The forces of baseball good and evil are clashing in 2009 as they do every year. One theater of Major League Baseball war can be found in the San Francisco Giants' season and the current landscape looks like Antietam—both sides have suffered gruesome casualties, there is no clear victor, but momentum is on the good guys' side.
Thanks to Bengie Molina, sore legs and all.
The last week of August didn't start off so well for the Orange and Black. I've written all I care to write about the debacle on Monday night. Let's say it had the potential to derail the season and leave it at that.
Score one seismic W for the evil Baseball Gods.
But the club bounced back and notched a win via perseverance against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday.
There's little doubt the Gents were happy to be back home after an 11-game, transcontinental roadie. Buoyed by the City's adulation and another blinder from Matt Cain, they hung tough and made a Travis Ishikawa three-run bomb stand up for the redemptive win.
Sill, the armies of the baseball righteous needed a bigger statement to adequately respond to Monday night's broken flank.
For seven innings and three outs, the situation looked bleak.
Jonathan Sanchez opened the game with two fantastic pitches and a third that was equally extreme, but to the other end of the spectrum. The young southpaw threw a third consecutive fastball on 0-2 and bit off about as much plate as the pitch that opened the game. To a Major League hitter with two strikes, a fastball over the plate is a gift. Especially on 0-2.
As Mike Krukow pointed out, the pitcher has so many options and can waste at least two pitches trying to get the opposition to go fishing.
Instead, Ryan Roberts—looking dead red as most hitters will with one strike left—deposited the pitch into the left field seats.
For five innings, Roberts' big fly was the only blemish on the scoreboard as Sanchez continued his string of excellent starts and Doug Davis matched him, frame for frame. In the sixth, los Gigantes' current bogeyman (the base on balls) reared its ugly head and cost their moundsman another deuce.
Jonathan Sanchez would settle back down and work a quick seventh to close his night with a flourish—7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB (both in the 6th), and 9 K. Unfortunately for Jonathan, Davis tossed seven better innings and kept our guy from his seventh win.
But the evening got interesting once Sanchez chucked his last pitch.
Juan Uribe took a bit of the luster off Davis' armor by yanking a dinger of his own in the bottom of the seventh. Then, the unshakable Bruce Bochy called on the goat of the Colorado Rockies' series—Justin Miller—to turn back the Snakes in the top of the eighth.
To Miller's credit, he did just that and it couldn't have been easy considering the mental demons left by his meltdown in Denver. The maligned fireman gave up a harmless single before quickly returning his mates to the dugout and their hopeful splinters.
In the bottom of the inning, Davis armor started peeling off in large chunks after he recorded two easy outs—a walk to Edgar Renteria and then a single to Randy Winn ended his night in favor of closer Chad Qualls. Ryan Garko's spot was due up, but Boch went back to his bag o' tricks.
The Giants' skipper pulled Big Money's card, which was available because Molina's legs had finally succumbed to a catcher's beating and demanded some rest.
Proof-positive of the nickname, Big Money didn't disappoint.
Qualls, who is having a filthy year, returned the favor extended in the first inning by Sanchez. He jumped out to two quick strikes on the San Francisco backstop and then put what looked like a slider that didn't slide too much on a tee. That baby hung right over the heart of the plate in the lower part of the strike zone, right where Molina likes it.
On a night that saw Arizona hitters crush several balls that failed to reach the warning track, Bengie hit a seemingly lazy fly ball to left that turned into a game-winning, three-run miracle before I could process what my eyes were sending to my brain.
I honestly marveled at how the ball could have possibly cleared the fence for several seconds before reacting to the Giants' new lead. It was astonishing to watch Molina's ball go yard after the thunder the Diamondbacks had put on some balls.
The rest is anticlimactic. Brandon Medders came on in lieu of a tattered Brian Wilson and recorded a boring, one-two-three save to preserve the win.
Remember that statement the good guys needed? How's this for a retort:
1. The Giants won a game they led for four of the 51 total outs. Arizona took the lead on the first batter of the night and didn't relinquish it until two were down in the bottom of the eighth.
2. Justin Miller, the primary culprit in the Monday night game, got the win and shed some of the Rocky Mountain weight from his shoulders.
3. Jonathan Sanchez pitched through errors by his catcher and his own wildness to go seven strong innings. He kept the team in it and deserves his share of credit for the win.
4. The Rockies got dropped by the Los Angeles Dodgers so the combined heroics kept the club from wasting a golden opportunity in the National League Wild Card race. Instead of allowing the Rox to tread water, San Francisco trimmed a game off the lead.
5. The Giants won their second straight contest while missing the most dangerous offensive weapon. Pablo Sandoval hasn't played against the Snakes due to a dinged up calf so an anemic offense has been even more iron-deprived.
6. It is impossible to overstate the psychological healing wrought by Bengie Molina's dramatic, pinch-hit home run and subsequent limp around the bases. There's a decent chance the clubhouse will never waste another neuron on how the week started.
In the wake of Monday's disaster, many observers were gleefully chirping about the San Francisco Giants' fade into oblivion. Maliciously smiling eyes began to shovel dirt onto the boys and turn their attention to the Florida Marlins and/or Atlanta Braves as September's team to watch for a postseason push.
Not so fast, this war is far from over.
On Wednesday night, the good guys re-established the line and maybe even advanced it forward a bit. Only September will tell, but the August finale is already looking a whole lot better.
Nope, the San Francisco Giants are still here with a pulse that's still strong.
They might not emerge from the scrum with the Wild Card in hand, but they're in it to the bitter end.