I trust you had a good time as a Giants fan last night. Is it too much to hope you’ll remain one? As our kind readers have assured me, the San Francisco bandwagon has room for all. I can’t imagine why you’d want to leave it—the Giants are too much fun. Last night they put a lanky kid named Madison Bumgarner on the mound. He recently bought a bull calf for his wife’s birthday. (She requested it.) He’s twenty-one years old, their number-four starter, but he pitched a game for the ages.
Of course, he had help. We’ve been talking about pitching and hitting—what about fielding? Josh Hamilton probably had the highlight last night, with a slip-‘n’-slide catch in center to save an RBI single, but the Giants played a monster defensive game. Cody Ross continued his postseason heroics by making a grab on the slide. The infielders spun double plays with abandon (and a little good playacting, fooling the umps on at least one occasion). And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sight of Freddy Sanchez flinging himself up and back to snare a shot that seemed destined for right field. Fully extended, leaning back blindly, somersaulting to protect the precariously held ball—it was a leap of faith.
Faith in himself and in physics, in the determined arc of a batted ball. Who needs gods when you have such gloves? The Giants’ first two wins had commentators giving credit to the alignment of the stars. ESPN’s Jayson Stark invoked the heavens so many times that I started to think he was serious. In game 4, the Giants proved once and for all that the answer to their success is simple: They’re really, really good, better than the Rangers! They’re lucky, too. Luck is part of the game. The Giants control what they can control, and they shrug off the rest.
Which is more than you can say for the Rangers. When Derek Holland came on last night and started throwing ball after ball—after walking three in a row in game 2—I wanted to hide my eyes. He settled down, but still, he was a reminder that baseball is not really a game of wins, but of losses. Hits are hard to come by. Sometimes—as Cliff Lee found out in game 1—curveballs don’t curve. Every time one player succeeds, another fails—and sometimes an entire team with him. When Sanchez made that miraculous catch, Jeff Francoeur was out. The Rangers may be next.
Pitchers bear the burden of our wish to be perfect, because sometimes, somehow, they are. Cliff Lee is set to pitch next for Texas, which means that, despite our fine hospitality to you, you’ll be rooting for the Rangers. You want perfection. You want to worship.
No one would accuse the Giants of being perfect. Even if Lincecum pitches a no-hitter, he’ll be a human freak, not a god. I’m hoping the Giants close out the series tonight. They play with exuberance and they seem to play with joy. That’s enough, more than enough.