunked (proving the Phillies actually DO listen to their fans) and immediately gets a huge goose egg on his wrist. Oh whatever. Ross will just put some eyeblack on the bruise and he’ll be fine tomorrow.
— What’s the best thing about this team? Well, there’s the best pitching staff the franchise has ever had, the Rookie of the Year, trendy facial hair and underwear, “jazz hands,” Cody Ross becoming Philadelphia’s most hated villain since Michael Irvin, and many other things, but perhaps the best thing is the lack of one primadonna on this team.
Aubrey Huff was this team’s leader. Supposedly barely good enough at defense to be a DH, Huff has made corner outfield positions and first base look easy. And in return for dependability, power, and overall run-producing, he was given the third spot in the lineup. Then yesterday, it wasn’t just taken away, he became the No. 6 hitter with Posey getting his old spot. And Huff didn’t say a word. He knocked an RBI-single to right field in his second at-bat off Cole Hamels, he got moved back to No. 3 today, and promptly went 3-for-5 including the single that started the game-winning rally.
— The Giants are winning. Sure. But these crowds are still outstanding. They’re getting up on 2-strike counts. They’re booing the Phillies at the right times (without resorting to prison-style cat-calls). And when the Giants threatened to break the game open, there was a predatory energy that made me believe through my TV screen that the game was about to be over. Then Sandoval hit that grounder to second and there were two stressful innings to get through, but the Giants won anyway.
Right now, the Giants are THAT team that feels like they’re going to win all the time. That feeling was in danger of vanishing, and then Travis Ishikawa worked that walk against Craig Kimbrell. Since then, this team has eaten close games like Cocoa Pebbles. And it’s hard to tell whether this team is feeding of the fans’ positive energy or vice versa. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.