June 30 vs. Reds (2-1 loss)
Barry Zito took the hill and, despite some very wayward command (walked five in a stretch of six batters), held the line enough to escape with a lone run allowed (via bases-loaded walk) in six innings. It was a game he sort of deserved to win, but Mat Latos whipped out his best Madison Bumgarner, ripping off a two-hitter nearly as impressive as Bumgarner's series-opening one-hitter.
Even after four seasons of exposure, this writer is still undecided on his official position on Latos—in the past, Latos has had little good to say about the G-Men and once broke broadcaster Dave Flemming's sunroof with an allegedly errant ball-flip over the stands.
On the other hand, Latos came up very small down the stretch for the 2010 Padres, losing his final five starts (including two against SF) to help the Giants complete their improbable comeback from six down in late August of that year. The Orange and Black do not win the division, let alone the championship, without Latos' untimely slump. Guess it's a draw for the time being.
Back to the game: down 2-0 in the ninth, pinch-hitter Brandon Belt roped a long, home-run-anywhere-but-AT&T triple and scored on a groundout--ultimately meaningless in this game but important for the "Giraffe," as the hit busted him out of a two-for-20 skid and back to his sizzling mid-June form (as evidenced by a subsequent three-for-four at Washington on July 3).
Also, Brad Penny—the man Belt pinch-hit for—registered a perfect 2.1 innings in relief in his 2012 Giants debut. It can't be underscored how effective he'd been on and off the field for the Giants in '09, and had they not won the 2010 World Series after basically trading Penny to St. Louis for the washed-up and now-retired Todd Wellemeyer, I'd have considered FedEx-ing Brian Sabean box upon box of unrolled pennies as a bitter reminder.
July 1 vs. Reds (4-3 win)
Did we really win this game? Uh, how? Has Jay Bruce never played right field before? Could he not feel the warning track not under his feet? That's kind of why they put warning tracks out there, and yet—Bruce completely whiffed on a semi-routine Pagan fly to right field that should have been caught and sent the game to extras. Even the classy announcer/postgame host Greg Papa had to wonder, "Was that Jay Bruce or (late comedian) Lenny Bruce?"
Honestly, I thought the ball had hit a bird, or a fan had interfered.There's just no way that happens in the bottom of the ninth inning to the star right fielder of a first-place MLB team. That confirms my prior point: you never know what you will see in any given ballgame.
Earlier, you almost saw Ryan Vogelsong grind longtime Reds horse Bronson Arroyo into dust after the latter buzzed him twice during bunt attempts. Vogie let the first one go, but angrily slammed his bat and bitched Arroyo out the second time—a move reminiscent of last season when Florida's Chris Volstad plunked him and triggered a similar reaction that put both dugouts on high alert.
Listen, you don't get cast off twice, get your arm sliced up and play in foreign lands for crumbs without picking up a little nasty along the way, and the Giants can never have too much of that (partly why Penny's return is so welcomed by us Giants loyalists).
- Excerpt from the Kruk and Kuip broadcast, regarding the heat wave on the East Coast where the Giants were headed after this game:
KRUK: That's where you find out who's in shape and who isn't.
KUIP: Certainly not the broadcasters...we're taking taxicabs to go across the street.
KRUK: Well, you gotta help the local economy.
In closing, the Giants celebrated the 2002 club, who ten years ago came within five outs of a championship. Only a small handful of members were absent; those who showed seemed to genuinely enjoy the occasion—even Benny Santiago, who I can't recall ever smiling during his career.
At the risk of losing my man-card, I'll admit the surprise introduction of "little" Darren Baker—Dusty's son and a 2002 Giants batboy—forced me to choke back tears. During the '02 postseason, 3-year-old Darren prematurely raced onto the field to retrieve a bat while the play was still unfolding; baserunner J.T. Snow famously saved him from danger by snagging him by the coat one-handed as he scored.
Since Dusty was let go after that season, Darren—thanks to countless replays of the Snow highlight—would forever remain age three in the memories of Giants fans; any mention of his name evoked his tiny image. That is, until Sunday, when the 13-year-old Darren returned to AT&T park with his dad.
Tall, handsome, poised, and not the little tyke we all remembered, there's no chance J.T. is snatchin' up this version of Darren with one hand! I'm no psychologist; I have no idea why this moment choked me up. IT...JUST...DID.
Missed Part 1? Find it here.