After two embarrassing home defeats, and with seemingly everyone resigned to a Reds sweep, the San Francisco Giants played like the team we thought they were and defeated the Reds 2-1 in game three. Now the Giants fortunes rest on the expensive arm of Barry Zito, with Tim Lincecum likely to come in at the first sign of trouble. On Monday I heard a lot of talk radio praise for Zito, with his backers citing his success against the Reds and the Giants long winning streak in games he started. The great show of Zito confidence seemed to be linked to the unlikelihood of there actually being a game four; now it’s time for Zito to show that he’s regained his form when it counts and---assuming the Giants get some runs---that he continues his winning streak into the postseason.
Those who spent the afternoon and early evening of October 9 attending or watching the San Francisco Board of Supervisors debate Ross Mirkarimi’s future (he was reinstated on a late evening vote) missed a different type of drama unfolding at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio. I think I speak for all Giants fans in saying that it was a game that revived talk of “torture” and reminded us of how resilient the Giants can be at their best.
How do you win a game getting one hit in nine innings, scoring your only run during that period without a hit, and striking out sixteen times? The Reds are asking themselves that question after the Giants did all three in victory.
Once again, almost certain National League MVP Buster Posey got it done. After looking bad at the plate in the first nine innings, Posey led off the tenth with a single and scored the winning run.
Zito’s Existential Quest
I reject the elevation of baseball to some sort of broader spiritual journey, seeing this as a clever rationale used by the well educated to justify spending hours most nights watching or listening to men pitch, hit and field a ball. But if you are the type who sees baseball as a metaphor for life, than Barry Zito faces an existential quest when he takes the mound today in game four.
Here’s what I said about Zito in my April 6, 2012 baseball preview article: “Barry Zito’s season holds no such suspense; after a terrible spring Zito either leaves the roster by midseason through injury or is finally cut loose.”
I was wrong (I did, however, pick the Giants to win the division and to face the Tigers in the World Series. I also predicted Bobby Valentine’s hiring would sink the Red Sox, somewhat mitigating my being incredibly wrong about Zito).
Zito’s start is a test: is he finally the guy who came through in the clutch for the A’s, or the erratic Giants starter who disappoints us most just when we start to think he’s turned things around.
A bad start simply confirms what people like me have said about Zito all year. A strong start rebuffs critics and, more importantly, allows Barry Zito to again define himself as a guy who can get it done when it counts.
Will the Giants bats awake? The law of averages says that many players are long overdue. If Zito does his part, the Giants hitting will follow.
And lets give props to one of my favorite Giants, Joaquin Arias, for doing what it took to get Posey home. I’d start him in place of the overmatched Brandon Crawford.
And Ryan Vogelsong pitched like he has since last season---a living tribute to the power of determination and the will to win.
Regardless of what happens today, at least we saw one great Giants victory and the nation saw why the team easily won the division. And if the Giants do somehow win today, they'll have the momentum behind Matt Cain on Thursday.