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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nate the saviour raises Giants from the dead

The Giants will send you into despair, break your will, test your faith. You will give up on them, declare them unfit, unworthy, threaten to quit the Giants' House of Worship.

And then, with one strike left in the game, Nate Schierholtz will stroke a single up the middle to raise the dead, and He will come back two innings later for the greater deliverance from the hellishness of Giants torture.

There is probably a religious parable in the Giants' long-established trait of resurrection and redemption, though I am not trained in that aspect of life, so I'm not certain. But when the Giants do come back from the dead, as they did Wednesday in their 7-5 11-inning win over the St. Louis Cardinals, I trust that it is as close to a religious experience as it can be.

Schierholtz does, now that I'm thinking of it, have that look of Jesus, at least a balding version. And he has acted the saviour on enough occasions to make you wonder if the Rapture is indeed coming soon.

I can't imagine Jesus with such a beautiful swing, though. When Schierholtz' swing is on, it is as beautiful a stroke as you'll find on a major league diamond.

Enough of religion. Schierholtz was only up to bat in the top of the ninth because Aubrey Huff had drawn a two-out walk against Cardinals' closer Fernando Salas -- a perfect act of selflessness, a Zen moment of being one with his teammates. For the 40,000 plus Red Clad followers, the two-out walk was a Cardinal Sin.

Huff had earlier hit a home run to give the Giants a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning, which may have put him at rest with his inner torments. Maybe a day off convinced Huff to let the game come to him rather than him lunging at the game (and all those changeups in the dirt). And talk about fate: only an injury to rookie Brandon Belt forced Huff back into the lineup when he'd initially been slated to take off a couple days to take his mind off his .217 batting average.

It was a kind of restraint that's been missing from Huff's game all season. With every failure in a season full of them, Huff has too often compounded his problem by trying to compensate with big, flailing swings at pitches out of the strike zone. So, a job well done by Huff to keep the line moving.

Boss Bochy's decision to replace Huff with Manny Burriss on the basepaths is more courageous than what meets the eye. Remember, he had no one else to play first base, and would have to send Burriss out to a position he'd never played before, at least in the major leagues. How's that for riverboat gambling, Tony LaRussa?

Burriss waited to steal second -- another overlooked gamble by Bochy, challenging the best-throwing catcher, Yadier Molina, in the National League -- until after Schierholtz had two strikes on him. So, Schierholtz had one shot -- with the game on the line, with the demons of yet another agonizing loss looming over the Giants -- to come through. He was up against a closer who had yet to blow a game. And he took a fastball away right where he should take it, a line drive up the middle, sending Burriss in for the game-tying run.

Freddie Sanchez had the other Job-like at bat in the 11th, working a full count by fouling off a number of tough pitches before driving a one-out ground-rule double on a bounce over the left field wall. But after Burriss popped out, it again came down to a two-out clutch scenario that the Giants have been so horrid at this year.

And again, Schierholtz delivered, hitting a line drive to right field. This time, Nate didn't wait around for two strikes. Even a saviour shouldn't have to pull off miracles at the very edge of life every time. The only worry was that it would hang up long enough to be caught. The Cardinal outfield had just moved in a few steps to get a better shot at throwing out Sanchez on a hit, but with two outs, that wasn't going to happen. Sanchez was off with the swing and his unnecessary slide into home was the unbridled joy that comes from so much failure that the game bestows on even the best.

Remember how close the Giants seemed destined for a gloomy end, victims of what seems to be just another in a series of unfortunate events that continue to dog them?

They had just taken a 4-3 lead on Huff's home run in the top of the seventh inning, culminating a comeback from a 3-0 deficit. And just as quickly, in the bottom of the seventh, ace Tim Lincecum let it all slip away when he gave up a two-run home run to Cal product Allen Craig on a hanging slider.

It could have been a soul-searching defeat, the kind of loss that signals that the Baseball Gods are frowning and have cast you into eternal anguish. Or, if you don't go for the spiritual, it could have sent an organization into full panic alert -- the kind of defeat that ushers roster decisions and sends careers careening into oblivion.

So, in steps Nate the Great, Nate the Savior. He saves not only the game but the hide of some of his teammates, the good feelings of the win forestalling potentially harsh decisions about the future of Miguel Tejada, and, perhaps Pat Burrell.

Let's see. Oct. 11 is the next Rapture date to watch out for, right? The Giants could be in the middle of a post-season run at that point, and it shouldn't be surprising if Nate Schierholtz is in the middle of yet another maddening, redeeming Giants win.


  1. I like your blog!

    Another lifelong Giants fan here (saw Willie Mays go Bye-Bye-Baby at the Stick!) who checked off the bucket list last year, but am still hanging on for more TORTURE!

    (Just hope tonight wasn't the beginning of an 8/10-like Timmy-slide)

    Go Giants!

  2. Great post. Man, you know how to milk those religious allusions and did a terrific job working them in to your post.

    I never gave up on the Giants. They can only get better. I, too, am concerned about Sanchez. But overall, with Pablo returning and Nate producing, I'm optimistic. How much do you think losing Posey will affect the Giants' success? Plenty? I'm interested in your opinion.

    Thanks for your writing. I look forward to reading them. So, when do you have time for your family??

    Enjoy your weekend,

  3. JCF: yes, with Tim L., he just can't escape the criticism that he can't pitch in the heat. Too bad he's not pitching today. He'd probably throw a no hitter in the rain.

    Paul: Over the long haul, not having Posey will hurt. But, we could look at Pablo Sandoval's return as an even exchange, since the Giants had been winning without Pablo all these weeks. They have such interchangeable parts and get sparks from throughout the lineup that no one player can bring this team down. What should have brought them down by now but hasn't has been the season-long slump of so many of the crucial players. There's just something about this team -- their doggedness, their flair for the dramatic, and, of course, the pitching -- that can't keep it down. And it helps that the Rockies are stinking it up.

  4. I agree entirely with you; this team is like the children's story, The Little Train That Could: " I think I can, I think I can..."

    I respect their resiliency. It transcends the stats that describe this team. Their pitching is saving their goose. I'm mindful of the late 60's and early 70's when the Giants had great players and hitters and yet would lose to LA. Pitching was the difference then; the Dodgers edged them out,even though we had excellent pitchers, too. (E.g., Marichal, Perry, etc.)

    Well, forty years later, it's now the story about this team. Pitching allows the Giants to win many of the one run games. (The outcome of today's game notwithstanding.)