Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The At Bat Never Heard 'Round the World

Don't tell Chicago Cubs fans this, but every World Series really is special to its fans. Yes, 2010 will go down in Giants fans' memory banks as the one that wiped away all the demons of missed opportunities from the past, just as 2004 erased a legendary "curse" from the minds and hearts of Red Sox fans. But, ask a Red Sox fan if that meant they weren't rooting just as hard for their boys in 2007. Trust me, they were. 2012 didn't wipe away 56 years of futility for the Giants, as 2010 did. But we rooted just as hard, and the feeling at the end was just as magical. And in the end, I will wind up spending just as much money on 2012 World Series Merchandise as I did in 2010. The 2002 Giants probably had the best collection of talent of any Giants team in my lifetime. But ultimately, that team fell 5 outs short. The 2010 "torture" team will always be the one I thought I was destined never to see - the first World Series Championship in my lifetime. The 2012 team will be known for its magical run - losing the first two games at home to Cincinnati in the Division Series, only to win all three games on the road in Cincinnati to advance to the NLCS. Then this version of the cardiac kids fell behind 3 games to 1 to the defending World Series Champion Cardinals, only to roar back and win 3 straight again to advance to the World Series. Along the way, all these Giants did was win 3 in a row in Cincinnati - which hadn't been done by a Reds opponent at all in 2012. They managed to not hold a lead at all in the series, until Scott Rolen booted a ball in the 10th inning of game 3. And then the Giants would never trail again in the series. Then the Giants promptly went out and got dismantled by the Cardinals, en route to a 3-1 series deficit. And then decided to pull the same Houdini act, by outscoring the most prolific offense in the National League 20-1 over the next three games and advance to the World Series. Once the Giants advanced to the World Series, they were given basically no chance to win. 22 of 27 ESPN "experts" picked the Tigers to win it all. None of the 22 even said the series would go 7 games. Phrases like "Fielder and Cabrera will be too much" and "Verlander will dominate" ruled the headlines. And so, naturally, the Giants went out and swept the Tigers by a combined score of 16-6. Whoops, that wasn't in the script. All those things you could have read in any article about the 2012 postseason. Some people were even generous enough to break down the World Series and give keys to why the Giants won it all. Pablo Sandoval's 3-HR game in game 1 being a huge catalyst for this team. This team's incredible defense throughout the World Series. The Blanco-Scutaro-Posey relay in game 2. One analyst was even astute enough to talk up the importance of the bottom of the eighth inning in game 4, with a runner on first base and Cabrera-Fielder-Young due up for the Tigers. And to that point, the only thing Cabrera and Young had done was combine for 2 HRs and all 3 RBIs that night - and Jeremy Affeldt promptly whiffed all 3 in succession. But nobody, not one living soul, pointed to a huge at bat in game 2, that affected game 4, and won the Giants the World Series in 4 games, rather than letting the Tigers even catch a scent of momentum. In the top of the ninth in game 2, with the Giants leading 2-0, Omar Infante strolled to the plate. For most people, this at bat won't even register as a footnote in this World Series. Miguel Cabrera waited as the tying run in the on deck circle. I remember thinking to myself, "just get Infante out. I do not want to deal with Miggy as the tying run." And Sergio Romo easily granted my wish, and induced Infante into a weak foul pop-up, which Brandon Belt snagged. Game over. Giants up 2 games to 0. Cabrera left in the on-deck circle. But how does that affect game 4, you ask? In the bottom of the 10th inning of game 4, Miguel Cabrera did get to mosey on up to home plate with 2 outs, as the tying run. And after 6 straight sliders (Romo's bread and butter pitch) and a 2-2 count on the best hitter in baseball, Romo threw an 89-mph fastball right down the middle. And the bat never left Cabrera's shoulders. Strike three. Game over. World Series over. The Giants are champs. And the only reason that was made possible was because Cabrera had never faced Romo before. He hadn't seen him in live action. Therefore, all Cabrera had was "the book on Romo." And the book told him slider, slider, slider. So when he saw a pitch starting out over the heart of the plate, naturally, Cabrera would assume it would break down and away for ball 3. "Lay off it", he probably told himself. Only, it wasn't a slider. It never broke. It was a fastball. A fastball he'd never seen from Romo. Because he'd never faced Romo. Because Romo got Omar Infante to pop out to end game 2 on a slider, with Cabrera in the on deck circle. See, I was worried about Cabrera coming up as the tying run in game 2. The fact that he didn't meant that when he came up as the tying run in game 4, would result in...... THE GIANTS WIN THE SERIES! THE GIANTS WIN THE SERIES! THE GIANTS WIN THE SERIES!