We had tickets to go see Norm MacDonald last night. We'd had them for a few weeks, and I was looking forward to the show as an opportunity to take a break. A chance to sit somewhere for two or three hours and not think about baseball at all for the first time in a month. I watched Brian Wilson strike out Ryan Howard on a borderline slider and seconds later we were out the door. Finally, a breather.
We went to dinner, had some drinks, and settled into our seats in time for the MC and the opening act. Then Norm came out to wild applause, and the first thing he said - the very first thing - was that just a little while earlier, he was eating dinner, watching thebeat the and advance to the World Series.*
* - to more wild applause, which was weird. This is Portland. Crowds will cheer anything.
No break. I wasn't preoccupied or anything, but the whole time I sat there, in the back of my mind I was thinking, man, Giants versus. This is ridiculous. And it's so fresh. You want your team to make it. If your team doesn't make it, you want your bandwagon team to make it. If your bandwagon team doesn't make it, you want a new team to make it. These are two new teams, in that they aren't the Phillies or the or the or the . That they're new doesn't make the matchup more exciting, but it makes it more appealing. This is going to be an appealing showdown.
The Giants, of course, defeated the Phillies as underdogs. But what does 'underdog' really mean in a best-of-seven series? Crazy shit can happen in a best-of-seven series. Thewon three straight against the this year. They swept three games against the . What if those were best-of-seven series? In a short series, the underdog still has an excellent chance of winning, so when an underdog wins, it isn't that big of a surprise. It's like Ichiro. In any given at bat, Ichiro is the underdog, in that he's less likely to get a hit than he is not to get a hit. But when Ichiro gets a hit, it isn't surprising. When Ichiro gets four hits over seven at bats, it isn't surprising.
The Giants won as underdogs, which is a terrific feeling for their players and fans. That said, they weren't significant underdogs, and overall, I'm not surprised to see them where they are. The Giants have looked like a World Series contender for months, so that they've gotten this far isn't shocking. If we traveled back to July, and I told you the Giants would make the World Series, and you looked over their roster, you'd get it. You wouldn't be floored. They looked like a better bet than the. They looked like a better bet than the Reds, and the , and the Cardinals, and the . The only team they didn't look better than was the Phillies, but they weren't that separate. Your response would've been "well they don't seem like the most likely team to make it, but it makes sense." Or something. You probably wouldn't have used those words.
That the Giants have advanced to the World Series is no great miracle. They didn't shock the world. They aren't the Padres. They entered the year given a shot to contend, and they played up to their ability. There's a lot of talent on that ballclub.
What I find to be the real surprise is the manner in which they've made it this far. They were 6.5 games out of first place on August 25th. Then they went insane, allowing 64 runs over their final 31 games and clinching on the last day of the season.
And then the playoffs started. How did they win their first game? Tim Lincecum, naturally, was excellent, but Cody Ross drove in the only run.
How did they win their second game? Jonathan Sanchez was excellent, but Brooks Conrad made a pair of crippling errors to put the Giants out in front.
How did they win their third game? Madison Bumgarner was excellent, but Ross hit a home run, Alex Gonzalez made an error, and then Ross drove in the winning run on a weak grounder.
How did they win their fourth game? Lincecum was a little off, but Ross hit a pair of homers, and Juan Uribe plated the winner with a single.
How did they win their fifth game? Matt Cain was excellent, but Ross drove in the winner.
How did they win their sixth game? The benched Pablo Sandoval delivered an enormous two-run double, and after the bullpen couldn't handle a late lead, Uribe brought home the winner once more, despite an injured wrist.
And how did they win their seventh game? Shane Victorino bobbled a fly ball, Placido Polanco made a throwing error, Jeremy Affeldt threw two scoreless innings, Bumgarner threw two scoreless innings, Javier Lopez threw a scoreless inning, Brian Wilson picked up a line drive double play, and Uribe drove in the winning run on a two-out solo homer down the line in right field.
The biggest hit of the NLCS, and the biggest hit of the Giants' whole season, was an opposite-field home run off the bat of a slightly injured Juan Uribe. How weird is it that Juan Uribe hit a home run down the line to the opposite field? Via Hit Tracker Online, here's his home run spray chart for 2010:
Okay, well, here's his home run spray chart for 2009:
Here's his home run spray chart for 2008:
Here's his home run spray chart for 2007:
Here's his home run spray chart for 2006:
The biggest hit of the Giants' whole season was a home run by Juan Uribe to an area where he hadn't hit a home run for at least five years.
It all speaks to the sheer improbability and unpredictability of playoff baseball. I'm not surprised that the Giants are in the World Series. But I am surprised that they're in the World Series in large part because of Cody Ross, and Javier Lopez, and Juan Uribe, and bad defense by their opponents, and that whole bullpen effort in Game 6. Think about it. The Giants were down 2-0 in the first inning last night, against Roy Oswalt and the Phillies in Philadelphia. Jonathan Sanchez recorded six outs. Six outs, before Bruce Bochy had to hand the ball over the bullpen. That is a recipe for disaster.
And the Giants won. The Giants beat the Phillies, because Jeremy Affeldt got through Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Shane Victorino. The Giants beat the Phillies because Juan Uribe hit a home run off Ryan Madson to a part of the field he didn't previously think to exist. The Giants beat the Phillies because Carlos Ruiz came up with two men on and hit a line drive right at Aubrey Huff, and the Giants beat the Phillies because Brian Wilson froze Howard with a low-away slider after which Tom Hallion paused before making his apocalyptic punchout motion.
I'm not surprised that the Giants are where they are, but the way in which they've managed to arrive is absolutely sensational. Their path to the World Series makes sense from afar but makes no sense up close, and it's for that reason that I'm not even going to bother trying to predict how this next week and a half are going to play out. The Giants are playing the Rangers. They will play between four and seven games. The Giants have some advantages over the Rangers, and the Rangers have some advantages over the Giants. I could try to wade through the numbers and find some keys that stand out. And who knows, maybe those keys would stand out, making me look like a genius. But just as likely is that the World Series ends when Cliff Lee issues Pablo Sandoval a bases-loaded four-pitch walk, and I'm perfectly content to just watch this madness unfold.
The Rangers and the Giants. Either way, Bengie Molina gets his ring. And either way, this will end up the best October in memory.