One (very big one) down. Two (very big ones) to go.
An unmistakable playoff feel filled AT&T Park Friday night in San Francisco's 6-2 win over Arizona in the first game of their NL West showdown series.
Rally towels embellished the Orange Friday scene. There was an unmistakable urgency in the throaty sellout crowd, the Giants' 70th consecutive full house of 2011.
A six-back, 25-to-play urgency.
And the Giants displayed fortitude seldom seen in this frustrating, run-starved 2011 season.
More on that in a moment. Let me first be abundantly clear about something:
The last couple of days it's been said that the Giants could lose once this weekend and be OK. A sweep of Arizona would be awesome, but not essential. Just win the series.
Lose on Friday, and the Giants would have faced D-Backs ace Ian Kennedy on Saturday staring at a seven-game deficit.
Winning Friday was essential. And the Giants won.
Which brings me back to fortitude.
The game began as so many have for San Francisco during their 11-21 skid that began July 29.
They trailed early, a first-inning Miguel Montero double plating Aaron Hill. Matt Cain limited the damage, but his pitch count was near 60 through three innings.
Meanwhile, Arizona lefty Joe Saunders toyed with Giant hitters the first time through the lineup.
Same old Giants, right?
Third inning: Jeff Keppinger doubles in Cody Ross. Carlos Beltran—booed by home fans on Wednesday after stranding six base runners in three plate appearances—homers. Giants lead 3-1.
The entire rally occurred with two outs. Fortitude.
After Arizona scored a run in their half of the fifth, Beltran drove in a run in the bottom half. Two-run lead restored. Momentum back in the Giants' dugout. Fortitude.
Cain, his pitch count nearing 100, gave the Giants shutdown innings in the sixth and seventh. Fortitude.
In the bottom of the seventh Cody Ross—yes, that Cody Ross—homered to left; 6-2 Giants.
In the eighth, Ross robbed Justin Upton, catching his fly ball after a full-extension dive into foul territory.
Fortitude, and more fortitude.
It's only one game. The Giants will still awaken on Saturday trailing the D-Backs by five.
But there was something different in the air Friday night—something that can give Giant fans reason to hope.
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