Posts Tagged ‘san francisco giants’

Perfection is a two-sided coin

One of the sides of that coin is pretty and bright and gets pressed to the lips of the pretty girl. The other side of the coin is the side that stuck it to the sidewalk the first place. The jolt of excitement at seeing the shiny side lasts until you grab it and find the muck on the hidden side.

This morning is the coin-grabbing time.

Watching the final pitches of San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain’s virtuoso performance against the Houston Astros, I felt the youthful, nervous excitement that I felt when I watched Cal Ripken break Lou Gehrig’s record and when I saw Craig Biggio reach and pass 3000 hits. The glare from the shine of the coin blocked out the troublesome shadow for a moment: the Astros got done up in historical fashion.

This morning, the drubbing takes on a sadder, more fluorescent gloom for our Houston side. As I said to a co-worker: “it’s weird to root for your own team to lose even bigger.” It’s weird, but not hard. I watched with breathless anticipation, too, in the late hours of a Wednesday night. Gregor Blanco’s miraculous catch meant more to me than Jordan Schafer dropping one it to raise his average to two-thirty-whatever. Baseball is a game of moments, and there’s no shame in enjoying one at the expense of those who, after all, could have changed the outcome by rapping a few hits and allowing fewer runs.

Coins have two sides, but really this game only had one. J.A. Happ stunk it up along with his bullpen mates. They left one show in town: the Matt Cain show. America tuned in.

***

Every perfect game seems to have that one iconic defensive play to preserve it. A utility man or fourth outfielder extends himself the extra half a foot–driven, it feels like, by the performance on the distant mound–and his name becomes synonymous with the achievement. Welcome to the books, Gregor Blanco.

Gone to the Country

I tuned in to Milo Hamilton and Dave Raymond on the radio while driving back from a weekend at the ranch. There’s not a better way to acclimate to civilized society than baseball on the radio. I came in when the game was tied at 4 and headed into the deep innings, promising a tight game to keep me alert at the wheel–in stark contrast to my dog, who was passed out in the back seat having spent half of the weekend ill-advisedly barking down a palomino horse and the other half dodging the nips of a native Jack Russell Terrier.

Milo Hamilton, whatever his shortcomings as a broadcaster these days, is a master of the emotionally compelling baseball narrative. Early in my listening experience, for example, Milo reminded his audience of Henry Sosa’s proclivity for four-run starts just like the one he tallied on Sunday. That makes three in a row for the consistent young pitcher, and while I didn’t see or even hear much of his start, Sosa seemed to have once again wobbled early before righting the ship for a few more solid innings. Milo told me that story succinctly and with humor, highlighting the quirk in a tone of voice that reminded me of the familiar weirdness of baseball, which we are regularly reminded is a series of probabilities acted out on a board, even as we marvel at its strange inconsistencies.

I’d have also liked to see a couple of J.D. Martinez’s three hits and two runs batted in, though I did have the misfortune, once I settled back in at the house, to witness his utter failure in scoring even one run with the bases loaded and just an out in the crucial bottom of the ninth. J.D. actually took a third strike, which in that situation was viscerally akin to just outright wetting oneself. The tie remained, and it was on to extra innings, which I was able to enjoy on the teevee with Jim Deshaies and Bill Brown until I fell asleep, all country tired on a Sunday afternoon, following the Kung Fu Panda’s two-run roundhouse to center field. The promise of an eleventh inning rally wasn’t enough to keep me–or the dog for that matter–awake.

So where do we stand this year? The Astros acquitted themselves respectively against the San Francisco Giants still in the hunt, adding a couple of wins to tally up a four-game streak before the loss on Sunday. Jordan Lyles and Wandy Rodriguez both pitched well, and there are hitters on this team who are doing their best to prove that they are pro hitters.

Lyles

With the pitch count restrictions befitting a prized prospect in this modern era of arm management, I was curious to see how the Astros would stay within the innings limits that were placed on Jordan Lyles, in the 170 innings range. Would he simply sit for the last weeks of the season? Would he get the hook after three innings every start? We now have the answer: he’ll be demoted, then called up to serve as a reliever, according to Brian McTaggart at Astros.com. Lyles has a starter’s repertoire, with his lively but not overpowering fastball, a sneaky change-up, and an improving curveball. But logic would dictate that good pitches for a starter would be good pitches for a reliever. As the whole relief thing will be a short-term project with a well-defined end point, I can’t imagine this odd late season stint will have much of an impact on Lyles’ career one way or the other.

Jose’s Odyssey

Saturday evening, I had just stepped inside for a glass of water to escape the searing country heat when I got a text message from my friend Half Boot. “Inside-the-parker by Altuve!” I grinned. Context was irrelevant. In my mind’s eye, away from cable teevee or the Internet, I could see young Altuve on his fantastic voyage, scampering through the crowded void of space: passing forming nebula, skirting seething black holes, and dancing around fast-moving comets while the forces of entropy seeking disorder and disarray attempt, that being the completion of baseball’s perfect circle, the completion of the orbital circuit.