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Giants Baseball: Playoff Torture!

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You thought the last three days were gut-twisting, floor-pacing, thumb-chewing, hair-losing exquisiteness? Grab some pine, meat, you ain't seen nothing yet. And I can't wait. I been waiting my whole life for this, since the...oh wait, that was 1987. I tried to find video of Will Clark's famous pennant-clinching clubhouse f-bomb rant, but apparently there's a porn star with the same name, and the Google searches were getting weird.

I don't make a habit of watching baseball teams clinch division titles on their home fields, but I have to wonder how often a team takes time from the dog-piling and ass-grabbing and champagne-spraying to take a long giddy lap around the field to high-five every fan they can reach. If it's a common occurrence, please don't tell me because I love the illusion that this team, these Giants, knew how much we fans suffered and soiled ourselves this year and made that lap, led of course by a skipping, jiggling Panda, to thank us. It was sweet. I couldn't get close to the rail in the left field bleachers, but that's fine. I hope a thousand kids got to lean over today and feel all 40 San Francisco Giants slap their palms or outstretched gloves -- the feel of grown men, under enormous pressure to win no matter how many bandages and bruises they accumulate, finally as happy as kids themselves. It was a fine sight.

One other thing about the atmosphere today: it wasn't just loud, it was explosive. If you get a chance, listen to the replay of Aubrey Huff's double in the third inning. Earlier in the inning, Pablo had cracked a ball to the wall in left that ended up in Scott Hairston's glove. Huff's ball sailed into the left-center gap, and for a moment it seemed center fielder Denorfia would track it down. When he dived and missed, and the ball landed, it wasn't just a cheer or a roar that the crowd let out, it was a year of tension, like 40,000 high-pressure steam valves cracked open. It was the second run of the inning, it made for a 2-0 lead, and it felt like a luxury at the moment. It didn't later on, even though the bullpen kept turning the Padres away. The best moment for me was when Miguel Tejada couldn't believe it after finally striking out against Ramon Ramirez. Tejada fought off a ton of pitches. After he swung at what looked like a perfect 90-MPH sinker on the outside corner, he just stood and stared. I couldn't believe it either.

And Jonathan Sanchez: one of the grittiest pitching performances I've ever seen. Psychologically, he couldn't afford to wobble and let the Padres have an early lead. It would've been a gut-check: three days straight, the Padres jump out. Not this time, thanks in large part to a late-snapping slider that Sanchez kept throwing below the knees. There was luck involved, too, to be sure. Adrian Gonzalez's line drive in the first went right to Juan Uribe instead of a few feet in either direction, and the Giants were walking off the field instead of staring at a 1-0 deficit.

Sanchez also lined a triple over a shallow outfield, a vision that will curdle the dreams of Padres fans all winter. As Krukow said post-game, Sanchez has about a softball-sized "sweet spot" where he can actually make contact, and it was Mat Latos's dumb luck to miss exactly there. He must have put in on the "T" that's missing from his first name. Nyuk nyuk.

Sanchez today was the anti-Zito. If Zito bounces back from Saturday's debacle, God bless him. But he deserved to be booed off the field. He pitched scared. It's abundantly clear that Sanchez should be the Game 3 NLDS starter, especially if the Giants split the first two games at home. Sorry, perhaps it's a little early to start sweating the playoff details, what with three days off and a whole lot of adrenaline to flush from our systems. But there are some interesting pitching and roster decisions to make after Lincecum and Cain go 1-2 Thursday and Friday. Let's discuss them later.

Right now, I'm taking a break from the torture and sending the Giants a huge thanks for playing the best sport in the world with fire and humor and pig-headedness and not just a little bit of weirdness. The moment that perhaps says it all about this team happened in the clubhouse amid the alcohol showers. I didn't see it, but Krukow mentioned it on the post-game radio. Brian Wilson found Rod Beck's widow and two daughters and asked someone to take their picture together. Wilson said he was glad Sunday to tie, not break, Beck's Giant record of 48 saves. And he made sure to honor Beck, who was no saint, by pausing the party to take a moment with his family. Mohawk, deadly tattooed right arm, weird beard, prankishness, a bunch of manly-man saves, and a lot of heart. 
 

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