Results tagged ‘ SF Giants ’
You never know how important a play might be until the game plays itself out. You can’t know in the second inning, for example, that nailing Prince Fielder at the plate would be so huge. The way we were hitting and scoring in Game 1, one run for the Tigers would have been pretty meaningless. But as it turned out, we couldn’t afford to give an inch tonight.
I’m sure you saw the play. With Fielder on first, Delmon Young doubled down the left field line. I ran out to take the cutoff. Seeing Fielder round third base, Gregor fired the ball in. It sailed over my head. All I was thinking was, “I hope Marco’s there.’’
He was. He took the throw, spun and fired it home to Buster, who put down the tag and got Fielder.
After the game, reporters asked me if that’s how the play is drawn up. It is. We practice it in spring training. I go deep for the cutoff, and the second baseman follows behind me in case the throw is high or comes in on a short hop, and the third baseman covers third in case the runner tries to return to the base.
I still don’t know if Gregor overthrew the ball or if he meant to go to Marco. I’m sure I’ll find out in tomorrow’s paper. It doesn’t matter. It worked.
That’s how things have been going for us. Things seem to be breaking our way.
But it’s not luck. OK, maybe a little luck. But mostly I think you make your own luck. For example, usually if we haven’t scored a run through six innings, we’d be pressing. We could press ourselves right out of the game. But I didn’t see any of that. We were relaxed, confident that, with the way Bum was pitching, he’d keep them off the scoreboard. He had more life on the ball than his last outing and he was hitting all his spots. We wouldn’t need a lot of runs to win.
When I went up to bat with the bases loaded in the seventh and no outs, neither team had scored yet. I wanted to keep my approach as simple as possible, the way I would with two strikes. Don’t try to do too much. The infielders were playing normal depth, so it seemed they were conceding the run at home if I put the ball in play. That surprised me considering the strength of our bullpen.
When I grounded the ball to second base, I thought, “Oh no, double play.’’ Then: “OK, that will do.’’
Hunter scored from third, putting us up 1-0.
In retrospect, to be perfectly honest, I wish I had been more aggressive up there. Smyly, their pitcher, had nowhere to put me. He was going to have to throw strikes. But I didn’t know him. I might have faced him in Double A a couple years ago. I didn’t know what he was going to throw.
In any event, it’s probably the most productive out(s) I’ve ever made. The run put us ahead for good.
A lot of reporters have been asking about our defense. I’m really glad it’s getting some recognition. I think it’s been a key to our success. Our defense has been good the whole second half of the season. Our pitchers get some credit for that. They’ve been awesome. We know where to position ourselves defensively because we know our pitchers are going to hit their spots.
We need two more wins. Fifty-four outs.
But as you know we’re not accustomed to being ahead in a series. This is a new experience.
I like it.
My whole family is traveling to Detroit. Mom, Dad, my three sisters and Jalynne’s parents. The players, wives and staff have to be at the park tomorrow morning at 8:30 to board the buses to the airport. I know it will be a happy flight (made happier by the five different kinds of little cakes Barry Zito’s wife Amber has been making and sharing with everyone).
Maybe the next time we’re back in San Francisco, it will be for a parade. Is it bad luck to say that? But that’s how it feels. We feel we’re on a major roll, like nothing can stop us.
Of course, Cincinnati probably felt the same way.
OK, I take back the parade comment.
One game at a time. One out at a time. One pitch at a time.
It’s worked for us so far.
So that’s pretty much what everybody expected, right?
Seriously, it seems that every time we go up against a guy we know is going to be really tough, we step up and do really well. We did it with Kershaw, for one example. And tonight it was Verlander,
That’s kind of our M.O. The tougher the situation, the better we play. We dug holes for ourselves in the NLDS and NLCS and suddenly played out of our minds.
We get two outs – and suddenly we start racking up hits and runs. I’m curious to know how many runs we’ve scored in the postseason on two outs.
I was on a team like this at the University of Texas in 2009. We didn’t have the big-name talent, but we had chemistry – whatever that is, I really don’t know. All I know is it exists. On that UT team, we’d fight really hard with two outs. We’d never give in. We’d be down by a ton of runs, and we kept fighting. We overachieved and finished second in the nation that year.
That’s how this team is. Pelea, right?
The truth is I was really excited to go up against Verlander. I had watched him on TV and studied video. He doesn’t seem to have any flaws, which explains why he’s the reigning MVP and Cy Young winner. But I think every hitter wants to test himself against the best pitchers.
Still, all the preparation in the world guarantees nothing once you’re in the box and facing the pitcher himself. Between innings Bam-Bam watched video of Verlander’s pitches so far. He told me he was throwing a lot of fastballs. I went up looking for a fastball my first time up, and of course got a changeup. You just have to adjust on the fly. I hit it OK, flying out to center. My second at-bat, I was down 0-2 and worked him for a walk. I was pretty proud of that.
