I imagined a variety of nightmare scenarios--just mental preparation learned in 40 years as a Giants fan. I saw bloop hits, broken bat triples, productive infield pop-ups, and RBIs on foul balls. I saw six Padre relievers throwing 5-2/3 with 11 K and no walks. I saw a lot of terrible outcomes for the Giants in my mental peregrinations today. Like I said, I'm a Giants fan, I'm battle-scarred. But I must say I did not imagine Matt Cain having his worst start since this stinker in June. I did not imagine three home runs. I did not imagine a meltdown. That pitch to Adrian Gonzalez was terrible. A-Gon can hit great pitches, you can't give him fat ones. Cain knew it was the killer blow, you could see the frustration and disappointment on his face and in his gestures, this from a guy who barely shows emotion between starts in the dugout. It was not a good night for the birthday boy--the baseball gods taunt us once again. Storybook? You wanted storybook? Wellllll, you forgot that nightmares are in storybooks, too!
But storybooks have twists and turns, and unexpected outcomes, don't they? Improbabilities abound in tales of adversity overcome and triumph achieved. And the Giants, down 6-0 in the 5th, looked all but done. The win expectancy chart said the home team had a 2.3% chance after David Eckstein scored on a wild pitch. But then Freddy Sanchez got an RBI hit, Aaron Rowand hit an unlikely 2-run bomb, and Andres Torres pushed a run across with a 20-foot dribbler. Suddenly it was 6-4 and the Giants had life. Clayton Richard--who the Giants should have lit up in the first two innings--was out of the game and the Padre bullpen looked like it might finally crack. Alas, Luke Gregerson was summoned and he silenced the meat of the order in the 7th. In the 8th, a screamer by Mike Fontenot off Mike Adams bounced out of Gonzalez' mitt and we had the tying run come to the plate. All of Giants fandom willed Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval to hit game-tying homers, but the best we could do was a two-out hit by Cody Ross. Willie Mac-Man Andres Torres then had to hit against Heath Bell, and his hard grounder was turned into the final out. The Giants went to the 9th still down by two. Freddy Sanchez, though, opened the inning superbly, refusing to swing at Bell's breaking ball and working a walk. Aubrey Huff smoked a liner into the right field corner, raising everyone's hopes, but Will Venable was in the right spot and ran it down easily. FSanchez, catastrophically, was doubled up on the play (what was he thinking?). Buster's grounder ended it.
Matt Cain kept his hand firmly on the tiller in August when the rest of the staff was floundering, and kept it up in September, joining his mates on a historic run of excellence. Alas, the calendar flipped to October and no. 18's magic wore off. Give the Padres credit, they played like a team facing elimination, not like one rolling over for the mercy blow. I thought the Giants would come out hitting, and it sure looked like we'd get some early runs against Richard. That could have been enough to survive the bad start and keep us in the game, especially considering the late scoring chances. The Padres improve to 11-5 against the Giants and move to within one game.
We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We knew--the odds were--that it would be torture. Sure, I thought we'd come out smoking and control the game, but we didn't. What the Giants have to do now is they have to "man up" and play again tomorrow. No loss is so horrible that you can't move past it and get it done the next day. It was a disappointing game, mostly because Cain's performance was such a let down, but also because we had real chances ourselves to rack up 6 or 7 runs. The Giants have relied on the long ball more and more as the season has gone on, but it was the opponents who got the big blasts tonight. Cain finishes the season with 223-1/3 IP, 181 H, 84 R, 22 HR, 61 BB, 177 SO, 1.08 WHIP, 3.14 ERA, 13 W and 11 L. Tonight it was 6 runs, 9 hits and 1 walk in 4-plus, 21 batters, 88 pitches,with a Game Score of 23. Ain't no way around it, it was ugly.
The 2010 season has been miraculous. And it is still going on. If it takes 163 goddamn games, then that's what it takes. I don't believe it will. I believe the Giants got a bruising in the first round, but that's all. The Giants can take it a few licks and they can counter punch. I expect they'll come out tomorrow ready to take the fight to the Padres. Let's hope Barry Zito can keep us in it and the bats can deliver the big hits.
p.s. (a.m. update) I meant to say the Pads were "two" back not one, and that the Giants can "take a few licks" not "take it a few licks." Late night typos, sorry!