Just days before the big three game set between the NL West front-running San Diego Padres and the trailing San Francisco Giants, both sides were already looking forward to their divisional showdown. Giants' left-hander Jonathan Sanchez may have been a little too fired up.
Sanchez is, undoubtedly, a good pitcher. He's the same guy who threw a no-hitter against the Padres in July of 2009 at AT&T Park. He was also the same pitcher that gave up just one hit to that same team earlier this year...and lost 1-0.
Maybe his adrenaline or excitement got the best of him. Or, perhaps, he just wasn't thinking when John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle talked to him about the upcoming series. Whatever the case may be, Sanchez decided to throw down the gauntlet and say something he probably shouldn't have said.
"We're going to play them three straight times and we're going to beat them three times," Sanchez told Shea. "If we get to first place, we're not looking back." You have to wonder how many of his teammates put their hands over their faces and wished they could have shut him up before he spoke. Henry Schulman, also with the Chronicle, reported that some in the Giants' clubhouse were annoyed at the comment.
Unfortunately, the words were out and, the next morning, they were in the paper for all to see. When the Padres got wind of it, not one of them fired back with a guarantee of their own. Left fielder Scott Hairston told a San Diego television station that it wasn't a smart thing of Sanchez to say, but didn't go much further. Padres' closer Heath Bell decided to have a little fun with the comment saying, “All right, cool. We’re going to get swept. Well, I swept my garage this morning.”
It wouldn't take long for Sanchez to regret his words, as he ended up the losing pitcher on Friday night, and, after an extra innings victory for his team on Saturday, watched as the Padres put an exclamation point on the series with an 8-2 win on Sunday.
While he would be eating his words in the Giants clubhouse on Sunday afternoon, another Giants pitcher apparently didn't learn the lesson Sanchez had just learned the hard way.
Reliever Guillermo Mota, who got tagged for the final two runs in an 8-2 defeat, decided to open his mouth and make everyone else roll their eyes. It's one thing for Sanchez, an above average pitcher, to say what he said, it's quite another for a guy that's given up six earned runs in three and a third innings to say it.
Mota started off politically correct when talking to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, "We've got seven games left with them? We don't care about those seven games now. What we care about is winning series. They've been playing good. We do, too. But it's not between us and San Diego. It's us and the whole league right now. We've got to go to Philly and take care of business."
At this moment, you can imagine Mota's teammates answering their own questions from the media and minding their own business.
Then, in a "what the hell did he just say" moment, Mota dropped this little nugget: "Every team has a down time. Every team has its lumps. They haven't had their lumps. You don't think they're going to be playing like that all year, do you? If they do, congratulations."
I'm curious what the media thought when Mota popped off like that. Did they know it was coming? Could they sense that a moment of brilliance, or lackthereof, was about to be shared? What about his teammates? Did they take him aside and smack him upside the head and remind him that's exactly what got Sanchez in trouble?
Mota can say they don't care about San Diego all he wants. But, this time of year, there isn't one playoff-contending team that isn't watching the out-of-town scoreboards or wanting to know how the other team did.
These two teams will meet seven more times, including four at Petco Park, before the season is over. You can bet that those seven games will be just as big as this past weekend was, especially if the race is as close as it is so far.
Through 11 games between the two teams, the Padres have won nine of those 11 games and sit at three and a half games in front of the Giants.
Their battle isn't over and, apparently, neither are the guarantees.