Why did we hit so well against him overall? We hit some pitches that maybe he missed a bit. But we also hit very good pitches in the zone. Our lineup showed a lot of discipline, waiting for mistakes and being aggressive when we saw one.
I loved having a close-up view of Zito tonight. He was great. When he missed a pitch, it was never over the plate. He missed outside the zone. He was just so locked in. He’s intense and focused but not so much that you can’t talk to him in the dugout. As a first-baseman, I sometimes can pick up on what runners are doing as far as trying to steal. So I talked to him about that. And I talked to him about what sign I’d give him to indicate I wanted him to throw over. He’s always so steady.
Of course the story of the night was Pablo. It’s just unbelievable what he did. The first home run, he had two strikes and hit the next pitch – a high strike that he had to get on top of. He back-spinned it out of the park. He hit the second home run on a tough down-and-away pitch and just crushed it. The third one was probably the best pitch he had all night.
Some people might think he just swings and he’s simply talented enough to hit the ball a long way. But he puts himself in favorable situations. He’ll get himself into hitter’s counts. He’ll work the pitcher. It’s not luck. There’s a method to his madness.
I’m heading home, or more accurately I’m walking back to the hotel. I wonder if cars will still be honking their horns and if people will still be going crazy. I hope so.
See you tomorrow, and thanks for reading.
I’m in the hotel room with Jalynne resting a little before I walk over to the ballpark at around 2:30. Last night was as frustrating a game as you can have. We had pitching, defense and offense – but we simply couldn’t get the hits when we needed them. It’s crazy to have 12 runners on base and score only one run.
But you’re going to have games like that. And you have to forget them.
We’re all sharing information with each other in the dugout about the pitcher: How’s Lohse’s slider today? Is the ball sinking more than usual? Can you pick up his changeup? I especially ask other left-handed hitters what they saw at their at-bat because that’s probably what I’ll see, too.
Before my first at-bat, either Pablo or Angel said Lohse threw him a backdoor slider or cutter. So with the count 3-2, sure enough I got a backdoor slider. If I hadn’t had that in my mind, I probably would thought the pitch was going outside and taken it for a called third strike. Instead, I was able to foul it off. I walked on the next pitch.
All those little things can really count.
I was happy to get two hits yesterday after getting robbed twice Monday night at our park, particularly on that line drive to short in the second inning. Jalynne retweeted a tweet from Alex Pavlovic: “Brandon Crawford just found out what it’s like to hit a ball to Brandon Crawford.’’
I thought that was funny.
The rain delay seemed like it would never end. I was walking around, eager to keep playing. I couldn’t sit still. I ate a Nutrigrain bar and drank some water. I wandered into the trainer’s room and sat around talking to the other guys in there. I went back to the clubhouse and watched TV. But the TV was showing the same video that was on the scoreboard outside: a review of the Cardinals’ 2011 championship season. Wilson and Mota and I think Timmy were playing dominoes. (There haven’t been many dominoes games this season because Wilson and Mota weren’t around.)
So I walked out to the dugout to check out the weather and the field. The dugout was packed with camera men and the grounds crew and TV reporters. Erin Andrews pulled me aside for a short interview, asking me how we were passing the time and what we were hearing about resuming the game. Then Theriot came out and joined me on the bench. We sat there the rest of the time, talking to whoever was around. Better than watching Cardinals’ highlights.
After the game, I went to dinner with Jalynne and my dad, who flew in for the series. Peter Magowan came over to say hi and introduced himself to my dad, which was really nice.
We’re all looking forward to seeing Timmy on the mound today. We’re confident that if we keep playing the way we’re playing, the hits will start to fall when we need them. The Cardinals are a tough team. A lot like us. You can never count them out.
Just like you can never count us out.
Thanks for reading.
Last week was a great week all around – a sweep to start the second half of the season and before that a trip back home for the All-Star break.
Haylee and I spent the first day back in Texas just hanging out with our parents. Then on Tuesday there was a little bitty get-together at the Barbecue House, which I told you is one of my favorite restaurants in Nacogdoches. It was just my grandma, my mom’s sisters and my coach from Little League. Sure enough, Maw-Maw had a stack of cards for me to sign as soon as I walked in.
Then I watched the All-Star game with some buddies, cheering for our guys like any other fan. They definitely represented the Giants very well. Matt Cain faced a brutal line-up of the best hitters in the American League, and he just shut them down. And Melky getting the MVP – I was so happy for him because he works sooo hard. He’s definitely somebody I look up to. And Pablo getting the triple and Posey scoring a run. It was awesome all around.
Of course when you’re around your friends and family, they want to know what guys are like personally off the field. It’s an easy answer for me because every guy on the team is a good guy.
So after writing about how I always wear my baseball pants old-school, I showed up for a game with long pants that covered my socks. “Kristen’’ and “Claire’’ called me on it in the comments section. Here’s the story. I have two pairs of old-school pants that come down to just below my knees. One of them has had a broken zipper for a while. So I had been wearing the same pair of pants every game. Then the zipper broke on that one. So I had to go grab a pair of Bumgarner’s pants and throw those on. Murph, the clubhouse manager, got the zippers fixed and had my pants back in time for the next game.
