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Friday, May 13, 2011

**UPDATED** Giants Sweep Homestand, also Kitten Plays Piano, also Sharks Advance to Conference Finals

**Update** A frustrating day for the San Francisco Giants. Having already scored one run in the first inning, Cody Ross struck out looking to end the inning with runners at second and third. Former Cub Mike Fontenot had a sure home-run blown back into play by large gusts of wind. And as we learned in Avatar, if mother nature is against you, it's going to be a long day.

Mad Bum cam unglued in the 3rd inning, walking the pitcher with two outs which led to two more runs. The Giants battled back to cut the deficit to 3-2 before Jeremy Affeldt wowed Wrigley with his best Dan Runzler. Affeldt gave up 4 runs, recorded only one out and actually lowered his ERA to 5.79 (no, not really).

Not to be outdone, Dan Runzler did his best Jeremy Affeldt impression and gave up another 5 hits and 3 runs in the 8th after the Giants scored to make it a somewhat more respectable score of 8-4.

Clearly the game had been surrendered at that point. Cubs fans sitting just above the Giants dugout reportedly heard the following conversation with a growling Bruce Bochy:

Unidentified Coach: "Wanna get someone loose?"
Bochy: "Hmm? I was thinking steak or some of that deep-dish pizza."
Coach: "No, the bullpen. Should we get Romo up?"
Bochy: "Huh? Ah, hell with it. Ford! Go get me a....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...."

A remarkable stat, however -- of the Giants 17 losses, only 4 have been by over 3 runs. Today was their first since April 20th. As much as today's game stunk, the Giants have kept their losses close. While it might not always work out, they've been in almost every game they've played.

Wait a minute. Ah yes, I knew I was forgetting something.

The San Jose Sharks came out on top of an epic Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings, and avoided becoming only the 4th team in NHL history of blow a 3-0 series lead in the playoffs. Nonetheless Randy Hahn felt the need to scream "THEY DID IT!" as the final horn sounded and Danny Boyle thanked the fans for being "the only ones who believed in us."

Actually, I'm pretty sure everyone believed in you. You had a 3-0 lead. It was only after you nearly choked up a bull moose and sent Todd McLellan to an unemployment line that people started to even question you making it to the next round. I get that it was an intense game, but Hahn's celebration seemed inappropriate. The Sharks have been here before (last year) and were up 3-0. A "THEY DID IT!" would have been more appropriate had to team down 3-0 came back to win. I was expecting something more along the lines of "THEY DIDN'T BLOW IT!"

Comparison No. 125 between the Shark and Giants Playoff Runs:
The general public started getting excited about the Giants a week before the regular season ended. The general public will start getting excited about the Sharks half-way through the Conference Finals.

Comparison No. 201:
When the Giants advanced to the NLCS, it led on the front page of the Chronicle. The Sharks got a small photo of the team celebrating on the top bar that at least 51% of San Franciscans assumed was a photo of demonstrators in Tripoli.

As bitter as I sound, I'm actually starting to come around to the Sharks. No, I'm not jumping on a band-wagon. I'm simply realizing I'd rather see them win than anyone left in the field.

Tampa, Flordia deserves youth sports only. And maybe bowling and bocce. Boston is, well, Boston. It'd be fun to see a Canadian team win finally and I do love Orcas. But when it comes down to it, you have to support the Bay. I went to my fair share of Sharks games when I was a kid. I remember the usher who gave me a puck when I was a wee lad. So while I won't be weeping with emotion, if the Penguins can't do it, why not the Sharks.

Part of my problem with the Sharks is that I don't think I've met more than about 3 real Sharks fans in my life. People who watches every game of the regular season. People who know every player. People who are seriously invested in the Sharks the way I am the Giants or Eric is the A's. I've literally met maybe 3, tops. I meet fans, sure. People who like the team, go to some games, can name most of the players. But fans who hang on every shift? I just don't think there are many of them out there.

