Dramatic and historic moments are not a zero-sum game in sports, but we baseball fans can’t help pointing out things baseball has that football does not. Yes, college football owns Saturdays on TV and the NFL dominates Sundays. Pigskin fans got the Super Bowl, and ratings, and their game is king.
All fine and dandy, but baseball fans have days like yesterday that no sport can match. I’m not sure there is anyone who did watch every minute of all four games, but you certainly had the opportunity.
We’ll call it the October Bonanza. Since the advent of the wild card, there have been other such great days, and yesterday was one of them. Of course, the level of enthusiasm varies among the fans. For my wife and myself, we were glued to the TV for the first two.
The first tilt was the Giants at the Reds at 1 pm. Once again, fiction writers enjoyed what took place. After losing the first two games at home, San Francisco won three games in a row at Cincy to take the NLDS title.
I went to the Nationals game on Wednesday so I know how it feels when the electricity of 45,000 fans gets unplugged early in the game. But of course, my life long passion is with the Giants. And you’ll forgive me for turning up the volume on the payback knob, but when the Giants were dousing themselves with champagne yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about the “Big Red Machine.” From 1970 to 1976, they won four NL pennants and two World Series.
Meanwhile, in a cold corner of Candlestick, Giants fans were sucking broken lollipops. But time mellows, schadenfraude is negative energy, and those memories were only a fleeting thought. Thanks to Posey’s sixth inning slam, my synapses were firing on the good feelings of the sudden big lead, and our ace Matt Cain on the mound.
And then came the eighth inning. Giants fans know exactly what I’m talking about. We are a society obsessed with anniversaries and anyone who cut their teeth on the Orange and Black in 2002 knows where I’m going. Game Six, we’re leading 5 to 0, a handful of outs from winning the World Series.
After we blew it and lost Game Seven, the writers said the loss would haunt Giants fans for years to come. Winning the World Series in 2010 helped heal that scar tissue, but when the Reds put runners on first and second in the eighth yesterday, that old ghost of 2002 came creeping back.
All sports playoffs have tension, but with baseball, and the 162 games the teams play to get there, it does seem the pressure during these moments is greater than the others. The Giants were still ahead six to four but when Dioner Navarro cracked one to centerfield, the Giants and their fans were scared.
Future readers, I kid you not. A Giants player named Angel Pagan raced in and made the series-saving shoestring catch. San Francisco survived a scary ninth too, and hung on to win 6 to 4. I guess ghosts are never buried, but Giants fans can rightly say they have moved on from what happened ten years ago.
With what seemed like a record-number of at bats with double digit pitch counts, and lots of base runners, the Giants game went past four o’clock, the start time in Washington. WTBS at one point did show a split screen, and then went to coverage of the Cards-Nationals game.
Less than 24 hours after losing 8 to 0 to the Cards, the Nationals put Ross Detwiler on the mound for Game Four. The tall lefty with one full season under his belt allowed just one Redbird to cross the plate in six innings. The relief combo of Jordan Zimmerman, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen struck out 8 and gave up no runs.
Then came the bottom of the ninth. Probably for the first time ever at Nationals Park, everyone was still in their seats during the final frame. Not forgetting the Washington Homestead Grays, the last time fans in the nation’s capital had been this excited about a post-season game was 1933. Games 3, 4 and 5 were played at Griffith Stadium, but the Senators/Nationals won just one. The other two went into extras, but the visiting Giants won both.
Frank Howard hit some jaw-dropping home runs during his six year stay with the Senators, and Nationals Park has seen some dramatic walk off home runs, but none were as exciting as Jason Werth’s lead off rocket to left. Putting his home run into context is much easier than with Posey. Playing for a storied franchise famous for its window-breaking sluggers, the Giants catcher has company. In Washington, the hero club is small. Roger Peckinbaugh did put the Senators ahead 7 to 6 in Game Six of the 1933 World Series, but that was in Pittsburgh and the Pirates won. Goose Goslin hit six home runs in 19 October games with the Senators, but none came after the sixth.
After the Nats won, it was tempting to see how the Orioles could do in New York, but we shut the tube off and did other things. We missed seeing Baltimore beat the Yankees in 14 innings, but of course, there’s the highlights. Baltimore snapped New York’s 14 game post-season winning streak by winning 2 to 1.
In Detroit, the A’s tried to keep their magical season going, but Jason Verlander had other ideas. So no fireworks in this one, but still, a great 12 hours of baseball. It wasn’t the Super Bowl, but it was super. And tonight, a doubleheader, one in Washington, one in New York to decide who advances to the next round.
Are you ready?