San Francisco Giants' First Trip to La La Land Feels Worse Than It Was
Let's get it out there right up front—there is very little one can do to sugar-coat a San Francisco Giants loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers sealed by a Manny Ramirez pinch-hit, two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Especially when you consider Major League Baseball's most tiresome clown conspired with a hanging slider from Sergio Romo (in a 1-2 count no less) to deliver the rubber match and series to his fellow Bums.
Nope, that's one of those moments you simply have to wear as a baseball fan.
It happens and there will be more. So pick yourself up and don't rub it.
The 162-game marathon affords far too many opportunities for torture to break after the first one. That's why baseball die-hards must be made of thicker stuff than most other fanatics.
We've got to be more nuanced as well—it's a necessary survival/coping mechanism.
For instance, heads would be in ovens all around the Bay Area if the Orange and Black faithful were so limited as to fall prey to the City of Angels and its obsession with superficiality.
If we could see the trio of games only as a blowout on each side and another wasted gem from Barry Zito, all hope might reasonably be lost.
Mercifully, the haze of agony from the groin shot in the finale has already lifted enough for a more thorough inventory to be taken. The picture it reveals is much prettier than the ugliness in the box score.
In reality, the trip to Los Angeles went a little better than expected.
True, the Bums came in a bit chewed up by a rugged confrontation with the Arizona Diamondbacks that saw a pair of extra inning affairs. The enemy certainly wasn't firing on all cylinders and the starting pitching was/is/will continue to be a mess so a Dodger might say the deck was actually stacked in Los Gigantes' favor.
Of course, that's what makes them Dodger fans.
This is one of those rivalries where even the teams' most immediate pasts are rendered almost entirely moot by the emotion and energy of the yard. In this case, the setting was Dodger Stadium so the considerable home field advantage resided in the Bums' dugout.
That at least balanced the scales of momentum coming into the weekend, if not tipped them toward L.A.
Furthermore, the schedule aligned such that San Francisco sent two of its weakest starters into the meat-grinder. With Todd Wellemeyer getting the first game and Zito twirling in the third, the Dodgers weren't taking the Gents' best punches.
They caught a haymaker in the second game when Tim Lincecum befuddled the opposing splinters, but the Freak is mostly human. Even he can't deliver two wins in one appearance.
Granted, the boys in blue weren't exactly running Cy Young candidates to the bump in Vicente Padilla, Charlie Haeger, and Clayton Kershaw (who didn't face off against Lincecum). Nevertheless, any casual observer of the National League West will tell you the match-ups create much bigger issues for the Giants on paper.
If San Fran can't send one of its aces to toe the slab, it becomes a mediocre competitor because the lineup is still weak.
Meanwhile, Los Doyers are pegged as dangerous playoff contenders despite that vulnerable starting rotation (i.e. they are designed to win regardless of who takes the mound). For the defending NL West champs, good pitching is a bonus.
Consequently, the Baseball Gods didn't set the table for a good three games from the Giant side of life. With the Franchise pitching on Saturday, one win in three seemed likely—anything more or less seemed improbable.
Well, one win is exactly what the fellas got.
Still, they did got some other nice perks.
The bats went toe-to-toe with one of the best offenses in baseball and held their own without Pablo Sandoval (2-for-10, 3 BB, 1 HR, 4 K) doing much damage. San Francisco won't want to make a habit of gripping and ripping, but it's nice to know the splinters have it in 'em and it all doesn't have to come from a single individual.
Additionally, the aforementioned Zito authored another scintillating performance in the young 2010 season. As good as he's been to date, this one had a different feel to it.
The looping southpaw was crisp and pounding the strike zone as he had in his two previous starts, but he wasn't facing the Houston Astros or the Pittsburgh Pirates this time around. Much as I detest them, the Dodgers have some sincerely explosive lumber so baffling them for 7.1 innings is no small feat.
Baked Zito permitted a scant five baserunners (four hits and a walk) and an earned run. He also contributed three whiffs for his cause.
Yes, Sunday's loss hurt and it gave the Los Angeles Dodgers a series that looked to belong to the San Francisco Giants. Yes, winning is always better than losing and winning two of three is always better than losing two of three.
But, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.
And the details tell a rosier story.
They have to.