There's something very blissful about walking into a Major League Ballpark on a sunny, but not too hot, Sunday afternoon, with your Wife, 2 Teenage Sons, & almost 86-year old Mother-in-Law from Guerrero, Coahuila & Mexico City, who was attending, not just her first ML game, but her first competitive baseball game of any kind. And, it was not just any Sunday, but a Fathers' Day matchup featuring 2 of the best young Pitchers in the game. Susana said that my smile was very big, as we passed through the turnstiles & up the stairs to the Concourse. That moment was worth the price of admission & the 3 hours of travel in each direction.
We settled into our seats in Sec. 147 down the LF line. There were tons of Giants fans all around the ballpark, including in our section. Santiago, Leon, & I got one of those FanPhoto things in CF. Leon & I went down to the rail near where the position players were stretching & warming up, to try to get autographs, along with many other Giants' fans. When Buster came out to warm up, I felt relieved. Last July, we missed seeing him play due to the injury &, when he had played in Seattle on both Friday & Saturday nights, I was pretty sure that he'd be rested on Sunday - I held out hope that he'd DH, & there he was!
You walk into a game like this expecting to see some quality starting pitching - the game did not disappoint. Hernandez (or King Felix, as he is known at Safeco), whose time with the Mariners began after I left Seattle to return to Portland, was very impressive. Despite never topping 93 on the stadium radar, which surprised me, he blew people away, when he needed to. The Giants reverted to 2011 hitting form - putting men on, not coming up with the timely hit, not coming up with any extra base hits. But, don't get me wrong, Hernandez was sharp from beginning to end. His pitch count grew at a more rapid pace, which was the only way which I thought that we might outlast him. By the end of the 7th, it was clear that he was done for the day, which gave me hope.
While Hernandez was impressive, our own youthful MadBum was dominant. This was one of the most magnificent individual pitching performances I have ever witnessed first-hand. He had just enough of everything to keep hitters off-balance &, for the most part, off of the base paths. The gaudy stat is the 18 in-a-row he retired from Olivo's 2B in the 2nd Inning until Ackley's BB in the 8th Inning. But, it was more than just mowing guys down - it was the economy of pitches, it was the variations in speed & location, it was the harmlessness of nearly every ball hit to the outfield, it was the ability to get a whiff at just the right time (including his final batter in the 8th), it was his nimble fielding - I had never seen this guy pitch in-person, so I was excited to be getting the opportunity to do so - I was even more excited afterwards, hoping for hundreds of MadBum starts ahead for the Giants. His pitch economy allowed him to get through the 8th, & I had even more hope.
The Crawford tough at-bat & 1B off of Hernandez leading off the 7th should have been the start of good things. After all, as I remarked to the Giants fans from Santa Cruz sitting next to us, this gave them the remarkable chance to have the rarely seen consecutive productive at-bats from Crawford & Burriss. Naturally, Burriss blew that plan with his crappy bunt about 4 feet from home plate.
Justin Christian pinch ran in the top of the 8th. However, despite the fact that the Mariners had a Relief Pitcher in who can't hold runners very well & who had to endure the long pause, while the Home Plate Umpire was changed, Christian made no effort to advance - that was weird. Belt's 1B should have driven him in, after a stolen base.
The way that the top of 9th unfolded, this time including the unexpected contribution from Burriss, this time with a stolen base, looked very promising. I was all over the count mix-up during Blanco's at-bat, explaining it to my group & the other Giants' fans nearby. The tell-tale was when he swung at an apparent 3-0 pitch - Gregor Blanco would have never been turned loose 3-0 in that situation. It was obvious that the scoreboard was wrong. A couple of weeks ago, I was curious about Melky Cabrera - how could someone be batting 3rd in the order, be hitting over .360, but not really have very many RBI's? He's hitting much lower with Runners in Scoring Position (it's even worse with 2 outs & Runners in Scoring Position, although that wasn't the situation). But, a quick whiff was not what I was expecting. That was the crusher. Nate looked alternately good & bad on various pitches in his at-bat, but the final result was a simple chance for the 2B. With Romo trotting in, I still sensed extra innings.
Romo was not good. Lopez bought us some time with his fine play on the Saunders bunt, but threw a pretty fat one to Smoak. Off the bat, I thought 'that's the game - it's not going to be close'. But, Melky was on the ball unbelievably quickly & the ball shot out of his arm like a cannon blast. With our line of sight being so perfect for the play, I can assure you that the throw was right on line & getting there in a hurry. We were filled with excitement over the impending close play at the plate - I had that one second of 'we're gonna survive & keep on playing' moments ... then, it plunked Munenori Kawasaki (until he came in the game, I had never heard of him) in the back. I turned down & gave some sort of non-injury inducing swat to my seat, looked up & saw a pile of Mariners somewhere out in RF. We all looked at each other quizzically & started to gather up our things - it was a rough ending to a great day at the ballpark.
So, we are now 0-3 as a Family at Giants games, & 0-4, when you throw in the Guerreros de Oaxaca game we attended together in July 2008. This is not a good streak - we might have to hone our skills at some Salem-Keizer Volcano games in the near future. Our overall professional sports record is still very impressive, as, in no comination, have we ever seen the Blazers or Timbers lose a competitive game together. In the case of the Blazers, this is a fairly extensive streak, including playoff games. The Giants have won the World Series & Chelsea have won the Champions League, the Premier League, & the FA Cup (twice) since we've been a Family. Jonathan Sanchez pitched a no-hitter, & Matt Cain pitched a Perfect Game while we were watching. But, this in-person Giants monkey has to get off of our backs - so, we'll be working on it.
When all is said & done, the esteem in which I hold Madison Bumgarner has gone from high to extremely high. If that is the one thing that I take away from yesterday's experience, then it was well worth it ... that, & walking into a ballpark on a sunny Sunday afternoon with my Family!