Here is a link to my Saturday column about the Giants’ win over the Nationals. The full text runs below:
The Giants sure have something between their legs. They proved that yet again, beating the Nationals 3-2 in a tense, thrilling, unnerving and exhilarating game to start this Division Series.
Please excuse the anatomical reference, that between-the-legs allusion. But it is the prevailing metaphor here. It is what Tim Hudson said the Giants have — something “between their legs.” He meant they have something extra, something beyond talent. What Hudson said ticked off the Nationals who thought Hudson meant they didn’t have the right stuff, or whatever. We’re using euphemisms here because this is a family paper. The point is, on Friday, the Giants had “it” in abundance.
They came into D.C., into the Nationals’ yard and didn’t flinch and didn’t back down and never fell behind. They stood up to the Nationals’ seventh-inning rally — you knew the Nationals would rally. The rally consisted of two loud, thwacking, honking home runs off rookie Hunter Strickland. But the Giants stood. They endured. They won.
Give credit to Strickland. He jogged into the game in the bottom of the sixth, the Giants up by two, the bases loaded, the game on the line. And he struck out Ian Desmond on 100-mile-per-hour gas, blew Desmond away.
Jeremy Affeldt, sweating at his locker afterward, admitting he was more nervous than he expected when he entered the game, said Strickland’s bases-loaded K was the turning point of the game. He said Strickland should forget the two home runs. The strikeout was what mattered.
The Giants showed they have what it takes — that metaphor again — in the bottom of the eighth when the Nationals put the potential go-ahead run on base against Sergio Romo. But Romo shut the Nationals down. Romo held. The Giants held. They won.
“It was me out there,” Romo said later. “It was my inning. When I’m not in the closer role, I feel I’m saving the game in the eighth or seventh inning, whichever way I get in.”
When Romo turned away the eager, scary, threatening Nationals in the eighth, he gave the ultimate display of — let’s call it guts. Here is Romo, at his most eloquent:
“I just feel we understand what’s at stake. We understand that it takes a little bit more than talent, so to speak. Talent gets you here. Getting the job done during the season gets you here. It does take a little bit more to get you through this postseason.”
You see what I mean about prevailing metaphors. All the Giants are using it now.
Romo continued, trying to define what the Giants bring to the postseason: “It’s definitely character,” he said. “It’s that not-giving-the-fear-credit factor. Not giving the fear a face. That’s what I’ve seen throughout my postseason experiences on this team. No matter who, what, where or when, with all due respect, we’re coming for it.”
Starting pitcher Jake Peavy refused to give fear a face. He got the win. He gave up two hits. He gave up no runs.
“We understand we might not be man for man the favorites,” he said. “We are not given a lot of credit. We take a lot of pride being chained together. Our strength is in who we are as a team.”
Peavy has the word “Outsider” tattooed on his left forearm in large blue letters. It looks like his sign or his emblem or his credo. He is a team player but he advertises his outsiderness. This standing apart must help him, surely helped him stand up to the Nationals.
“I didn’t leave the South much,” he said.
“I was in a lot of situations where I was uncomfortable, in fancy hotels, maybe speaking to people, maybe I didn’t have the education to speak of. ‘Outsider’ is a way to be comfortable when you are uncomfortable, if that makes sense at all. I love people who do it their way. It’s a good reminder that you don’t have to be like everybody else to be right.”
The Giants’ postseason attitude, their togetherness and their outsiderness — they do feel like outsiders in this postseason — well, they are who they are because of Bruce Bochy. That is the truth. Bochy, the manager, is a truth of life.
In his era, the Giants never have lost a postseason series. The Giants have won seven postseason series in a row. They have won nine postseason games in a row. In those nine postseason victories, the pitching staff has an earned-run average lower than 1.00.
The Giants get into a postseason state of mind. We’ve seen it before. The state of mind is serious, unflappable, determined, single-minded, grim, undistracted. It is the Bochy state of mind.
What is the Bochy state of mind?
Bochy is almost boring in his attention to the task at hand. He immerses himself in the moment — this single moment, right now. He is businesslike. He is unemotional. He is relentless. He doesn’t worry — or even think about — Angel Pagan and Michael Morse not being here. That doesn’t matter. He’ll bring his 25 guys to play your 25 and let’s see who’s better.
His team is a grinding team. He is a grinding man. He is more determined than you are, more determined than anyone is. The Giants are in his image. They get singles. They move runners along. Their starting pitchers, except for Madison Bumgarner, go five or six innings — Peavy went 52/3 — and then the bullpen takes over. And it is a shut-down bullpen.
Affeldt on Bochy: “I would give a ton of credit to his matchups, his ability to put certain guys in certain situations, his bullpen matchups, who he starts in which game, lineups. He manages the game as good as anybody I’ve ever seen. I’ve come to learn that.”
The Giants had a weird regular season. You know that. They had a so-so regular season. But they are made for what comes after the regular season. They have an abundance of what Hudson was talking about.
Even if I’m not allowed to write it.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.