Here is a link to my Thursday column about the Giants’ potentially important Wednesday win over the White Sox. The full text runs below:
The San Francisco Giants bumped into an old friend on Wednesday. They thought the friend was dead.
The friend is known as Hope.
The Giants had been wandering down a back alley keeping close company with Despair, the enemy of Hope. You never want to be friends with Despair.
How into Despair were the Giants? Before they beat the White Sox 7-1, they had lost five games in a row, an ugly number. Five in a row wasn’t even their worst losing streak of this season. Twice, they had lost six in a row.
And, frankly, they were flirting with a sixth-straight loss for most of Wednesday’s game before IT happened. I’ll get to IT in a moment. Understand this. IT was the Despair breaker. IT introduced the concept of Hope. Whether the Giants can build on this Hope, can turn Hope into Success, is strictly up to them. Hope is a start.
OK, here’s the deal. Naturally, the Giants were trailing in the bottom of the seventh, trailing 1-0, a score which seemed insurmountable to them. That’s how badly they hit.
I won’t go over the whole inning. You can read that in the gamer. Cut to the key moment. Cut to IT. With one out, Gregor Blanco ran home from third on a ground ball to first base. Chicago first baseman Jose Abreu threw home to catcher Tyler Flowers, and Flowers tagged out Blanco. No doubt about it.
Then Bruce Bochy did one of those slow walks to home plate. He was killing time until his TV guys could watch a replay. They would tell him whether to appeal the home-plate call. They told him to appeal. The umpires put on those bulky black headsets that look like earmuffs and stood around. The players stood around. During replays there’s a lot of standing around.
The nature of the appeal was specific. Had the catcher Flowers blocked the plate before he got the ball? According to the new rules, a catcher can’t block the plate without the ball.
The rules monitors in New York (who are those guys?) said Flowers blocked the plate sans ball, and Blanco had, in fact, scored.
Oh, joy. Oh, lucky day. There is a baseball God. That’s what the Giants must have thought.
Now, the score was tied 1-1 and the game would have continued. It really would have. Except Chicago manager Robin Ventura went stark-raving mad. He is an old-style baseball guy like, say, Billy Martin or Earl Weaver, and he was brought up in the hallowed baseball tradition of going stark-raving mad.
He hated the call so much he shouted at the home-plate ump and kicked dirt on the plate and then kicked more dirt on the plate. You expected him to throw himself on the ground and flail his arms and legs while the medics shot him full of elephant tranquilizer. His behavior was peculiar in many respects. The umpires hadn’t overturned the call. The guys in New York had. Maybe he was sending them a message. Maybe they didn’t care.
Back to the action. Angel Pagan singled to left center. Two runs scored. And the rout was on. The Giants scored seven in that inning, the most they’ve scored in a single inning this season. And they crushed the White Sox, or the Pale Hose as Ken Korach likes to say.
The point? The Giants caught a break — the reversed call, that first run scoring — and took advantage. On another day, they might not have taken advantage. Sometimes, a team needs a break to kiss off Despair.
Starting pitcher Jake Peavy watched the play from the dugout. “It’s not something you talk about,” he said. “Everybody’s so into the game. But you could certainly see the energy in the dugout with us catching that break and Angel getting that big hit there to put us ahead. It (the call reversal) certainly changed the complexion of that game in a hurry.”
It sure did.
Bochy, looking relieved, looking like he finally could inhale, discussed the big play afterward.
“I wanted to see if he was blocking the plate. The reply we got, he was. It’s a rule. I know this rule it’s created a lot of controversy. They talk about reviewing it at the end of the season, maybe tweaking it. But it is a rule. You can’t block the plate without the ball. We’ll take it. It’s part of the game now. It’s good to get a win. You take it any way you can. We were due for a big inning. When your offense is struggling, you need a break somewhere. It could be a bad hop, a blooper that falls in, anything. Sometimes it takes something strange to break out the offense.”
I asked Bochy what his goal is the rest of the season. He didn’t mind the question. He seemed to welcome it.
“In our position, our goal is to hope we play good ball and can get to a playoff situation. We’re down to 42 games. This has now become more of a sprint. The margin of error is not quite there. This will be critical this next month. I know we have more than one month, but we’ve got to find a way to get on track and get some wins, especially here at home.
“We’ve put ourselves in a pretty good position. Granted, we’ve had our struggles, especially here at home. It’s not easy when you go through something like this. But because of our good play early in the season, we have put ourselves in a situation where we can get there. It comes down to our play and how bad we want it.”
It sure does. For one day, the Giants looked like a team that may survive its awfulness. They got their break. What can they do with it?