But they are out there. And for those few that I have met, I hope they win it for you. I'm thinking of Edd, a San Jose native, and one of the biggest Sharks fans I know. Or Maya, our loyal reader who hounds us for more hockey content. I remember her despondency after losing to the Stars in 2008. It those folks who would get genuinely emotional seeing Jumbo Joe hoist that Cup. We all deserve our cake at some point, and why not now? So I'm rooting for that.

But who am I kidding, having the Giants and Sharks as Champs would finally make happen. And that's all anyone wants. It's way overdue.


In other news, the San Francisco Giants completed a three game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks to finish a perfect 6-0 on their recent home stand.

The Giants are suddenly 5 games over .500 and in 1st place in the NL West.

I'm not calling myself Nostradamus, but 10 days ago, I wrote this in a post called "Giants Hit Rock Bottom":

"I say this not to lament about how far the Giants have fallen, but rather to remind us how quickly things can change in baseball. Momentum is gained as quickly as it is lost. And 12 days from now, this current debacle could be as distant a memory as Opening Day is now. We're still in this thing."

What debacle? We were bad??

The significance of the Giants recent sweeps can't be overstated. Not only did we see improvement in nearly all phases of the team, but it gave both players and fans confidence that the slump they'd been in since being swept by Atlanta was over. A six game win streak is lengthy enough to officially end the slump they were in last week. Now, if they Giants go on the road and stink it up, at least it's a new slump beginning rather than a continuation of the last slump. Separation between slumps is key.

Clearly the offense is still not where it needs to be. The Giants are still leaving too many men in scoring position and particularly at 3rd base with less than two outs. They still seem to think the goal of baseball is to be retired on the fewest number of pitches. But for all their trials and tribulations at the plate, they are getting the clutch hits when they need them, much like they did toward the end of 2010.

The pitching was fantastic. Tim was his usual self, cut from marble. Sanchez showed refreshing focus, even after going down 3-0 early on. We took bets on how long he'd last and I'm happy to say I guessed the longest with 6.1. Matt Cain showed the determination of steaming locomotive, powering through 7.2 quick innings.

Brian Wilson deserves 5 gold stars for pitching in 5 consecutive games and earning 3 wins and 2 saves. In his save on Wednesday night he was clearly out of gas, so his rest on Thursday was a wise move by Bochy. By the looks of things, he may be needed just about every night.

The Good: Miguel Tejada
Say whaaa? Even Scrooge had a heart, and I will give props when props are due. Tejada played as big a role in the Giants Wednesday night victory as anyone. He went 3-4 with his first extra base hit since 2009 and his first RBI since 2002. It was a big night for Miggy. He's obviously not happy about the way he's playing. But if every now and again Miguel Tejada can come in and help us win a game and the rest of the time just avoid losing the game, I'll be satisfied. And who knows, maybe he'll go on a little run here.

The Better: Crowds
Say what you will about the Giants bandwagon and the Wave and Beach Balls. There's no doubt that these crowds have energized this team. Before this home stand they seemed to be doing just enough to lose. Now, they're doing just enough to win. I'm not saying that the crowds are responsible, but having 40,000 people chanting your name makes you try that much harder or want it that much more, sometimes that's all it takes.

The Hilarious: Ron Swanson
What more can you say?

Song of the Week:
Back on the Road

On Deck:
The Giants visit America's greatest ballpark for the first of two visits to Wrigley Field in 2011. The Cubs have lost 4 of their last 6 and are currently 4th in the NL Central at 16-20. The Giants will make the back turn in their rotation sending Bumgarner, Vogelsong and Lincecum against Ryan Dempster, Doug Davis and Carlos Zambrano, all of whom have an ERA over 4.00. Considering the cozy confines of Wrigley, the Giants will hopefully get the long ball working. If the Giants' starters can limit the long-ball and prevent free base-runners, the Giants have a good chance to continue their winning ways and roll into LA and Denver with a full head of steam.

1 comment:

  1. The Giants sure know how to keep the fanbase grounded.

    6 game homestand sweep in the most nailbiting fashion possible, and right when people start thinking they crossed the hump, they turn in a stinker.

    Good thing I am no longer surprised. :)