Promotional campaigns come and go so when the San Francisco Giants' public-relations machine—spearheaded by A-list broadcasters Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow—started hitting the party line "Giants Baseball, It's Torture" with tedious glee, I resisted it for as long as possible.
However, let's just say that the promos get it right every now and again.
And the 2010 San Francisco baseball season has been one of those times.
NLDS—The Regular Season in a Five-Game Nutshell
There is no denying los Gigantes have wreaked havoc on local digestive and cardiovascular systems. The gut-wrenching regular season could've been iced at any time during the campaign's final weekend, but the clincher didn't come until Game 162 with Jonathan Sanchez—historically the most volatile of the SF starters—taking the bump against the heel-nipping San Diego Padres.
Next, the lads had all but sewn up a commanding 2-1 lead against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series behind suffocating efforts from Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Of course, Sergio Romo and sub-par defense coughed up the lead late in Game 2.
Then Rick Ankiel's moon ball of a home run finished driving the stake through the fan base's collective heart.
True, the Gents managed to pull it back out by taking both games at Turner Field in Atlanta, but not before arguably the most agonizing moment to date—the two-run bomb hit by Eric Hinske in the bottom of the eighth that threatened to give Atlanta a 2-1 edge in the NLDS, make Romo the goat once more and turn another sparkling performance from Dirty Sanchez into a total waste.
Thankfully, clutch at-bats from Aubrey Huff, Travis Ishikawa, Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez plus some shockingly porous Brave defense quickly salvaged the evening before a relatively mundane final inning from Brian Wilson ended the roller coaster.
In Game 4, the fellas finally took pity on the faithful.
Madison Bumgarner threw six fantastic innings (considering the kid is a 21-year-old rookie), and Cody Ross powered the just-enough offense as the Orange and Black put the best-of-five epic to bed with a game to spare.
Only a semi-adventurous ninth from Wilson caused any ripple in the Bay Area EKG.
The early advancement to the NL Championship Series notwithstanding, the back-and-forth NLDS was a perfect metaphor for San Fran's run through '10—four tense, low-scoring ball games that featured excellent pitching were each decided by defense, bullpens, the minimum of timely hitting, and a single run.
It's a good thing, too, because the series was the team's last chance for torture. No matter what happens, the excruciating ecstasy will end against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Phillie Pitching Erases Giant Asset
Let's face it—the San Francisco Giants have no business upsetting the Phightin' Phils.
Not only are Charlie Manuel's boys the two-time defending NL Champions, but they are also one of the few sides that can boast as good a starting pitching set as the Giants.
If not better when you limit the comparison to the top three studs.
There aren't many gentlemen who can enter a room occupied by Tim Lincecum and claim to be the best starter in said confines. Arguably, there is only one...and he pitches for Philadelphia.
Enough has been written detailing Roy Halladay's fairy-tale exploits, so I'll leave it at that.
Southpaw Cole Hamels was almost as blinding as Doc in his Game 3 start against the Cincinnati Reds, plus he's got a postseason pedigree that few hurlers can match—he was the 2008 NLCS Most Valuable Player and the World Series MVP that same year.
Meanwhile, Roy Oswalt got knocked around a bit by the Redlegs, but San Francisco can't thump like Cincy. Additionally, Oswalt still boasts a 3.83 ERA in 51.2 postseason innings.
Hometown bias says the Freak, Cainer and Sanchez are still better, but hometown bias tends to ignore the vast advantage the Philly rotation has in experience. Only Halladay has less than 50 postseason frames to his credit, which is of little comfort when the dude throws a no-hitter in his playoff debut.
Phillie Offense Creates Giant Deficit
This notion needs about as much exploration to validate as does Roy Halladay's reputation.
With all due respect to Huff, Andres Torres and Pat Burrell, los Gigantes don't even have one MVP-caliber bat until Posey gets a little more mileage on his major-league wheels.
Contrarily, the Phils have at least three in Ryan Howard (2006 NL MVP), Jimmy Rollins (2007 NL MVP, though admittedly having a down year) and Chase Utley (the best hitter and player on the team). Adding insult to run-scoring injury are plus-performers like Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz.
This is a dynamic and dangerous lineup, No. 1 through No. 8.
On paper, it dwarfs San Francisco's in a comparison that would be funny if I weren't a Giants die-hard.
But the Games Are Played on Diamonds, Not Paper
Major League Baseball has always been an unpredictable animal and '10 has been no different—well-laid plans in Boston and Seattle went awry almost immediately, the St. Louis Cardinals collapsed despite fielding four of the best talents in the show, and other-worldly pitching created an offensive desert in the middle of a Steroid Era bloom.
In other words, stranger things have happened than a San Francisco Giants trip to the 2010 World Series.
But it will be an enormous uphill climb, which means a successful summit would be all gravy.
And that means, win or lose, the torture is already over.
It just won't feel like it.
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