2010 SF Giants – How Sweet It Is

2010 SF Giants

Game six of the NLCS stirred up old memories, gave me new memories, and caused my heart to roll up into my throat a few times.

Yet, for whatever reason, I was pretty confident watching the game even after Jonathan Sanchez blew up and came up short in the biggest game of his career, even after Tim Lincecum came into the game on one day rest to pitch the 8th inning and was only able to get one out, and even when Brian Wilson walked two guys in the ninth inning before striking out Ryan Howard to end the game.

I’m not sure exactly why I was so confident they were going to win. Giants’ history says that being confident in the team in moments like this is insane. I kept thinking back to 1989. That was the first Giants’ team I ever saw win the National League pennant. You always remember your baseball firsts.

(Like your first favorite player (Jack Clark). Your first attended All-Star game (1984 at Candlestick Park). The first time you noticed that the Dodgers were the enemy (the first time I ever saw Steve Sax and Tommy Lasorda’s gut).)

This year’s team is vastly different player for player than that 1989 team, but the vibe is similar. Those Giants were led primarily by young positions players, much like this team is led by young pitching.

Those Giants had a fiery young first baseman by the name of Will Clark who was only in his fourth year, but just two years prior when he first tasted playoff baseball, cursed on local television because he was so happy.

The player today’s fans identify with most is a fourth year fiery starting pitcher who in his first taste of playoff baseball also cursed on local television because he was so happy. Maybe that was the link. Maybe the reason I identified this team most with that 1989 team was because of the similarities between Will Clark (The Thrill) and Tim Lincecum (The Freak).

Lincecum’s rise was just as fast as Clark’s. They were both Golden Spikes winners in college and immediately became the face of the team when they made it to the big league club.

In 1989, the Giants faced the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS and the Giants clobbered Greg Maddux in game one. Clark hit two home runs that game including a grand slam to put the game out of reach. The Cubs came back in game two to tie the series and ran Rick Reuschel out of there before the first inning was over.

The Giants came home to win two in a row by the scores of 5-4 and 6-4 before game five. It was on a Monday afternoon and I had to go to school. My dad took the day off to watch the game and record it for me and I tried to ask teachers for the score during the day. I may have seen part of the game in PE. After school was over, I ran home and came in the house during the bottom of the 8th inning.

The Giants were batting and there were two outs with the score tied 1-1. Mike Bielecki was on the mound for the Cubs and just absolutely choked under the pressure pressure. He walked pinch-hitter Candy Maldonado to give the Giants their first runner. And then he walked Brett Butler. Robby Thompson was up next, and my favorite baseball player of all-time was pretty hard to walk. He didn’t take many. On deck was Will Clark who at that point in the series was 12-19. He had more hits than outs made in the series. The key for Bielecki was simply to not allow Clark to bat in the inning.

Bielecki walked Thompson (of course) to bring up Clark and set the table for the dramatics. “The Wild Thing” Mitch WIlliams was brought in to face Clark. This is the same Mitch Williams who predicted that the Phillies would win this series in five games, and he’s the same Williams who’d close games for Phillies in the early 90s.

Williams was more wild and scary than actually good during his career. By today’s standards, he wouldn’t survive as a closer because he put so many runners on base via walks. He saved 36 games for the Cubs that season and had the second best ERA of his career at 2.76. At least in 1989, he was closer worthy.

I really wish I remembered the entire at-bat by heart and I do have it somewhere on video cassette, but what I do remember is that Williams got ahead of Clark early and Clark had to foul off a few balls before getting a pitch he could hit. And hit it he did. He laced a single into centerfield scoring both Maldonado and Butler to give the Giants a 3-1 lead and an eventual 3-2 win thanks to Steve Bedrosian’s eventful 9th inning. Bedrosian got the first two outs and then gave up three straight singles before Ryne Sandberg grounded out to Thompson and Hank Greenwald screamed, “It’s over! Twenty seven years of waiting have come to an end. The Giants have won the pennant.”

That hit, along with his great series and great season for that matter, would cement Will Clark as the best hitter in baseball. It only lasted for a few years, but at that moment, my Giants had the best in baseball on a team that was headed to the World Series. It meant something.

Two Cy Young Awards in three seasons for Lincecum, and you could argue that he’s one of, if not the best, pitchers in all of baseball. He out-pitched Roy Halladay twice in this series before being called on tonight.

Lincecum wasn’t the story of this game, and really wasn’t the story of the season. But his rise as the single most electric and identifiable player on this team reminded me so much of Clark’s similar rise, that all I could think of when thinking about this game was how the Giants came through because they fed off Clark’s enthusiasm and leadership, much like this team feeds off Lincecum in the same way.

Which takes me back to the 8th inning: in the top of the inning, the Giants had Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, and Juan Uribe coming up against Ryan Madson who made Burrell and Ross look silly on Thursday night’s game. But he was in his second inning during this game after pitching the 7th inning.

Burrell grounded out for the first out. Ross just missed on a swing and sent the ball to deep left field for the second out. When Uribe was at the plate, I verbalized that this was a situation that Uribe had come through on many times in the season. I was thinking that Ross just missed his and with Uribe’s hard swing and natural uppercut, if he got a ball in the air, he had just as good a chance to hit a home run as anyone. And he did.

The Giants had the lead and rather than put in Santiago Casilla or Sergio Romo to hold the game, manager Bruce Bochy brought in Tim Lincecum on one day’s rest. At the time, it was a head scratcher for sure. Lincecum isn’t built like a horse and he doesn’t seem like he should be taking the ball in a situation like that.

Did it turn out to be the right move? Probably not. But I don’t think it mattered. While Linecum only got one out, it showed that he was capable of doing whatever it took to win the most important game of the season. No one else in his situation is probably asked to take that ball. It took guts and testicular fortitude to do it, which is where the Giants get their fuel.
Brian Wilson never makes it easy, but he gets the job done. He came in during the 8th and inherited two of Lincecum’s runners. He had five outs to get and with Carlos Ruiz up, he got two of those outs. Ruiz lined out to Aubrey Huff, who threw to second base to double off Shane Victorino to get out of the inning. Where Victorino was going, the baseball world will never know.

I wasn’t the least bit surprised when he walked both Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley in the 9th. And I wasn’t the least bit surprised when he went to a 3-2 count on Ryan Howard with two outs. My dad, my youngest, and I all discussed what pitch he would throw to get Howard out. My dad thought he should go with his best which is his 95 MPH fastball. I thought he should throw the cutter to the outside corner because he seemed to be most confident in throwing the pitch. My youngest thought he should throw a slider to the outside even though Wilson hadn’t thrown one yet.

Of course, the kid was right. Wilson’s slider painted the outside corner and we waited for what seemed like eternity for the home plate umpire to call for strike three, and he finally did.

We didn’t have to wait twenty seven years for the Giants to get back to the World Series. But we have waited fifty six years for them to win the World Series. Maybe this is the year. Maybe Tim Lincecum is the guy to go head up against Cliff Lee and beat him like he did Halladay. And I bet you, if this series is close, he’s going to throw in relief again. And the team will fuel from it like they did tonight.

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