ATT Park was all optimism last Tuesday as I toddled down the street, clearing my head for the work that lay ahead.
I could tell it would be a tight evening as I walked. One of the rules of my park job is I have to be sitting in my seat, setting up, at least an hour before first pitch, and I have a spot where I always park when the Giants are playing at night, or on Sunday. It is a street spot, where the meters stop at 6 pm, and don't exist on Sundays, and though I could park in the press lot on the other side of Third Street, I like my normal haunt.
One reason is it is cheap, but more important, it is about a ten minute walk from the spot to the park, and I like the walk. Before the game, it allows me to clear my head so I can pay attention, and post game the stroll allows me to decompress. However, last Tuesday, when I arrived at 5:45, almost 90 minutes prior to first pitch, all the street parking was gone, and that suggested a full and robust crowd when the Giants took on their arch-rivals, The Dodgers, at 7:15.
There was indeed pennant fever--along with the requisite scoreboard watching--in the booth, and much talk of baseball and college football and sports of all kinds. I was particularly mezmerized when filmaker Ken Burns--making the rounds in anticipation of his Tenth Inning segment of his terrific Baseball documentary was presented with a Giants jersey, and ten minutes later walked right past me: close enough so that I could tell him, and get an acknowledgement, of how much I loved the body of his work.
Then the game started, with struggling Barry Zito and the Dodgers hot Clayton Kershaw taking the hill. Zito was a bit shaky first few pitches, allowing a single to Matt Kemp, but a double play erased that, and through five innings, the two pitchers pretty much matched one another, pitch for pitch. Kershaw threw 55 balls, with 29 strikes, while Zito was at 58 and 31.
Then, with two out in the top of the sixth the Dodgers got a walk. And a hit batter. And another walk, followed by a groundball to the hole that Juan Uribe bobbled, allowing an unearned run to score. That meant a run without a hit, in fact scorewise, it also mean no RBI. But, it was still only the sixth inning: lots of outs to go.
And, they went. The Giants managed just four hits as Kershaw earned both his first complete game, and shutout, tossing just 111 pitches, while Zito, the loser was chased out in that sixth inning. The final was an ignominious 1-0. On an unearned run.
Which brought up a lot of head shaking and consternation in the booth as we all finished our work for the evening. It reminded me of Harvey Haddix his perfecto in the twelfth inning, and a couple of guys went to their laptops and then to Baseball Reference.
Apparently, the last time the Dodgers beat the Giants on an unearned run, one-hitter, 1-0, was in 1923. Personally, I was kind of stunned there was even a precedent, but, there it was.
It was a tough loss, but, of course, an excellent game. And, it reminded me of a few weeks earlier when Gio Gonzalez battled Scott Kazmir in Oakland. That game was 0-0 through five innings, and if one was simply scoreboard watching, he or she would have thought the game a tight pitching duel.
Truth is Gonzalez threw first pitch balls to the first 16 batters he faced, and by the fifth, both hurlers and tossed over 140 pitches, as opposed to the tidy 114 for Zito and Kershaw.
The difference was the Athletics game revealed itself with an explosion of runs, while the Giants and the Dodgers kept up the stinginess till the last out was recorded.
It has been and exciting, if not tight week for the Giants, who beat the Padres last Sunday, but suffered through 1-0 games, winning one, losing one, the two nights previous. That meant the Giants had played three of their last four games to 1-0 finishes, which is tough during a pennant run.
It is also the stuff that makes baseball exciting and compelling. And, a lot of fun!