Obviously, I should get things fixed more promptly. Like my shaver. I told you last time that I hadn’t shaved in a week because my shaver broke. I was going to get a new one during our last road trip back east. I didn’t. So I went another week. I had a back-up razor but the batteries were dead. Finally I got batteries and shaved the night before the All-Star break. Back home in Texas, I was able to go out and find the shaver I’ve always had, the Peanut.
Another question from the comments: My pregame routine. After we take BP, we’re in the clubhouse for about an hour and a half. So right before the game, I’ll go in the batting cage behind the dugout and hit a few balls to get loose. Then on the field I’ll stretch my legs and upper body. Then I throw with Crawford. Most of us throw with the same guys every game. (If one or the other of us isn’t in the lineup, the other one will find somebody else to throw with.) Then I’ll do a couple sprints and I’m ready for the game.
Thanks, Dave Edlund, for telling me you fished my first home run of 2012 out of McCovey Cove. (And to your friend Greg for grabbing the next one.) The one I’d really like back is the first Splash Hit of my career (from last season). That would be pretty cool. If the person who has that ball wants to negotiate an exchange, I’m open.
Thanks, as always, for reading and for leaving your comments and questions. Wish us luck in Atlanta and Philly
I spent the All-Star break in Los Angeles with Jalynne and her family. We relaxed for a couple of days. Then on Wednesday she had a doctor’s appointment.
We found out we’re having a girl.
We’ve chosen a name but we’re not telling people yet.
It didn’t matter to me whether we were having a boy or a girl, just that the baby is healthy, which she is. We’re both really happy and excited about being new parents – and relieved that between Jalynne’s family and mine we’ll have plenty of support and advice.
We took in a movie (“Spiderman”) and watched the All-Star Game to see my teammates. (I turned it off when they left the game.) It was great to see our guys show what they can do, especially after all the talk about our fans stuffing the ballot box.
It’s funny that Jessica asked in the comments section, “What’s with the batting gloves in the back pockets?’’ It’s something I’ve done since high school. But I stopped doing it three weeks ago, thanks to Ryan Theriot and Matt Cain.
They decided one day to take away what they called my “flare.’’ They thought I had too much extra stuff going on with my uniform – the gloves in the back pockets, the wrist bands, the longer-sleeve shirt under my jersey. They took the items from my locker and hid them in a different locker. It was funny for a few days then I was like, “OK, give them back.’’
They did, but I decided to stick with the non-flare look. I haven’t put the gloves back in my pockets, and I wore the longer-sleeve shirt for the first time Friday night because it was so cold. The wrist tape stays, however, because it’s not a fashion statement but an injury-preventer.
Another recent change: My walk-up songs.
Actually they’ve changed a few times in the last few weeks. My walk-up songs for most of the season were Eminem’s “Writer’s Block’’ and Drake’s “Lord Knows.’’ I’d switch them back and forth. But I was lining out a lot, just having bad luck. So when I lined out a couple more times during a series last month, I thought, “Screw it. Time to change something up.’’
So I drastically changed it at the end of June. I went with Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger’’ and Katy Perry’s “Part of Me.’’ I got an RBI hit the first game and I’ve been hitting well for a couple weeks now. I think maybe they relaxed me a little. (The way this works is we tell media relations man Matt Chisholm before the game what we want and he relays the information to the public-address people, who download it from iTunes.)
Then I switched back to rap on Friday. I figured the second half of the season called for new music.
Another reader, mlcwriters, asked if we hear what’s shouted at us from the stands. You try not to, particularly if it’s something bad. You hear something negative and you can start to think, “Man, that was a bad play.’’ In baseball, it’s so important to forget about the bad stuff and move on, so the last thing you want is to be reminded of a mistake you made in the last inning. Of course, you hear the big chants. When they’re for us, they fire us up. When we’re in other ballparks and the chant is for the opposing team, it just sounds like noise.
Another question from comments section: What do you want to be called from the stands? “‘Brandon’ is hard to yell out . . . need nickname,’’ Mindy writes. I can’t make up my own nickname. That’s lame. My teammates call me Craw, Crawford, Crawdad. But I think you should make up a nickname and let me know. (I try to ignore people who call me John Stamos. So definitely don’t go there.)
Rebecca asks whether I get stopped in public for autographs and photos. All the Giants’ players do, and our guys, maybe more than most, appreciate all the support we get from our fans. So we try to be as responsive as we can. But it’s tough when we’re with our families or friends at a restaurant. We still want to be able to go to dinner with our wives and just have a nice quiet dinner. My advice is to ask for the autograph when the player is leaving the restaurant. They’ll appreciate that you let them enjoy their personal time.
See you at the park. Thanks for reading and keep sending in questions.