Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Midsummer Night's Team

Well, that was sure something, wasn't it?  Your basic four-hour-and-eight-minute exhaust-o-rama, replete with heroic homers, egregious errors, twelve pitchers, twenty-seven position players, and no less than eleven runs scored in two ridiculously frantic extra innings on a sloppy slippery field, turning what began as a tight pitchers' duel into something resembling the finale of a slow-pitch softball tournament.  All in all, it had to be even more exhausting than was composing that last sentence.

And as the mist clears the San Francisco Giants stand atop the National League West, three games ahead of the Hated Rivals, having won five straight since the All-Star Break-- which, if you'll remember, followed a disastrous road trip in which the Giants lost five of six and, it appeared, most of their momentum.  Now, even with Hector Sanchez worryingly injured and Eli Whiteside our backup catcher, and even with Tim Lincecum as yet unable to put two quality starts back-to-back, the Giants are red-hot and rolling, with a chance tonight to sweep a quality team in their home park.  

Big Mo certainly made his presence felt in the tenth and eleventh innings last night. It was 1-1 after nine, Ryan Vogelsong having done his part and then some, and when the Giants broke out with two in the top of the tenth, featuring a most uncharacteristic throwing error by the Cooperstown-bound Chipper Jones, it felt like earned reward for hard work.  But the fun was only starting. Santiago Casilla, who has blown more saves in the past three weeks than in the previous three months, retired the first two batters, and just as most of you got ready to switch your RealPlayer app back to "Living Things" or "American Idiot", bang-bang, here's a double, here's a two-run shot, here's a tie game again, and here's a hundred-odd website comments demanding we trade our next eight first-round picks for Jonathan Papelbon.

Then we had Brandon Crawford, of whom we've been somewhat critical in the recent past, fouling a nasty cutter off his knee in the 11th and hitting the deck in pain, as Bruce Bochy reviewed the lineup card-- which must have looked like a West Virginia road map by that time-- and realized he had no more position players left.  While "Boch" was considering Matt Cain as pinch-hitter and emergency outfielder, Crawford got up, dusted himself off, and pulled the next pitch into the right-field seats for just his second homer of the year, Eli Whiteside and Brandon Belt scoring ahead of him. After Jones' second error in two innings and a fielder's choice, the Braves then walked Melky Cabrera-- hey, can you blame 'em?-- to get to Blanco, who launched Number Five halfway to Marietta, and there's your basic six-run top of the eleventh.

Having blown the save, Casilla got the win, naturally, when good ol' Brad Penny finished off the affair. Of course, he opened by allowing the obligatory run on a too-little too-late leadoff blast by Chipper, but he got three fly balls to the outfield before the Braves could score anybody else, and though it wasn't a save situation, we guarantee you if a poll were held this morning, a substantial plurality would favor the big guy to be immediately installed as our new closer.

Whether or not Bochy and Dave Righetti are ready to throw Casilla under the bus at this point is an open question.  Clearly, we can't let him venture into full Matt Herges mode if we expect to stay in first place down the stretch,  but neither do we need to push the panic button, especially since said button has dollar signs and draft choices painted all over it. This morning on the Giants' website a commenter stated, "A championship team needs a star closer." We emphatically disagree-- a championship team needs an effective closer, a solid and dependable closer, but not necessarily a star closer. The matched set: Tim Worrell, 2003, and Armando Benitez, 2005. What we definitely don't need is to trade half a dozen draft picks, half our top prospects, or half a billion dollars for a "name."  Some have suggested that if Casilla can't get it done, Sergio Romo should take the baton. Frankly, we admit we don't know the answer to that one. We do believe there is somebody on this staff who can take the role and run with it, but we have to trust that "Boch" and "Rags" know who he is, because we don't.

Belated shout-outs to Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Melky "MVP" Cabrera, and, of course, Matt "Mister Perfect" Cain for banding together to ensure the seventh game of the World Series will be played at AT&T Park. (Hey, we're fans, remember? Take it easy!) Certainly this was the most memorable All-Star Game since, oh, about 1989 or so, and the signature moment for us was Panda's bases-loaded triple off Justin Verlander, which put the National League in the driver's seat for good.

And did anyone else see that Jonathan Sanchez was DFA'd by the Royals last week? The former "No-Hit" Giants' hero not only saw his feat upstaged this year by Cain, he also saw his WHIP soar to a gargantuan two-plus, with more walks than strikeouts. After his last start-- five straight hits, including two homers, by the first five batters-- clearly KC believed they had to pull the cord. (And we thought the Giants were notorious for excruciatingly one-sided trades.) Now, does anyone think the Giants might take a flyer on their former phenom and try to pull another "Ryan Vogelsong"? Fine with us-- as long as they don't make him the closer!

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