Here is a link to my Sunday column about the Giants’ win in Game 2. The full text runs below:
What was the sound of Brandon Belt’s home run leaving the ballpark?
It was an explosion. You could hear the explosion clearly in Nationals Park because so many fans had left. The sound of the bat’s sweet spot cracking the ball rocketed through the stands.
It was the top of the 18th inning, for crying out loud, almost six hours after the game started and it was cold — autumn descended on D.C. at game time. And the sound of the home run was loud and definitive and, for the Nationals, it was the sound of doom.
That’s what the home run sounded like, doom. If not doom itself, then approaching doom. Looming doom. Belt did not go to the plate looking for the long ball. “I wanted to have a good at-bat,” he said later. “I’m not necessarily looking for a result. Fortunately, I had a good swing and put it out of the ballpark. It’s something you dream about your whole life. Thankfully, it went over.”
Because of Belt’s home run that won the game 2-1, the world just became a very hard place for the Washington Nationals.
They have to win two games in San Francisco to avoid doom and, in the first game on Monday, they face Madison Bumgarner — talented, remorseless, unforgiving. Good luck.
You could say, as the Giants have been saying all during this series, that they have something extra. This something is associated with a body part. And this game proved them correct. They were down to their last out in the ninth inning, down by a run, but they tied the game — thanks to a Pablo Sandoval double.
After that, the siege began — both teams involved in the siege. Inning after inning, it was the most serious baseball you’ve ever seen. Good pitchers shutting down good hitters. Every fly ball, every grounder, every pitch, every out a war. Baseball cannot be any better than this. The game was epic, heroic, an instant classic.
But the Giants won. They endured and, finally, they prevailed.
Here is their roll call of heroes. Tim Hudson. Sandoval. Yusmeiro Petit who, in relief, threw six innings of shutout ball. And finally, Belt.
Belt dropped out for a while this season with a concussion. He wasn’t sure he would be right for the playoffs. He had double vision and worried about his career. He finally worked things out through time and patience and with visual exercises that got his eyes and arms working together.
Now, it’s essential to talk about two key characters in this drama: Hudson and Nationals manager Matt Williams.
First, Hudson. This column is an homage to Hudson. He went through a period of mediocrity this season. His hip hurt. He couldn’t throw right. His pitches came in high and he lost his sinker and he lost his command. And he seemed damaged and old. It was risky to start him against the Nationals.
But he threw 71/3 innings. He gave up one run. He struck out eight. He walked none.
I hope you watched him pitch Saturday night. I hope you watched him pitch in his career. Everything he does is slow, premeditated. You wouldn’t say the game runs according to his watch. It runs according to his calendar. He takes months out there on the mound. Not minutes. Or seconds. We’re talking months.
But there is a reason for his slowness. Every single pitch has a purpose, a logic, is a statement about the moment. After a pitch, he walks back up the hill slowly, a man climbing a familiar mountain. He walks to the back of the mound and rubs the ball. He makes the batter wait. The at-bat is according to his agenda, no one else’s. He is in charge.
As he puts foot on rubber, he is thinking, planning, taking stock. He does not throw hard. He has learned wisdom with age — he’s 39. With him it is mind over batter. He is a craftsman, someone who does fine woodwork. Or he is a poet. Or he is an artist who plays tenor sax and makes you cry with his art.
When Bruce Bochy took him out, the crowd booed because of what he said about the Giants having guts — or whatever. The crowd thought he meant the home team doesn’t have guts. He didn’t say that. So, the crowd booed. Things get lost in translation and, besides, in a drama like this the home crowd needs a villain.
OK, that was my homage to Hudson. Now comes Matt Williams. There will be no homage to him.
He took out his starting pitcher, the superb Jordan Zimmermann, in the top of the ninth with two outs. Zimmermann had given up no runs. Zimmermann was still sharp. Zimmermann had just walked Joe Panik. That’s when Williams panicked. Williams brought in reliever Drew Storen, who blew the one-run lead and then the Giants held on a long time and then they won.
Here is Hudson on Williams taking out Zimmermann. “They took him out in the ninth inning. I was pretty happy he wasn’t out there anymore. Zimmermann was really tough on us all night.”
Was Hudson surprised Williams took him out?
“I wasn’t surprised, but I knew he’s really good. He was making great pitches on us all night. They could have brought in Sandy Koufax and we probably would have had a smile on our face.”
That Sandy Koufax line was the killer line. Call it damning. The Giants won because they have been tougher than the Nationals so far and they have been better and, according to the available evidence, Bochy is a better manager than Williams.
As I say, the world just became a very hard place for the Washington Nationals.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.