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Above Comerica Park, Giants Up Two, And More World Series Thoughts

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I was in Detroit once, in 1999, and watched the construction of Comerica Park from my high-rise hotel window. I also went to an old-school Italian steakhouse recommended by a native Detroiter co-worker, and I found it sitting like an island among blocks and blocks of empty lots. The windows were bricked up and the entire ensemble -- restaurant and parking lot -- was surrounded by a high chain link fence. It was open for business, and inside the crushed velvet banquettes were old-school and comfy, but from the outside it looked impenetrable. It was not what I expected, and after a couple days driving around -- the old GM factory here, the empty, soon to be demolished Tiger Stadium there, the abrupt transition from shell-shocked city to well-to-do suburbs -- I was pretty sure that I could be there for two hours, or two days, or two years, and I wouldn't get used to it.

All this comes to mind because of the Tigers in the World Series, of course. But I also have the same swimming-in-surrealist-waters feeling this post-season, and I don't ever want to take it for granted. Walking out of Mays Field last night with El Hermano Malo and realizing the Giants were halfway to a second World Series title in three years: Wait, what? How did that happen?

Success is nice, but unless tempered with surrealism, it leads to triumphalism. This post-season, and the first two World Series games, have drummed that into my skull. When something's gone right to date, it's not something to make us thump our chests: That's Barry Zito, pal. In your face! 

No, more like, OK, we're just here for the ride and the free wi-fi and the $10 beer, and Oh Lord, now look what Zito just did. Who knew? Love that Panda, but three home runs in a game, two of them against the Mighty Verlander, to get all Babe-like, ReggieJaxish, Pujolsian? Nope. Didn't see that coming.

And then, Game 2, Madison Bumgarner comes down from the hoist after Mr. Rags Goodwrench does a little tinkering in the undercarriage, and... uh... I'm not sure that metaphor is working the way it should. But this is the World Series that America -- the tiny fraction paying attention, that is -- learns all about pitching mechanics. MadBum looked done for the year, but seven shutout innings and eight strikeouts later against the nearly un-shutout-able Tigers, and we Giants fans are scratching our heads as much as we're jumping up and down on each other's feet. There should be no I told you so, because no one told nobody nothing, other than Righetti telling MadBum to shorten the back-swing of the leg and other technical instructions.

Doug Fister took a line drive off his freakin' dome Thursday night and kept pitching. I'm not sure about the wisdom of that decision, but I do know there's certainly no triumphalism in winning against his team.

A few other notes:

- Gregor Blanco is playing flawless defense and getting on base 35% of the time this post-season. That's basically the job description the Giants hoped for when they signed him to a minor-league contract, and it makes him a lock for the team next year. As the starting left fielder, though? If the Giants stick with Hunter Pence through his final arbitration year -- and despite his struggles in orange and black, I think they will -- I wonder if they'll consider putting him in left and Blanco in right, where his defense is even more valuable. They're more likely to find another left fielder (we can revisit the Melky question another day) and shift Blanco back to the fourth OF role, but if they can't, they should maximize his value by playing him in the most difficult outfield position.

- Major theme brewing: Giants get breaks! But just as Pagan's lucky double in Game 1 came amid a series of excellent grind-it-out at-bats, Blanco's seeing-eye bunt in Game 2 was made possible by Hunter Pence's hard ground-ball single and the ever-patient Brandon Belt's walk against Detroit lefty Drew Smyly. Did the Giants get a break when third-base coach Gene Lamont sent Prince Fielder home on Delmon Young's double. Yes, it was a bad decision. But it required Blanco's fast reflexes to chase the ball's weird carom, then a perfect relay, to nail Fielder. Actually, the relay wasn't quite perfect: Blanco overthrew Crawford, but Scutaro had the presence of mind not just to back up the play but to act like he expected all along to be the relay guy. That's not luck. That's skill and smarts.

- The DH. I mentioned a few days ago that it'll be tough to slot Hector Sanchez there because of the quirks of the DH rule. Matchups might play a role, but they don't point in an obvious direction for Game 3. Aubrey Huff is 0 for 12 lifetime against Anibal Sanchez, Xavier Nady is 1 for 7, and Hector Sanchez has never faced him. Ryan Theriot is 2 for 9, but the "2" is a triple and a home run. With such small samples, it's more likely a choice of who's been swinging better lately. Which still doesn't point in an obvious direction. As Grant pointed out today, it's not like the Giants are going to turn over a pebble and find Ellis Burks on their roster. If had to guess, I'm going with Huff to start, but I don't think Bochy will be shy about pinch-running or -hitting for him after a couple at-bats, if the game situation calls for it. (If a pinch-runner is necessary, look for Theriot, because Arias, who can sub at any infield position in case of injury or late-game upgrade, is too valuable to waste in the DH slot.)

- "On paper" is a funny thing. On paper, Jeremy Affeldt shouldn't be earning $5 million. On paper, the Giants' decision to honor his 2012 option at that price instead of spending the money on hitters puzzled many observers, myself included. But how much is $5 million worth? Nearly a full game of postseason shutout baseball, in part, because that's what Affeldt has given the Giants. They had no idea he would be lights-out in the playoffs, of course, and hindsight is a beautiful cheat. But when we're all moaning and scratching over questionable off-season moves, keep in mind that the value of wins changes in the post-season. If a team can afford to commit a few extra dollars in December with reasonable expectations of a return in October, perhaps those extra dollars are a wiser investment than we on the outside suspect.


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