I took my son to his first Giant game at AT&T Park in mid-September, when he was seven years old, in 2009.
In the two previous days the Giants had pounded Colorado 9-1 and 10-2 in the first two games of a home series pulling themselves within two and a half of the Division-leading Rockies. Matt Cain was on the mound with a chance to shrink the lead and sweep Colorado out of town. It was mid-September.
But Jorge De La Rosa had his best start as a major-leaguer, dominating SF. In the bottom of the 9th inning the Giants were down 4-0 on the strength of two home runs – by Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Stewart. (the first home runs my son ever saw were hit off my favorite pitcher, Matt Cain).
From an ESPN piece on that game:
“The Giants opened the ninth with three straight singles off Franklin Morales, with the first run scoring on Bengie Molina’s hit. Rafael Betancourt came in to protect a three-run lead and got Juan Uribe to hit a grounder to shortstop.
Tulowitzki’s throw to second base was off target for an error, allowing a second run to score and pinch-runner Eli Whiteside to go to third. After pinch-runner Eugenio Velez stole second ….”
And here I have to interrupt because we were there and it was unforgettable.
Two weeks earlier, Edgar Renteria had hit a seventh-inning grand slam off Rafael Betancourt that had helped the Giants complete a previous three-game sweep of the Rockies and tie for the wild-card lead!
The situation was almost exactly the same with Betancourt vs. Renteria: game three, with the sweep and division lead in the balance. The at-bat was pregnant with excitement and anticipation at the yard – my son’s first experience of that beautiful tension, the taut, loud bearing of all of us together cheering, rooting, hoping.
Betancourt got Renteria to pop-up, pinch-hitter Randy Winn to hit an RBI groundout and struck out Schierholtz to end it. It was perhaps his finest hour as a reliever at that point in his career – note he has eight saves and a win in this young season and the 38-year-old has grown into the role.
I hate to say this, but I knew we were going to lose that one – that was who we were … so often.
We never got closer to the playoffs that season. But there were lessons we learned that played out in 2010. And of course, Edgar Renteria won it for us with the homer with runners in scoring position.
As I sat with my son enjoying his first game – and remember this was in 2009, before we won these two world series and our expectations grew so large that APRIL losses like last night’s in San Diego or last week’s versus the D’Backs at home disappoint us so much – as I sat with him waiting for fans to file out I thought, “Sigh, well, I hope I am not burdening the poor kid with Giants baseball.”
Ha! And that lucky kid has seen them win not one, but two world series’ since!
I mention this today because the last few games have felt like slap in the face deja-vu, in this very young season. I know it’s early … but unless we refocus our energy to play crisp defense and start hitting with runners in scoring position, our fate could be the relative anonymity of also-rans.