Another Word for Pressure
I used to avoid watching Giants games when they were in the midst of a cold spell. Now I want more than ever to watch to see how they snap out of it. I see this most recent series as a pivotal one, not because we were shown to have a porous offense (that was already evident), but because it clearly indicates that this flaw is pronounced enough to cost us a series, and the season series as well.
When it comes right down it though, the Phils took the one series in our yard, and we took the one in their yard, with them taking the season series four games to three. The Giants won last year's season series, so that would mean over the two seasons, the two teams have each won seven games. That's pretty close. Most folks would agree, that a rematch in the post-season would be a series for the ages.
That being said, I would like to look at yesterday's game from the standpoint of unusual occurrences. What happened yesterday that has never occurred in a game? I have seen plenty of bats thrown by batters, though never more so than this season. I have never seen the bat strike the pitcher. When Chase Utley (who else?) let loose of his bat in the eighth inning of yesterday's game, it hopped, skipped and jumped its way to Timmy's knee, and he went down, in obvious pain.
Pitchers are the most vulnerable to having a batted ball strike them, because their follow-through leaves them so exposed. Imagine having to include the threat of a loose bat coming at you fast enough that you couldn't dodge it. If you saw the foul ball that Tim (bad day to be named Tim) Flannery dodged, you get an idea of what someone (even farther from the batter than the pitcher) who is fully prepared, can do. Even then, it seemed miraculous that Flannery avoided being hit.
Afterwards, Lincecum said it was no worse than a charly horse. I expect that is accurate, but what kind of mental/emotional turmoil will Timmy feel in the future? Or any of the other pitchers? I can only appreciate the fact that something of this nature, was totally unintentional. Chase Utly is a formidable enough opponent as it is, without adding bat-throwing to his arsenal.
The second thing that happened of note was that Jeff Keppinger had four singles, going four for four. Not that unusual, but he also had an R.B.I. So one of his singles knocked someone in? No, he had a sacrifice fly. In achieving the feat of getting four knocks, he never had anyone in scoring position for his hits, so he drove in his only run with a sac fly. I just think it's funny that four base hits were not enough to get it done.
Finally, and I wasn't aware of the significance of this until it was mentioned on sfgiants.com, Timmy tipped his cap as he came off the field two batters after being plunked. Doesn't he always tip his cap? Not since the final game of the 2009 season, has he done this. That would mean that not once last season during their magical push to the title, with all that he contributed, did Timmy think it appropriate to acknowledge the crowd.
That would say something for the importance of yesterday's game, and for the manner in which Timmy approached it. Plenty has been written about Tim Lincecum and the reverence San Francisco feels for him. We are so fortunate to have one of the most dominant pitchers of his era, pitching for us. Combined, the Giants and Phillies possess the two best pitching staffs in the National League. On paper the Phils possess the superior offense.
In the last sixteen games, prior to yesterday, the Giants had scored fewer than three runs. Elias stats had to go back more than one hundred years, to find such a barren offensive streak for the Giants. More has been said and written about the lack of punch this year. Should Bochy just select a lineup and let them play out the string, thereby helping with continuity? Or should he manage in his style, going with his hunches and the hot hand?
If the Giants are going to be able to defend their crown, then they are going to have to rely on those intangibles from last year: the timely base hit, the crucial catch with the bags jammed, and the ridiculous movement of a nasty slider, down and away, with Howard flailing in despair. Great pitching will generally beat great hitting, but any kind of pitching needs offensive support. Timmy has thrown more than one 1-0 loss, and that's scary. I couldn't imagine a more frustrating way to lose a playoff game.
After all, we scored twenty-one runs in the first two games of last year's World Series. The Giants may be trying to emulate Brian Wilson and his penchant for seeming to prefer to work under pressure. By scoring minimally, Giants tighten up the gradients, thereby increasing the tension. Winning the pennant on the last day of last season, allowing the Phillies to take this year's season series, keeping fans awake at night with their listless offense, these are the things that comprise Giants baseball. And it all adds up to one word, thank you Duane...torture.