October Quest

What a difference a week makes, eh??  Last I blogged, we weren’t even sure who we would be facing in the Wild Card game, and look at us now!  So much has happened in the last week, and all of it has been simply amazing.

They showed the Wild Card game on the big screen at AT&T Park on Wednesday, and my sister, my niece, and I went to watch the game amongst other fellow fans.  Game watching is so much sweeter when you are surrounded by a ton of screaming Giants fans, even if it’s being played out thousands of miles away!  We got there just before the game, and just in time to get some hot dogs and get to our seats.  They had the Field Level open, so we sat in covered seats behind home plate to avoid the seagulls and pigeons – lots more pigeons that night for some reason.  Lou Seal kept shooing them off of the field.  We were excited that it seemed guys were getting hits off Edinson Volquez from the beginning, and Madison was shutting down the Nats.  Then when Crawford hit that grand slam in the 4th the place went nuts!  It was so fantastic to be there with everyone screaming their lungs out and high fiving.  The best part was that everyone was doing the “YES, YES, YES” chant that Hunter Pence did with the crowd during his speech after the last game of the regular season.  We also noticed that at this point, Volquez, who had been feverishly chewing his gum while pitching, stopped chewing altogether (maybe he thought it was affecting his concentration??).  And as loud as we were at AT&T Park at that point, the Pirates fans were silenced.  We had heard so much about how loud and intense the fans there get in the post season, and how they can affect the play of the other team, but they lost their voices once we scored those runs.  And the fun continued as Madison pitched a complete game shutout and my boys continued to add on runs.  After the game was over, they flashed on the screen at AT&T “San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals Friday, October 3rd at Nationals Park” and it finally hit me that the boys were really going on to the playoffs!!  All that worry about the one game elimination was over!  So glad that my sis and niece agreed to go with me as I wouldn’t have gone without them (and I think they had as much fun as I did!).  And to think that Travis Ishikawa was the starting 1st baseman on Opening Day for the Pirates and he was starting Left Fielder for the Giants against the Pirates in the Wild Card game.  Talk about coming full circle!  Bet he’s pretty ecstatic about how it turned out, too!

Then we came back to reality.  We had to now beat the Nationals, and in their home.  The Nationals came in first place of all the National League teams, and we had the task of beating them 3 of 5 games.  Yikes!  Plus, since Madison, our ace, had pitched in the Wild Card game, he wasn’t available for the first game of this series.  We would have to rely on Jake Peavy, a guy who also did a great job for us during the regular season, but who had never won a post season game in his career.  Plus we were going against the Nationals ace, Stephen Strasburg.  Double yikes!!  I couldn’t watch this game as I was at work, but I was monitoring through MLB Sportscenter on my phone when I could (along with several of my coworkers who are also Giants fans).  And there it was – we were ahead 2 – 0!  Then by the top of the 7th, it was 3 – 0!  WHAT???  And they did it by playing small ball.  According to batting coach Hensley Meulens, “That was our approach.  Not to be too big.  Not to try to do too much.  Just put the ball in play and see what happens.”  That approach seemed to work against Strasburg, who struck out only 2 Giants hitters in the 5 innings he pitched, the lowest total ever in his career when he’s gone at least 5 innings.  Jake Peavy pitched superbly, allowing no runs, 2 hits, 3 walks, and getting 3 strikeouts in the 5 2/3 innings he pitched.  Then my boy, Hunter Strickland came in after Peavy had loaded the bases and managed to strike out Ian Desmond to end the inning.  No pressure there!  Unfortunately, in the next inning, Strickland gave up 2 home runs.  Poor kid!  But I love how Bochy doesn’t give up on his guys and allowed Strickland to continue, getting the next guy to pop up for an out.  And then the bull pen held them and we got the win.  We did it – we won one at their place!  And Jake Peavy recorded his first post-season win!  And the Dodgers choked that night behind Kershaw against the Cards!  SWEET!!

Then yesterday, insanity ensued.  The pitching matchup was Hudson vs. Zimmerman.  Hudson had had some struggles near the last couple of months of the season, but his last appearance was pretty good.  Zimmerman, on the other hand, had pitched a no hitter in his last regular season appearance.  Can you say YIKES??  It was definitely a pitchers’ duel, and I was so proud of Tim for coming through for us and pitching his little heart out.  Zimmerman was on fire as well.  By the eighth inning, it wasn’t looking good for us as Zimmerman still had his stuff and Hudson had allowed one run, giving the Nats a lead.  Then it happened.  The small ball again.  In the top of the 9th with 2 outs, Joe Panik walked.  Doesn’t sound like much, but there were a couple of pitches during that at bat that were pretty tough to take.  This visibly seemed to shake up Zimmerman, and he was taken out of the game and the bullpen took over.  Next Buster singled on a line drive.  Then Pablo “Clutch” Sandoval doubled down the left field line to bring in Panik.  Tied game!!!  Just when we thought we were out of it!  Buster also came into home, but on a very close call (that Bochy challenged to no avail) he was called out.  Thus began the bullpen duel between both teams, including a 6 inning stretch for Yusmeiro Petit (who did a fabulous job).  The game just kept going on and on.  Through an additional 8 innings, each bullpen allowed only 2 hits and no runs.  I was watching the game with my mom, and I made it through the 16th, but then had to dash out and get something to eat.  Luckily I got back right before the 18th started, cause that’s when Brandon “The Ender” Belt smacked one into the second deck to give my boys a one run lead.  They were leading after all that!!!  WHAT???  Even Brandon was cautious afterward, telling the guys in the dugout it wasn’t over yet.  They would have to hold that lead for 3 more outs.  And who came in to save the game?  None other than Hunter Strickland, the guy who got out of a bases loaded situation the night before but proceeded to give up two runs the next inning.  Talk about nailbiting!  But the kid did beautifully.  Learning from the night before that he shouldn’t depend solely on his 100 mph fastball to get guys out, he mixed up his pitches this time.  Though he did walk one guy, he was able to close it down and allow everyone to finally call it a night.  It was the longest game in MLB post season history EVER!  AND WE WON!!  WE WON 2 AGAINST THE NATIONALS!!!  IN D.C.!!    PINCH ME!

