Greetings from San Francisco

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SAN FRANCISCO — Because of personal weekend travel on top of World Series travel, I wake up this morning in the third different time zone in the space of four days. I’ve wrestled American Airlines to something close to a draw — they may not have given me what I wanted for all of my trouble but I am certain now, based on their disdain for their customers, that I will outlive them — and I am staring six days of World Series coverage right between the eyes.  I may be tired, but I am winning.

But who is winning this World Series?  Such bets are for suckers. A proposition that, if we didn’t know before this month, we certainly know after seeing the improbable occur again and again this postseason.

As late as mid-September the Tigers looked like they’d be golfing right now. An 88-win team which seems remarkably well-constructed for the playoffs. A team which is going to start Delmon Young in the vast expanses of AT&T Park’s left field tonight and presumably tomorrow and who counts Phil Coke of all people their most reliable reliever is favored by the people who are supposed to know these things.

For personal reasons I watched the Tigers more this year than I had since I was 11, and not one time until they started sawing off Yankees bats in the ALCS did I look at them and say “yes, that’s your probable World Series champ.” But I am inclined to say it now. It’s a mild inclination, one I may forget as soon as pitches begin to be thrown in anger tonight, but an inclination all the same.

But what of these Giants?  One thing noted by several smart people in the past 24 hours is that while they may be playing cardiac kids again this year and may have some flaws of their won, they match up well with these Tigers. The Giants don’t strike out a lot and don’t hit a lot of homers which means a lot of chances for opposing defenders to make fools out of themselves.  The Tigers, of course, have a defense that could very well be exposed in such an instance. Or maybe they could just defy the predispositions of Giants hitters and strike everyone out like they’ve been doing a lot of lately. I don’t know, but we kind of have a neat matchup in that regard.

Intangibles are pure rot, but if fan enthusiasm has any bearing on this sort of thing, the Giants should actually be your favorites. When I got off the plane at SFO, this was the first thing I saw in the airport:

source:

OK, that has nothing to do with anything apart from my never-ending wonder at how on-the-nose Californian this city can be.  But the point here is that I have been here before, several times over the past 15 or 20 years thanks to many friends calling it home, and never in all of those visits have I seen so much conspicuous Giants gear festooning the place.

I’m sure it was nutso in 2010 as well, but you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an old person wearing a Giants cap, a young person rocking Giants shirt, a bus flashing “Go Giants” from its route sign and every bar, restaurant, bodega and coffee shop sporting a banner or a sign (a couple of them still say “Beat L.A.,” but old habits die hard). And it’s not just in SoMa where I’m staying or right over in front of the park. It’s everywhere. Not long after I hit town last night I hopped a train down to have dinner with a friend in Belmont and the orange an black was flying high down there as well.

There’s an electricity in this city as I awake this morning. A bursting-at-the-seams energy that is poised to explode when Barry Zito — Barry Zito?! — throws the first pitch of Game 1 of the 2012 World Series. I’m assuming that electricity exists in other cities just before the World Series begins too, but this is my first World Series and I find it a remarkable departure from the norm.

And I kind of love it.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Astros 16, Twins 8: Most of the time, if you take an 8-2 lead into the eighth inning, you’re gonna win that game. But just most of the time. Some of the time your bullpen is gonna give up 14 runs in the final two innings like Minnesota’s did here. Eleven of those runs came in the eighth, thanks to eight hits, two walks, a hit batter and a balk. Two of those eighth inning hits were from Carlos Beltran who singled and later hit a three-run homer. The Twins played a 15-inning game on Sunday so that pen was taxed already, but this was kinda ridiculous. Houston has won five in a row and has the best record in baseball.

Nationals 3, Giants 0: Fisticuffsmanship! As you’ve seen by now, Bryce Harper charged the mound and tussled with Giants reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a pitch in the eighth inning and both were ejected. What you may not have seen is just how “nah, not my problem” Buster Posey and Strickland’s teammates were about it all when Harper went after their man:

After the game Posey said he wasn’t going to get into the middle of a bunch of big guys tumbling around, but you have to figure that part of it was disapproval of Strickland plunking Harper over what seems to be a three-year old grudge over Harper hitting a couple of homers off of him him in the playoffs. Which is about as immature as it gets. A close second on the immaturity scale: Strickland having to be dragged off the field by his teammates like he was:

You have to figure that a lot of Giants vets are not too pleased with Hunter Strickland this morning.

