Feel-good stories from a feel-good postseason
And Roger Angell has a nice piece for The New Yorker....so I am posting the whole thing. He is 94 years old. 94 years old....
A classic, not a curio. The home-team San Francisco Giants, reminding themselves that baseball is not always a parlor game, struck with a tying, pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the eighth and a walkoff, pennant-winning three-run homer in the ninth, eliminating the Cardinals and putting themselves into the World Series for the third time in the past five years. They will play the engaging young Kansas City Royals, starting in K.C. on Tuesday. Last night’s game was deeply restorative, in a post-season that, aside from those prearranged preliminary one-game shootouts between two wild-card teams in each league, never produced a winner-take-all final game at any level or venue. This held up right to the end, with the Cards winning only once in this best-of-seven against the Giants. But the brisk and breathless last game provided the drama we’d been missing, producing reminders of the 1951 Bobby Thomson shot that killed the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds, long before anyone had heard of “walkoff” or imagined handkerchief-waving hordes screaming beside the Bay.
Last night also put the quietus to that numbing “small ball” we kept hearing from the game announcers all summer, in a season dominated by enormous heat-radiating relievers and resulting low scores and shrivelled offense. You can win games like this, to be sure, as these Giants had been telling us. They’d scored the winning runs in the previous two Cardinals games without anything knocked out of the infield: on a wild peg by Cardinal reliever Randy Choate, and, a night later, two botched plays by first baseman Matt Adams. Wicked laughter is O.K. but not exactly nourishing, and you could almost hear the “Aw right!”s from the massed San Francisco fist-bumpers when their second baseman Joe Panik delivered a two-run homer in the third, putting them briefly ahead, by 2–1. It was the first Giants home run in two hundred and forty-three plate appearances and only their second in the post.
But I’m leaving out the splendid pitching, I see, and the redemption and the luck and the human interest and more. Onward: we’re entering an irony-free zone. The game was a rematch between the first-game starters, Adam Wainwright and Madison Bumgarner, with the Cards ace (a clear winner of the Frank Langella look-alike contest) out there to redeem some recent shakiness. You could see everything falling into place for him in the middle innings—his excitement when his plumb-bob changeup reappeared, and his impatience to get the ball back and fire it once again. He struck out the side in the sixth, and, defending a 3–2 lead, retired ten straight batters before his departure, after the seventh. The Fox announcers made much of him, and no wonder, but scarcely mentioned Bumgarner, who was not at his silencing best but getting it done anyhow: thirteen batters set down in a row, before he, too, sat down, after eight.
So we rushed to the end. The side-arming new Cards pitcher, Pat Neshek, came on in the eighth, to face a right-handed pinch-hitter, Michael Morse, who conked a home run into the left-field stands, tying things at 3–3. Ecstasy. Always in the middle of things, Pablo Sandoval, the portly Giants third baseman, knocked down a hard Cardinals ground ball in the top of the ninth, deflecting it to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who relayed to second for the second out of the inning: nothing to it. Another Giants reliever, the left-handed Jeremy Affeldt, was required to finish off the Cards here, and bring on the resonant and astounding finale: a single by Sandoval, a walk to Brandon Belt, and, on a 2–0 pitch by Michael Wacha, the winning home run into the right-field stands by the Giants’ Travis Ishikawa.
The irony—oop, sorry—was that Ishikawa, normally a first baseman but on this night a relative newcomer to left field, had misplayed a hard-hit fly ball out there in the third inning, leaking in a run for the visitors.
The redemption: Ishikawa, who is thirty-one, had begun the season playing first for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but stank it up there, lost the job, and went down to the minor-leagues, from which he was extracted and elevated by the savant, warmhearted, foresighted San Francisco Giants. We will meet all these guys—well, no: half of these guys—again on Tuesday night. Be there.