Early Tuesday before the Giants tried to hold on to their playoff hopes for dear life, there were whispers that Hunter Pence delivered an inspired speech to the team. After Pence struck out in the second inning, I joked on Twitter that Pence’s speech sure didn’t work on himself. My joke would turn out to be wrong. While no single player would say they played the best game of their life, the team did what they usually do – they hung in there and competed. Which is why the first two games were so bizarre for Giants fans – they didn’t compete. While the Reds may be the better team still, they weren’t 5-2 and 9-0 better.
I’m going to resist editing the speech as it was presented on Tim Flannery’s Facebook page because I don’t think it will be as impactful in edited form.
“get in here, everyone get in here..look into each other eyes..now! look into each others eyes, I want one more day with you, it’s the most fun, the best team I have ever been on said the Reverend Hunter Pence. ” and no matter what happens we must not give in, we owe it to each other, play for each other, I need one more day with you guys, I need to see what Theriot (jerry) will wear tomorrow, I want to play defense behind Vogelsong because he’s never been to the playoffs..play for each other not yourself, win each moment, win each inning, it’s all we have left”
We fans think we know more than we really do know. I know I do. I can evaluate baseball with the best of them. I played for 25 years of my life, many years at a decently high level, and I’ve coached for many years from little leaguers to high school to semi-pro. I know the game. But what I don’t know is the game at the major league level. I don’t know what it takes for grown adults to play a kids’ game and to play for each other. I don’t know the camaraderie the players have; the brotherhood.When I look at the analytics, it doesn’t tell me that Hunter Pence is going to play through a cramp that makes him look like he’s walking on rocks in his bare feet. The stats don’t tell me that Joaquin Arias is going to run the fastest he’s ever run to first base in the 10th inning on a ball he topped to 8-time Gold Glover Scott Rolen, who misplayed it.
The Cincinnati Reds fans should’ve felt good going into Tuesday’s game. They were at home in a ball park that plays to their team’s strength and they’d just beaten the Giants easily in the first two games of the series on the road. With only one game left to win, the feeling I had watching was that even though the Giants were competing, the Reds were going to win. They scored a first inning run and while it was just one run, to Giants fans, it felt like more. It felt like, “Here we go again.” But Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong persevered like Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner couldn’t. While he didn’t match Reds’ starter Homer Bailey strikeout for strikeout, he battled just as hard.
Bailey threw seven strong innings giving up only one hit and striking out ten Giants hitters. He followed up Bronson Arroyo’s great performance Sunday night and topped it. While Vogelsong’s line wasn’t as impressive, he gave the Giants exactly what they needed. Like I wrote Sunday, the Giants are built on starting pitching. When their starting pitching fails them, they don’t have a plan B. They won’t win many games where they have to come back from large deficits. So Vogelsong’s five inning good innings were key.
The Giants scored one run in the third inning after Bailey hit Gregor Blanco who then moved to second when Brandon Crawford walked. Vogelsong moved them up one base with a sacrifice bunt. And Blanco scored on Angel Pagan’s deep fly ball. It was their first run in twelve innings.
Neither team could put together run scoring rallies. The Reds got two on in the sixth against Vogelsong’s replacement, Jeremy Affeldt. But Affeldt induced Ryan Hannigan to ground out to end the inning. The Reds would threaten again in the eighth inning. Giants manager Bruce Bochy brought in Santiago Casilla who was feeling under the weather before the game and Casilla sandwiched a fly-out and strikeout in between walking Joey Votto. Javier Lopez replaced him and retired Jay Bruce on a popup that sent Joaquin Arias into the short outfield. Giants fans held their breath on that one.
And then came extra innings. In the top of the 10th, Buster Posey led off the inning with a base hit against Jonathan Broxton, who has faced the Giants a lot in his career from when he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hunter Pence, fighting off a cramp in his calf also singled. But Broxton wasn’t giving in. He struck out Brandon Belt (who struck out three times) and Xavier Nady back-to-back before facing Joaquin Arias. A passed ball advanced both runners, putting Posey at third. Arias topped a ball to Scott Rolen who misplayed it and Arias beat it out, scoring Posey.
Sergio Romo closed it out quickly and the Giants finally had life. The same team that seemed to lack energy and were beaten up by a really good baseball team over the weekend looked battle tested and ready on Tuesday. And they had a bit of luck on their side. Collectively, they had only three hits all game long, but parlayed it into two runs, which was all it took to win the game.
They still need to win two games in Cincinnati to advance to the next round. The Reds are still in the driver’s seat. But the Giants finally showed up and played their style of baseball game. If they they play their style in game four, they have a chance. And if they don’t, the Reds will run roughshod over them. But today, they have life.