That Has a Nice Ring To It

San Francisco Giants veteran first baseman Will Clark's World Series ring.
If I were a man with a World Series ring, I’d get no-polish manicures too. I’m just saying…

As the 2013 baseball season winds down, I’m taking in as many San Francisco Giants games as my schedule – and my budget – will allow.

I was on hand when the team played the Red Sox on August 20 (the only game the Giants were destined to win in that series), as well as Friday’s game two against the Pittsburg Pirates, which did not end so well.   The Giants lost 3-1, but there were several silver linings for me.

To start, I actually had two tickets to the Pirates game (long story), and spent the first three innings with my college friend Richard, who is British, and his two fantastic children who are spending the summer in San Francisco.  His daughter Chloe educated me on the similarities and differences between baseball and rounders (a game she apparently plays to some acclaim back home).  Thankfully, there was no quiz afterwards, because I think I would have been forced to cheat.  It’s complicated!

Richard’s son Dominic asked great questions that tested my knowledge of America’s pastime.  Our best conversation of the night went something like this:

Dominic: “Is Matt Cain pitching?”
Me: “Wow, you already know the Giants’ pitchers?”
Dominic: “He’s in an Audi advert near our house.  But what about the one named Tim or something?”
Me: (*sigh*) “Pull up a chair, young man.”

Second silver lining:  At the end of the third inning, I headed to my seat near the Giants’ dugout.  I plopped down in my usual graceful manner, before noticing a bit of a hullabaloo in our section. The gentleman sitting directly in front of me was allowing fans to photograph his massive bling-bling ring.

It wasn’t the Pope.  It was veteran Giants first baseman Will “The Thrill” Clark.   He stuck around until the fifth inning, signing balls and taking photos with fans – always with a gracious smile.  He works in the Giants’ front office, so perhaps he’s obligated to go to a few games each season to reward fans.  However, I saw him at 2013 Spring Training too, and am certain his generosity and enthusiasm are genuine.  The man loves baseball, and clearly feels blessed to still be part of the game.

There are only 32 games left in the season. I wonder if I can squeeze in one more Tim Lincecum outing, since San Francisco Chronicle beat writer Hank Schulman has (helpfully) pointed out that Timmy may only have two more starts in a Giants uniform.

No. Way.

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1,281 Reasons My Arm Hurts

Barry Zito
Barry Zito

Buster Posey called Monday’s extra-innings victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks possibly the best San Francisco Giants win of the season. Fitting that it happened on Labor Day because it was, at times, pretty laborious. The sixth inning in particular, when Barry Zito blew a four-run lead, felt like breaking rocks.

Of course, the Giants’ comeback starting in the eight inning — and punctuated by a Posey-Scutaro one-two punch in the 10th — was made sweeter because so many fans bailed in the seventh to beat the traffic, L.A. Dodger-fan style.

Not me.  As my southern Baptist relatives would say… Oh, ye of little faith.

Knowing that the Dodgers had probably watched the Giants struggle, and smirked and puffed up as they imagined themselves closing in on first place in the NL West… well, that was pretty enjoyable too.

I took a record-high 1,281 photos at the game.  I could blame a digital camera that shoots eight frames-per-second.  But instead, I blame Zito and the Giants’ shaky band of middle relievers.  After Barry got the hook, it took six of them — Mota, Kontos, Loux, Penny, Machi (who did great, going 1-2-3 in his first inning in the big leagues) and Romo — to finish off the Diamondbacks.

Of course, as is my custom, I had to photograph them all.  My forearm ached from holding my camera, and pushing down on the shutter-release button for hours.

Whatever.  I rubbed some dirt on it.  It was totally worth it.

Sunday’s Rocky Road

Sunday’s San Francisco Giants game against the Colorado Rockies was a bit of a nail biter.  On one of the most beautiful Bay Area Sundays we’ve had in some time, fans enjoyed a somewhat explosive first inning… followed by six innings of sleepy offense.

Barry Zito was… Barry.  He blew a 3-0 lead in the first inning, and with the help of George Kontos and Clay Hensley the Giants were losing 6-4 by the start of the eighth.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled with Zito’s improvement this season. I could be a twitter hater — wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth about the size of his contract.  But you know what?  It’s a sunk cost.  Why not just be satisfied when Barry gets a win, even if it’s largely thanks to Hunter Pence?  Even better, let’s celebrate when he actually does well. Why the hell not?  It’s better than the alternative!

That said, I love this revisionist quote from Barry after his shaky game. It was like the kid who takes a face plant off his bike, and tells everyone who rushes to his aid, “Oh don’t worry, I MEANT to do that.”

“We needed something like that.  We’ve had a lot of wins by sizable margins and lost some tough ones in-between there. Having come-from-behind wins is important going down the stretch.”

So you think we needed that, Barry?  Did we really?  My cardiologist says no.

After all that torture, the Giants won 9-6 thanks to a three-run homer by newly acquired Hunter Pence.  So far, I like that trade.

I was again in Larry Baer territory with my trusty Canon.  A few of the keepers:

Marco Scutaro
Marco Scutaro
Barry Zito and Ryan Theriot
Barry Zito and Ryan Theriot

I love this photo because it looks like these two guys are holding hands. Like maybe Giants’ veteran Zito is looking out for relatively-new-to-San-Francisco Theriot.  Taking him under his wing.  “Listen little buddy, nobody here calls it ‘Frisco’.  I’m just saying.”

Buster Posey takes one for the team
Buster Posey takes one for the team. Buster was BLEEDING!
Barry Zito
Barry Zito, looking fine for a guy who just blew a three-run lead.
Angel Pagan
Angel Pagan
Angel is all smiles after stealing third.
Angel is all smiles after stealing third.
Lou Seal makes his move.
Lou Seal makes his move. He appreciates maturity, and I can respect that.
Javier Lopez
Javier Lopez. Adjectives elude me.
Barry Zito
Barry Zito
Classic Zito
George Kontos
George Kontos. Eye candy, but not his finest hour.
Hunter Pence
Hunter Pence crosses home plate after his three-run homer. He looks sorta happy!

The San Francisco Giants Mean No Offense…

I’ve gone to a LOT of San Francisco Giants games at AT&T Park, often sitting in a seat near the dugout so that I could take hundreds of photos of whoever was on the mound.   It’s fun with a fast shutter speed, because when you race through the photos later it’s like looking at a cartoon flip book.

There are only so many pitches you can photograph at 8 frames per second before they start to look redundant, though.  Eventually it’s helpful when OTHER THINGS happen in the game that I can take photos of, like the scary collision between Tim Lincecum and Collin Cowgill at home plate in May.

Unfortunately, aside from Ryan Vogelsong’s solid outing, there was precious little to photograph during Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I don’t think a Giant ever even made it over to third base, where I could snap him in a confab with third base coach Tim Flannery.  A few made it to second, but my lens is a 28-300 which means photos from that distance are kind of ho-hum.

I was close enough, however, to see Buster Posey get stranded on base (again) early in the game.  I can’t be sure, but I think he may have rolled his eyes before jogging back to the dugout after the third out.  Seemed a little un-Posey like… but I know what I saw.

Listen up guys; I have tickets to four more Giants games this season.  I’m not buying any more until I start to see some offense.  I have already spent so much time photographing Giants’ pitchers, I could land a gig as a bullpen coach in the minors.

In the meantime, I’ll have to be satisfied with these shots of Vogey pitching to bad-bunter Clayton Kershaw (who does some kind of sun salutation stretch before every pitch) and of various Giants returning to the dugout scoreless, with their heads hanging low.  Pretty much sums up the game, really.