With all the hoopla surrounding the onslaught of the National Football League's Opening Weekend as well as a couple huge college football games, the San Francisco Giants' weekend series with the Los Angeles Dodgers flew almost completely off the radar.
In truth, I don't really have a beef with that—the return of such monsters as well as the renewal of storied college rivalries merit every drop of ink they got.
Especially since there were several intriguing story-lines that delivered in the NFL, Ohio State came up with a wonderful effort that was almost enough against USC, and the Michigan Wolverines discovered a special new talent at quarterback while upending Notre Dame.
Nope, against that backdrop, arguably Major League Baseball's greatest historic rivalry really did pale and I'm not being facetious.
The Bums have the Gents pretty severely outmatched in 2009 and San Francisco hasn't been playing very good baseball lately.
It would appear the long season has finally started to take its toll on the youngsters doing their best to propel the offense. This, in turn, has put an even more undue burden on the pitching staff. I'm not sure if it was a straw, but something finally proved too much for even the Orange and Black's most interminable talent.
When Tim Lincecum cried momentary "Uncle" during the San Diego Padres series last week, the omen was justifiably overshadowed by the shocking debut of prized prospect Madison Bumgarner. Sadly, I'm as guilty as anyone of losing sight of the forest for the trees.
Because losing the Freak for any amount of time from this squad should NOT have been taken so lightly. Not only did it open an irreplaceable void in the rotation, it seemed to take some of the strut away from even the position players.
Forget about the other starters and firemen.
I don't know if it was the psychological blow of losing your ace for a start or whether it was simply the uncertainty surrounding the City's biggest attraction that threw them off what was already a jittery stride, but the fellas looked off.
Although the roadie was a success in terms of splitting the six rugged games, the bats only squeezed 15 runs into 57 innings. That's trouble for any pitching staff.
Unsurprisingly after digesting all that ugly news, the weekender with the National League West-leading Bums didn't go swimmingly. In fact, the first two games fell into the "too wretched to talk about" category.
Matt Cain didn't have his good stuff on Friday, but managed to sweat out a passable effort...that the bullpen turned into a 10-3 trainwreck. By my count, that means Cainer is still 0-for-his-career in terms of beating LA. That's gotta be bugging him.
Especially since he's twirled well enough to have multiple W's against San Francisco's blood rival.
Jonathan Sanchez followed the Kid to the mound on Saturday and the young southpaw, who also struggles with los Doyers, continued to struggle against them. His stay on the bump took an even more crooked jag than Cain's and the final score (9-1) was a formality by the fourth inning.
Newcomer Brad Penny, who I'm sure has to be a little disappointed by the recent funk, bowed his back and delivered a much-needed victory on Sunday.
Taking his third trip to the hill since joining the franchise, Penny came up with his worst performance to date—7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, and 1 HR. Yeah, you read that correctly. That's his worst start in his trio of Giant appearances.
Even better, the stat line is more impressive than it looks because the former Bum had a little something extra riding on the start. He may insist he's over the bitterness that accompanied his departure from Chavez Ravine, but I'm sure it wasn't just another day at the yard for the big fella.
MAN, did I blow it when I criticized this dude as a six-inning-and-head-for-the-showers chump. Mr. Penny, I sincerely apologize—mea culpa, mea culpa, a thousand times, mea culpa.
Alas, the superlative offerings of the latest starter to pick up the ace's mantle has the odor of "too little, too late."
Although nothing is over quite yet, any delusions of grabbing Los Angeles' heels are dead and not to be reanimated. That means it's officially the NL Wild Card or bust, as it pretty much has been since early this season. With the front-running Colorado Rockies coming into AT&T Park on Monday boasting a four-game lead, los Gigantes' margin for error is nonexistent.
One loss and 2009 is toast.
The grayer news is that, even with a sweep, the situation looks pretty close to a flatline.
After Colorado passes through town, San Francisco finishes with nine of 16 away from home where the squad has not been at its best. Worse yet, six of those games are in Southern California against the Dodgers and Fathers—our guys have managed to pry two wins from 12 chances in those two venues.
Toss in four games against the Chicago Cubs by the Bay, that the Rockies only hit the road for six games, that they're assured the Wild Card lead when they head to Arizona on Wednesday, and you can see the challenge facing the Giants is considerable.
The fat lady ain't singing yet, but she's warming up her pipes.
Hopefully, San Francisco can keep her off the stage. Hopefully, the Giants will snap right back into the plucky bunch that was riding great defense, great pitching, and timely hitting to the Promised Land. Hopefully, the Colorado Rockies will cooperate.
If not, you won't hear me complaining.
You'll find me enjoying the last few innings of meaningful September baseball in San Francisco.
And that ain't too shabby.