Moving away from the Playoff frenzy for a minute, I do have some other items of interest to share with you.  Tim Hudson won the Good Guy Award, presented by the Bay Area Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.  The award recognizes one Giants player each year for his cooperation with the print media.  Tim has a reputation for being approachable and for giving some interesting quips once in a while.  Guess the frank comment he made the other day to the media would qualify.  When asked about their chances against the Nationals, Tim responded, “Obviously they (the Nationals) have a talented group over there, there’s no question.  They have some great pitching.  But come playoff time, talent can take you a long ways, but what do you have between your legs?  That’s going to take you real far.  And I think we’ve got a group in here that really has some of that.”  The Nationals took offense to this and the Washington media went nuts with it (tee, hee!), but Tim said he just meant that his team was pretty tough, and it was not directed at the Nats.  Whatever.  All I know is we’re ahead 2 games to none.  Nuff said.  Congrats on your award, Tim!

I have two articles to share with you.  One is about Sergio Romo and his relationship with a girl battling cancer.  Here you go.  I had no idea this was going on during the 2012 World Series.  Such a great story.  Sergio’s earned a ton of points in my book for this one.  And get the hankies out!  There is also a great story about Kruk and Kuip, detailing how they are dealing with Kruk’s muscle disorder.  Here’s the link.  It’s very well written and gives you some interesting insight into Kruk’s struggle and the wonderful relationship that he and Kuip have.  Enjoy.

I noticed a couple of things watching games recently.  Travis Ishikawa has an interesting way of gripping the bat.  The pinky of his top hand goes under the pointer finger of his bottom hand.  You can kind of see it in this picture.  Has anyone else noticed this?  And does anyone know why he would do this?  I’ve also noticed that Madison Bumgarner has something on his left ring finger that looks like a scar.  I was wondering if it was a tattoo.  I did some research and found out that indeed it is a tattoo, and the story behind it is great.  Madison hates wearing jewelry of any kind, so instead of wearing a wedding ring, he had his wife’s name (Ali) tattooed on his left ring finger where the wedding ring would go.  Isn’t that adorable?  It’s the only tattoo he has.  He had it done before Spring Training this season.  It is interesting that he would risk getting a tattoo on his pitching hand, but I guess he thought she was worth the risk.  AWWWW!!

Since the regular season is over, I guess I should give you an update on how I did with the Beat the Streak contest this year.  I came in second to my brother Nick and my cousin Manny (they tied for the lead).  This is the first time since we’ve been doing this that I didn’t win.  I did make a valiant run for the gold during the last week of the contest, though.  Up until then, my high streak was at 10 and the leaders were at 17.  That week I was able to get up to 15, and if my 2 guys could get hits the next day, I would have tied for the lead.  But alas, Jose Altuve failed me and I didn’t get there.  Congrats to Nick and Manny!  Would love it if we could get some more competition going next season.  It’s really a fun game, and it’s free!

So my boys can potentially clinch the NL Division Series tomorrow.  I like their chances with Madison pitching and since they’ll be back at home.  I’m bummed that I can’t watch the game, but I’ll definitely be keeping track.  I have to share something that I’ve been doing on Facebook.  I’ve been using my status update to write the Giants letters.  The first one came before the penultimate game of the season.  It went, “Dear Giants, Win these next 2 games so that you have some momentum going into the Wild Card game.  Just do it!  I will be watching.  Love, Carm.”  They won that day.  The next day, I thanked them by writing, “Dear Giants, Thank you.  Nice job, Kids.  And nice clutch hit, Brandon.  One more tomorrow, please.  Love, Carm.”  They won that last game of the season.  Then I wrote, “Dear Giants, Thanks again.  I feel like you’re actually listening to me.  One last thing – win on Wednesday.  No one wants your post-season to end after one game (well, maybe the Pirates, but they don’t count).  Love, Carm.”  They pulled that one off.  Then I wrote, “Dear Giants, You came through for us again!  That game yesterday was fabulous on so many levels.  Thank you.  I promise not to be too greedy with this next request.  Just win at least one in DC.  I know after that last game you guys have the post-season fire in you, and you can do it.  GO GIANTS!  Love, Carm.”  They exceeded my request, winning both games in DC.  Today’s installment reads, “Dear Giants, You did it!!  And you even surpassed my expectation, taking 2 instead of 1 in DC.  Yesterday was another example of all my boys coming together and battling to get the job done.  Thank you.  I have another favor to ask:  Take this series at home.  You can do it either on Monday or Tuesday, but please do it in front of the home crowd.  You can use the extra rest to prepare for the next stage of your October Quest journey.  I’ll be watching/listening.  Love, Carm.”  We’ll see what happens.  All I know is the letters seem to be working and somehow they are answering my requests, so I can’t stop now!  I’ll take it all the way to the World Series!  And I know they can do it!  These guys have shown how tough they are – all of them!  My boys can do ANYTHING!!  GO GIANTS!  WIN THE NLDS!!

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