Never let it be said that my fear of the Baseball Gods' wrath is phobic. Exaggerated perhaps, but certainly not unfounded or illogical.
"As a die-hard San Francisco Giant fan with a long memory pockmarked by devastation, I'm trying not to get too excited. But it's getting harder and harder..."
It was the morning of Sept. 3, the Gents were 73-60, and were staring down the barrel of their season with the gleam of a sterling rotation in their eyes.
In truth, the center held for a bit—although Penny's gem would be the only victory of the three-gamer in the City of Brotherly Love, the fellas would traipse through Milwaukee and take two of three from the Brewers.
Then came the anarchy, and blood-dimmed tide while innocence and conviction fled.
Just when you least expected it.
Los Gigantes should've been riding a crest of momentum with the lowly San Diego Padres coming to town.
Not only had the Fathers been toiling near the bottom of the National League West for basically the entire year, the club had managed only one win against our guys in six tries at AT&T Park. Granted, that's one more win than San Francisco has managed in Petco Park—a story for a different day.
On top of the apparent powder-puff coming to the city, the Orange and Black was coasting off the last brutal road trip of the year. A roadie that had to be considered a success despite the walk-off loss on getaway day in "Algonquian for the Good Land" (maybe everyone hasn't seen Wayne's World...that's Milwaukee).
The Giants managed to split a six-game trek through the reigning World Series Champs' home and a recent house of horrors in Miller Park (3-12 the last three years).
Much had been made about their rugged schedule as compared to the other NL Wild Card contenders and rightly so, but a lot of the relative rigor was in those six games.
So the boys had gotten over an ominous hump with postseason aspirations intact.
After what should've been a three-game respite, San Francisco would start another charge against the hated rival and NL West front-running Los Angeles Dodgers before the NL Wild Card-leading Colorado Rockies came to town. Perhaps that's exactly what the Gents were thinking.
In the Padres series opener, Penny pitched them to victory. His second twirl with the franchise wasn't as fantastic, but it was still very nice, and good cheer abounded. Then wheels and spokes started twanging off into the night.
First, Tim Lincecum developed a back ailment and had to miss his start.
Madison Bumgarner filled in admirably and gave the faithful a momentary reason to forget the larger implications of a missing Freak, but he was gone by the sixth. Subsequently, the bullpen caved under the pressure of minimal run support.
Next up, Barry Zito tried to rebound from his first sincerely poor outing in quite some time.
Unfortunately for Zeets, the Pads seem to have his number this year and Wednesday wasn't any different. Although the looping lefty wasn't horrible—5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 K, 2 BB, and 1 HR—he wasn't the same caliber of brilliant as we've seen over the course of the year (especially the second half).
By the sixth, the new Barry was gone and—again—the minimal offense proved fatal.
Remember those warm fuzzies from the road trip? Gone.
Remember that momentum? Adios.
See those playoff tickets on the horizon? Dwindling away to nothing.
That's what dropping two of three to one of the worst teams in baseball will do to your psyche. Especially when one of the best home performers in all of Major League Baseball lays an egg on its own turf.
I say again, ouch.
All is not lost—with a strong showing against the Bums and Rox in these next six games, the Giants can reassert themselves in the race for baseball's second season.
But they need a healthy Lincecum. They need the offense to go back to being plain anemic rather than hideously pitiful. They need the bullpen to batten down the hatches. They need just a smidgen of help from somebody else.
Otherwise, this concluded series with the San Diego Padres could mark the beginning of the end.
If that is the case, what a ride it's been.