Here is a link to my Wednesday column about the Giants’ win in Game 3. The full text runs below:
The game had “loss” written all over it. A Giants’ loss.
They crushed the great John Lackey in the first inning and then they did nothing inning after inning. Probably because Lackey figured out what he did wrong.
The Giants were futility personified. They let the Cardinals back into the game — the Cardinals who are always knocking down the front door, rudely breaking down the front door. The Giants led 4-0 and then the game was tied. And you just knew the Cardinals, so tough, had grabbed the initiative. Would find a way to win.
But they didn’t find a way to win. They found a way to lose. That awful throw from reliever Randy Choate after he fielded a Gregor Blanco bunt, Choate’s throw that sailed past first base into right field, Brandon Crawford dashing home from second base. And the game was over in the 10th inning. And, just like that, the Giants took a 2-1 lead in this seven-game series.
The past two games have been great games. You know that. You watch them and realize playoff baseball is special. There is nothing like it. And you realize the Giants and Cardinals, so closely matched, so beautifully matched, play one-mistake ball — the one mistake that decides the heart-throbbing, palm-sweating close game. Call it Tragedy Baseball.
The mistake in Game 2 was when Sergio Romo grooved a changeup to Kolten Wong. Walkoff homer. See you later.
The mistake in Game 3 was Choate’s throw that led to the Crawford Express that led to the Cardinals’ sudden death that led to the Giants’ win.
One-mistake, sudden-death, tragic baseball is the most exciting baseball.
Try to recall the bottom of the 10th. Not just the final play. Everything that led up to it.
Choate is a good pitcher. He is reliable. He knows his business. In the 10th he went into slow motion. After every pitch, he paced the mound, a man thinking about the meaning of his life. He would walk to the rubber, make shoe contact with the rubber and stare in for the sign. He would stare in a long time. And then he would start his motion and throw the ball and then he would start his slow-mo routine all over again.
Why did he go slowly?
Because every one of his actions was fraught with danger and could lead to sudden death. Choate certainly knew that. And he still could not escape that death, as Romo had not escaped the game before.
Afterward, Bruce Bochy came to the big interview room, tried to make sense of this series, a celebration of organized chaos:
“I’m a little delirious, I guess.”
And then Bochy laughed from sheer joy or sheer delirium. You don’t expect that big man to be downright giggly. But he was.
“Man, these are hard-fought games,” he said. “We don’t do anything easy. We score four in the first and, you know, don’t do anything after that, and they chip away. I mean, they battled hard to get back in it, tied the game. That’s who these two clubs are. We’ve had two great ballgames, exciting games. But it’s something you’re used to. It’s kind of our way.”
It’s also the Cardinals’ way. It’s like the Cardinals and Giants share a personality.
You know the personality. Hardnosed. Confident. Mean. Smart. Clever. Opportunistic. Good.
Tim Hudson, delirious in his own right from the win, took time to pay homage to the Cards. “Obviously, you have to give those guys credit,” he said. “They scratched back. They do what they do. They go out there and find ways to try to grind and get back into the ballgame and they had themselves in position to make it their ballgame late. But we did what it took to get that final run in that final inning. That’s all that matters.”
I’ll tell you something else about personalities. Bochy and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny also share a personality. Adjectives that apply to Matheny: serious, unfazed, strict, determined, demanding. The list could go on.
He came to the postgame interview room before Bochy — the protocol demands the losing manager must talk first. He spoke about the bad throw in a neutral voice, a voice without tone or emotion. He is a man detached. “He’s a good fielder,” Matheny said about Choate. “Errors happen. That’s it.”
No boo hoo. No excuses. No nothing. A simple, “That’s it.”
What do the similarities between the Cardinals and Giants, and between Bochy and Matheny tell us?
Both teams will play until hell freezes over. Nine innings is irrelevant to them. Being down or up is irrelevant to them. Time of game is irrelevant to them. Using up the bench and all the relievers is irrelevant to them. Neither team will go away. They will work out their mutual problem publicly and they will do it in joy. And they will play.
The Giants did not curl into the fetal position after losing grimly in Game 2. Believe me, the Cards haven’t gone all fetal after losing grimly on Choate’s throw. It’s not how they act. Not who they are.
“Nothing changes,” Bochy said after he had come down from his delirium. “You have to have the same mentality. Wins are nice, losses are tough. But both of them you have to wash off.
“It’s great that these guys are enjoying this win, but you’ve got to put that behind you, come out here and get after it tomorrow.”
By “tomorrow” he meant today. Wednesday. Great series. Great baseball. Bring it on.
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.