24 May 2011

Steal this game.

Manny awaits his big moment | Photo by Ash Kalra
So there we were. The 'pen had just blown a 2-0 lead for Jonathan "Dirty" Sanchez, who despite all his demons managed to find the better angels of his nature in yet an other "quality start". Before Jeremy Affeldt could utter "Jesus wept," the misfits were down 4-2, and Gio Gonzalez had re-discovered his best stuff. When you consider the Giants have the second-worst run production in MLB, that's gotta be a "Game Over" scenario, right?

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to what would have been certain defeat even two years ago. Bob Geren lifted Gio during a futile 7th inning rally and turned the game over to the vaunted A's bullpen (#sarcasm), Miguel Tejada got his second (second!) hit of the afternoon, and Nasty Nate Schierholtz from San Ramon Valley got just enough of a mistake on the inner half to launch it into the Arcade just inside the fair pole. Tie game. Two innings later, after a refreshingly dominant performance from Sergio "Heart-Crushing Two-Strike Gopher Ball Victim" Romo, @DarRunFord and his BFF Manny Burriss formed like Black Voltron to send the home team and its spoiled fan base home in hysterics... once again.

The numbers have been repeated ad nauseum, but here they are again in case you missed it: 18 home games, 13 wins, 11 by one run or less, 7 walk offs. Your #SFGiants lead the league with a 13-3  overall record in one-run contests. They have scored the fewest runs of nearly any team — only the Twins, owners of MLB's worst record, have scored less — rank 21st in team BA, 24th in OBP, and 23rd in slugging, yet they sit atop the NL West by 3 and a half games, 8 games over .500. And in the ultimate arbiter of success, the Giants are 14-5 in "Middle 42" games, including Sunday's epic walk off.*

You could point to any number of tangible reasons for this ridiculous run of heart-pounding success. Obviously, tremendous starting pitching and stout relief (for the most part) have played the biggest role. The team ERA of 3.17 is third-best in the NL and fourth overall, and the starters are even better at 3.07. Among major league teams, they trail only the Braves with a collective .224 BAA and .624 opponents' OPS. (FYI: The Phillies are third at .647.) The team defense has been porous at times but brilliant when it counts — see Schierholtz, Nate and Sanchez, Freddy. This is not to mention that the rest of the NL West, with the exception of the Diamondbacks, has stunk up the joint in the month of May.

But when a team with an offense as inept as the Giants' goes behind late in a game and nobody flinches, when the shores of McCovey Cove brim with the confidence of a World Series ring, when every soul in the stands, all 25 guys in the dugout, and even the schleps in the press box know — don't think, know — that a comeback is imminent, the clubhouse continuity Brian Sabean and his staff worked so hard to preserve comes into stark focus. As mediocre a slogan as ever was devised, "There's Magic Inside" has become the most apt description of the past year-plus at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. And the magic continues...

See you at the Cove.

* Based on the popular notion that every team wins 60 games and every team loses 60 games. The "Middle 42" determine your season.

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