White Sox 5, Red Sox 4: Melky Cabrera hit a three-run homer and knocked in a fourth run — the go-ahead run — with an infield single in the seventh. For Boston, David Price made his season debut and was meh, allowing three runs in five innings. Dustin Pedroia sprained his wrist and is heading back to Boston for tests. In other news, while I am aware that David Price and Dustin Pedroia are big stars and the events surrounding them in this game is news, it is rather odd to read a game story about a White Sox win in which a White Sox player drives in four runs and not have a single mention of the White Sox until the seventh paragraph. 

Dodgers 5, Cardinals 1: Rich Hill made his second straight start against the Cardinals. This one went better than the last one, in which he gave up five runs in four innings. Here he allowed only one run on two hits over five. He’s still not super efficient as he’s trying to adjust his mechanics to accommodate his blister issues, but he was effective. In other news, I was watching this one with my wife. Chase Utley comes to the plate and we talk about him some. I say something to the effect of “he’s been heating up lately, but I think he’s kind of toast at this point.” Literally four seconds after I finish the thought Utley hit a homer. Cody Bellinger and Logan Forsythe homered too, but their timing wasn’t as good.

Mariners 6, Rockies 5: It’s not often that you use seven pitchers in a game and still win it, but that’s what Seattle did with rookie Sam Gaviglio and six of his friends getting it done, more or less. They had help from Danny Valencia, who had three hits and Kyle Seager who knocked in two with a double.

Orioles 3, Yankees 2: The O’s snap a seven-game slide thanks to seven strong innings from Dylan Bundy and a couple of runs knocked in by Jonathan Schoop.

Pirates 4, Diamondbacks 3Chris Iannetta of the Dbacks tied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-run homer to left off Pirates closer Tony Watson, but then Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the ninth with a walkoff homer. From deflating to elating in the space of mere minutes.

Indians 5, Athletics 3: Carlos Carrasco took a shutout into the seventh and ended up allowing two runs while striking out seven over seven. The Tribe got homers from Austin Jackson, Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion is hitting .348 and has three homers in the past week, so people freaking out about that signing being a bust can relax some.

Mets 4, Brewers 2: Robert Gsellman allowed two runs — only one earned — over seven innings. He also drove in one via a sac fly in the fifth and another by drawing a walk with the bases loaded in the sixth. That walk was issued by Milwaukee reliever Rob Scahill, who just prior hit a guy to load the bases. The run from the walk wasn’t charged to Scahill, who wasn’t the guy who put the guy who scored on base, but boy howdy that’s some less-than-stellar relief work.

Padres 5, Cubs 2: Hunter Renfroe hit a grand slam that helped send the Cubs to their fourth straight loss. Weird stat: the Cubs had only three hits but they drew 10 walks and had two batters hit by pitches. Only scoring two runs with fifteen base runners to work with is bad, but so is a team allowing 15 bases runners in that fashion. Even in victory the Padres make you smack your head.

Tigers 10, Royals 7: The Tigers’ late rally wasn’t as impressive as Houston’s, but they were down 7-6 in the eighth and put up a four-spot. Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run single that inning and reached base four times. One of the times came when he walked with the bases loaded in a six-run Detroit fifth inning.

Blue Jays 17, Reds 2: This was a bloodbath. Troy Tulowitzki hit a grand slam, Justin Smoak hit a three-run homer and Russell Martin added a two-run shot. Toronto had 23 hits. Their franchise record for hits in a game is 25, which came against Texas back in 1999.

Marlins 4, Phillies 1: Edinson Volquez got his first win of the season after seven losses, allowing one run and three hits in six innings. Derek Dietrich hit a two-run homer and Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton each drove in a run.

Rays 10, Rangers 8Tim Beckham hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the Rays’ five-run seventh inning. Colby Rasmus hit a two-run double in that same frame. Steven Souza had four hits and scored four times.

Braves 6, Angels 3Matt Adams and Danny Santana each had two-run doubles during Atlanta’s six-run third inning. The Angels were probably catatonic anyway, as they learned before the game yesterday that they’re going to be without Mike Trout for an extended period. Dead Team Walking.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.