I sat down on my couch and flipped my TV to ESPN for the Rockies-Giants game. The Giants had won the first two games of the series to pull within 2 1/2 games of the NL Wild Card leading Rockies. The Giants had Matt Cain on the mound and the home crowd behind them (which has led the Giants to the best home record in the National League in 2009). A win would give the Giants all the momentum heading into the final 16 games of the season. A loss would knock the Giants 3 1/2 games back, and not having the Rockies on their schedule the final 2 1/2 weeks would make it highly improbable that the Giants could catch them. Essentially, this was the Giants biggest game since 2003.
I remember all the Giants big games. I can remember them with vivid detail. I remember the 1987 NLCS vs. St. Louis. I remember being up 3 games to 2 and losing game 6 to force game 7 in St. Louis. I remember the Cardinals winning game 7, 1-0, on a measly sacrifice fly. I remember 1989, the famous Earthquake World Series. And I remember the A's beating the Giants in 4 straight. I remember watching game 4 from my bed. Seeing the A's win 13-7 and Dennis Eckersely throwing his glove in the air after Brett Butler grounded out to end the World Series. I remember 1993, when a 103-win Giants team lost to the LA Dodgers on the last game of the season 12-3, because the Giants decided that rookie sensation Salomon Torres was the right choice to start such a pivotal game. The Braves won 104 games that season. The Giants went home. I remember 1997 and Devon White's grand slam. I remember 1998 and Neifi Perez's home run in the bottom of the ninth off Robb Nen to force a one-game playoff for the Giants vs. the Cubs. Which, of course, the Cubs won. I remember 2000, and the 10-inning game that gave the Mets the momentum that carried them to the NLDS win over the Giants. I remember the 2002 World Series when Dusty handed Russ Ortiz the game ball with 8 outs to go before the Giants would win their first World Championship in San Francisco. Their first in my lifetime. Their first since 1954. And then the Angels stormed back for 6 runs and beat the Giants 6-5. Then beat them 4-1 in game 7. I remember 2003. Jose Cruz's dropped fly ball in extra innings. Jeff Conine's throw. JT Snow crashing into Pudge at the plate. And Pudge holding onto the ball, defiantly. I remember all these moments as if they happened yesterday. The Giants always break my heart. And yet, I keep running back to them for more. Like a spouse who keeps taking their spouse back that cheats on them, saying, "this time it will be different. This time, she/he won't cheat on me." And they cheat. And the Giants break my heart.
The Giants have been a marginally good (and I'm being kind) team since 2003. And my heartbreak usually happens in June or July when I realize this. Not September or October. But this year, the Giants have put something special together. Their 1-2 punch of Lincecum and Cain is as good as their is in baseball (only Wainwright-Carpenter in St Louis compares). Barry Zito has found himself as a pitcher. Brad Penny looks re-born in San Francisco. And add to that Jonathan Sanchez threw the team's first no hitter since 1975 and something special was going on by the bay. They needed some more offense. But in the first two games against Colorado, they scored 19 runs and looked like a team on a mission to make the playoffs....and with their pitching staff, make some noise in the playoffs. So, the stage was set for the Giants to sweep the Rockies and carry that momentum into the playoffs. And then a funny thing happened, the game started.
Cain was not sharp. He gave up 2 home runs and left the game with the Giants trailing 4-0. The Giants bullpen held the Rockies in check for the final three innings, but the Giants' bats were completely overmatched against Rockies' pitchers, Jorge de la Rosa. For 8 innings, he completely shut them down, limiting them to just three hits. When the Giants did rally in the 6th inning - putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out, de la Rosa proceeded to strike out the next three hitters. And then Rockies' manager Jim Tracy made a questionable move. With de la Rosa in total control of the Giants, he lifted him for a reliever after 8 innings. The Giants bats came alive against Rockies' interim closer Franklyn Morales. Freddy Sanchez led off the ninth with a line drive single. Pablo Sandoval followed with a sharp single. Then Bengie Molina ripped a single that scored Sanchez. 4-1. Still nobody out. The Giants have life. Tracy lifted Morales for another reliever, Rafael Betencourt. He induced Juan Uribe into what appeared to be a rally-killing double play. Only, Troy Tulowitzki's throw whizzed past Garrett Atkins head at second base. 4-2. Giants now with 1st and 3rd and still nobody out and Mr. Clutch strolling to the plate. The Giants pinch run speedy Eugenio Velez at 1st base and he promptly steals 2nd. 2nd and 3rd, nobody out. Edgar Renteria, who won the 1997 World Series for the Florida Marlins with a hit, and who two weeks earlier hit a game winning grand slam off of Betancourt just needs a single to tie the game. Or a fly ball to the outfield to move the runners up. Or a ground ball to the right side. Renteria promptly pops out to 2nd. But that's only 1 out. A single still ties it. Pinch hitter Randy Winn grounds out to first. But the runners move up. 4-3. Runner on third, two outs. Nate Schierholtz coming up. Strike one. Strike two. Strike three (granted their were three balls thrown too, and he swung at ball four, but you get the point).
I slumped down into my couch cushions. It was 1:36 am and the Giants had done it to me again. And you know what, when they take the field this weekend in Los Angeles, I will still root like hell for them. And I will root like hell the rest of the season. Because that's what we fans do. We root and we root for our teams. They may break our heart like a cheating spouse, but we keep coming back for more.