The San Francisco media began its “magic number” countdown about a week ago — the magic number being the number of wins required to clinch a playoff spot, regardless how well/poorly the runner-up team (i.e. the LA Dodgers) performs. By Thursday morning, the San Francisco Giants’ magic number was five.
Because I had tickets to both Saturday’s and Sunday’s games against the San Diego Padres, I did more math than is advisable for a history major, trying to pinpoint the likelihood I’d be at AT&T Park to see the Giants win the National League West. It’s not really about statistical probability, of course. Barring some kind of Red Sox-style collapse, it was only a matter of time before they clinched. But how MUCH time would depend on how much torture the baseball gods chose to inflict.
The gods were merciful, and the Giants beat the Padres handily on Saturday night to win the division. Nervous energy hung in the air like the Bay Area marine layer, but the team played like vets who had been there before. No torture necessary.
When Angel Pagan caught Mark Kotsay’s pop up to end the game, the place went insane. It’s hard to describe the electricity and elation in such an enormous venue, where everyone is pulling for the same thing (or, “on the same rope” as Zen master/GM Brian Sabean likes to say). Everywhere you looked, fans were smiling, high-fiving and hugging, and no one was rushing for the exits to beat the traffic. I stuck around until Giants’ president and CEO Larry Baer got hold of the microphone, and began his shameless plug for playoff merchandise.
The fact that starters – including my particular favorite, Tim Lincecum – didn’t play on Sunday was a bit of a disappointment, although no one could begrudge them their day off. It gave the rookies some valuable playing time. It also allowed people like me, who have been laser-focused on the playoffs, to just relax in the stellar weather, unclench our jaws, put down our cameras…. and enjoy the game.