Getting A “W”

September 10

First and foremost, like everyone else, our prayers go out to the victims of Thursday night’s horrible explosion in San Bruno. In a sporting vein, we are glad Pablo Sandoval’s mom is OK. He was renting a home in the area of the blast.

***

The Giants had to establish some things right away at the beginning of the four-game series at Petco Park Thursday night.

If I can read the tea leaves and body language, the Giants attitude against the Padres went something like this: never mind what happened earlier this year, never mind your small ball and your offspeed pitches, that’s forgotten now; we are very focused and we aren’t afraid of playing in your ballpark. We aren’t going to let you get into our heads, and we’ve got a lineup you should be concerned about now.

Mission, accomplished.

Thursday night resembled the Varsity vs. the Junior Varsity. When Jon Garland made a mistake over the plate, the Giants hit it a long way. They made Petco Park look like Coors Field.

They hit four loud, impressive, big-boy home runs — including a second-deck shot to left field by Buster Posey and a moon shot by Pat Burrell that coincidentally hit the “W” in the “Western Metal Supply” sign down the left field line. Aubrey Huff had the first home run and maybe the most important shot, a long drive to center, and three hits.

Matt Cain simply pitched like an ace for eight innings, mowing down Padre after Padre at a stately clip. I loved the way Cain worked quickly and didn’t give the Padres a chance to settle in. He went after hitters, taking advantage of plate umpire Brian O’Nora’s high strike zone — throwing dart after dart.

The 7-3 win puts the Giants a game behind the Padres in the NL West and a game behind the Braves in the NL Wild Card. It was a very profitable night, and it helps the Giants relax just a little bit, at what I have previously called The Little Petco Shop of Horrors. It was just one win, but a very important one at the start of a very important series.

Of course, it could all turn around in the next three nights, and the Padres are still 9-3 vs. the Giants this year. I still don’t believe they’re going anywhere. Clayton Richard and Mat Latos have both done a number on the Giants this year, and they’re scheduled to go Friday and Sunday, respectively. But this is a different Giants team than it was earlier this season, and perhaps it will finally show.

How different are the Giants? They have hit 136 home runs, 13 on the current road trip, compared to 122 all of last year. They have seven players with home runs in double figures. They are beginning to resemble the Giants of earlier this century, minus the Hall of Fame Juicer.

***

Two of the Giants home runs went out to right-center field; one by Huff, one by Juan Uribe — impressive for a right-handed hitter. The balls landed in a “beach” they’ve set up behind the fence. The Giants were indirectly taking shots at little kids.

Few home runs are hit to that part of Petco, but how dumb is it to have kids in a spot where long fly balls can bonk them on the noggin ? I understand little kids are also in the stands, but at least their parents are usually standing by ready to at least fend off a foul ball. It’s a different situation in the sandbox. Why put kids ANYWHERE NEAR where a home run ball could land ?

I don’t support having uniform measurements in major league ballparks: if you really wanted to create a “level playing field,” you’d have to make all parks the same size — and domed to eliminate weather as a factor. However, the effort to be original has gone too far: flag poles in center field with a choo-choo train in Houston, a swimming pool in Arizona, and a cat litter in Petco. Dumb.

***

Giants fans should be paying close attention to scores involving the Rockies, Braves, and Phillies. Including the Padres, that makes five teams battling for three playoff spots; two division titles and the likely Wild Card team. The Rockies continue to be scary, winning their seventh in a row Thursday.

I have often said Troy Tulowitzki is one of the most important players in the NL West; when he’s hurt the Rockies suffer, but when he gets healthy and hot, so do the Rockies. We’ve seen it in previous years, we’re seeing it again. Thursday, he hit the game-tying home run as the Rockies rallied from a 5-0 deficit to beat the Reds, 6-5.

It’s how the Rockies won the game that will turn some heads, literally. Pinch-runner Chris Nelson was on third base in the 8th inning with the score tied, with another Rockie runner at first. Reds pitcher Nick Masset was so focused that he didn’t notice Nelson breaking for the plate.

Masset was alerted by teammates and turned his head to look at SECOND base; nobody was there. By the time he realized what was going on, his throw was about ten minutes late. That was the eventual winning run.

How do you steal home off a RIGHT-HANDER, who is in the stretch ? Either the Rockies had a great scouting report on Masset, or he really was focused. It also didn’t help that he held ball and mitt together at nearly eye-level, perhaps blocking his view of Nelson at third. It could be called a ballsy play by Nelson, but it was actually a good risk in a tie game for a home team at a place like Coors, where the Rockies dominate.

Oh yeah, the Rockies play 12 of their final 18 at home. Look out.

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