Here is a link to my Friday column. The full text runs below:
SAN FRANCISCO — Be real clear about what the Giants just did. They took a series from the Cubs who had not lost a road series since late June. The Cubs are the hottest team in baseball. You could look it up. The Giants cooled the Cubs’ jets.
The Giants lost the first game of the three-game series and then just handed it to Chicago — blitzed the Cubs 9-1 on Thursday. A laugher. Mauled the Cubs. Sent them into temporary hibernation. The Giants took the series from the Cubs with their “B” lineup. So many injured Giants. The Giants didn’t care. They keep coming.
So people need to think twice before they write off the Giants. They are 2½ games behind the staggering Dodgers. They play six more games head to head with the Dodgers. They will catch and pass the Dodgers and win the National League West. The Giants have a better bullpen than the Dodgers and they are a more together team and they have a better manager and front office.
The Giants beat the Cubs on Thursday for several reasons. One reason was Madison Bumgarner. He got his 16th win. If you were a big-league manager and had one game you absolutely needed to win, you’d put Bumgarner on the mound. Bumgarner. And no one else.
He is the picture of poise. Poise under stress. Poise anytime. He stands on the far right side of the rubber. Looks at Buster Posey’s fingers. He holds his glove to his chin. He peers over the glove. Statue-like. The game follows his pace. The world stops until he rocks back and goes into his windup. So easy. So controlled. All in rhythm.
With his beard he looks like a guy who lives in a cabin in the woods and eats tree bark and talks to the squirrels. He is 6-5, 235. How would you like to face him? He pitches against a good team like the Cubs and you think that team is no good. It sure doesn’t look good. Because of him. He struck out 12 in six innings, gave up one run. Bruce Bochy said Bumgarner has “that great maniacal focus.”
After the game, Bumgarner walked to the middle of the clubhouse for his interview. “How come you came out after 98 pitches?” I asked. He looked more startled than he’d looked on the mound. “That’s an odd way to start an interview,” he said. “Ask the manager. I don’t know. We’ve got guys who are more than capable of finishing the game.”
“Were you tired?”
“No. If I was, I wouldn’t admit it, either.”
A tough guy.
Another reason the Giants won was rookie second baseman Kelby Tomlinson, who hit his first home run in the bottom of the eighth — a grand slam. Look, the Giants had the game won without the grand slam, but come on, it was Tomlinson’s first major-league dinger and the Cubs intentionally walked Marlon Byrd to get to Tomlinson and what Tomlinson did was too delicious. He got fooled on a curveball on the first pitch of the at-bat and told himself he’d get another one of those and he did and he hit it into the seats.
“You always dream you’re playing in a yard,” he said with gosh-oh-gee innocence. “You don’t just dream of getting a base hit. You always dream of hitting a home run and it being a grand slam. Kind of surreal to actually do it.”
Tomlinson wears dark-rimmed glasses and looks like Clark Kent’s kid brother. He took over for Joe Panik at second — when Panik went down people might have thought the Giants were in deep trouble. Not so. Here is Bochy on Tomlinson: “He’s got a nice short swing. Hits to all fields. I guess he showed he’s got a little pop, too.”
Here’s another reason the Giants won. Mike Broadway. Relief pitcher. Worked the top of the eighth. Three up. Three down. Two strikeouts. I need to admit something. I’m writing about Broadway because of his name. One of the all-time great sports names. Broadway, the Great White Way — I’m talking New York. You can hear an announcer oohing about Broadway’s fastball: “Broadway threw that ball right down Broadway and Joe Blow couldn’t hit it.”
I asked Broadway how his family got its name.
“I honestly have no idea,” he said.
“Does it go back generations?”
“It does. I don’t come across a lot of Broadways. There were two other ones in baseball. There was a Larry Broadway and a Lance Broadway. I get asked to sign their cards now and then.”
“Have you ever walked on Broadway in New York?
“I have not,” Broadway said about Broadway. “I’ve driven through New York City, but I’ve never gotten out.”
Broadway — the player, not the street — grew up in Golconda, Ill., population 726. The farthest thing from Broadway the street. If he makes a big hit in San Francisco, he can get the nickname Mike Van Ness.
One final note. After the game, I said to Bochy, even though his team is hurting and even though the Giants are trailing the Dodgers, does he experience this season as fun?
“It has to be,” he said. “It’s why you play the game. I’ve been on the other end. You’re out of it. Makes it a long season. You’re probably a little tired at this point, but who’s not? Both teams are. You have to enjoy it because there are so many times you are not in this situation. I know I do. Going into spring training, we talked about, ‘You want to be in the hunt and play every game like it’s the seventh game of the World Series.’ ”
Fun. Suspense. Drama. Disappointment. Joy. Giants baseball.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.