Coming Through In A Clinch

On Monday, it was discussed as a possibility for the Wednesday night. On Tuesday night, it became a certainty. I talked it over with my father, and we pulled the tickets from the Double Play Ticket Window, which still had not sold since they were against the lowly Padres. And off we were to watch a game and a scoreboard, because we just had to be there for the clinching moment.

When it becomes apparent that the division title will be won fairly easily, one thing a fan hopes for is that the magic moment comes on the home turf by virtue of a win by your team. You don't want to back into the clincher by virtue of the chasing team losing. You also hope that the clincher comes at home, because being a part of that celebration is one of the classic memories for a fan. Could anyone forget 1997's clincher, even in the shadow of the home run by Brian Johnson against the Dodgers? Watching the team come pouring out of the Dugout, the big man Dusty as quickly as any of them? Barry dropping to one knee as the catch was made, and then leaping into the air, bouncing like a pogo stick with his fists alternately raised in victory and pumping in excitement? Or, perhaps best of all for the fans, Barry getting onto the dugout roof and giving hugs to the fans?

So, when the opportunity arises, a fan has to be there. Pack the peanuts and sunflower seeds. Bring an extra $20 to pick up the obligatory T-shirt. And don't forget the binoculars, because there's an out of town scoreboard that needs watching.

On Wednesday night, it seemed like it should be perfect. We had our Cy Young candidate Jason Schmidt on the mound versus a kid that had given up four home runs to us in only 6 IP. And down in Dodgerland, where we needed the Diamondbacks to do the actual beating of L.A., Arizona had their best pitcher on the mound, Brandon Webb. Both games were scheduled to start shortly after 7 pm.

After arriving at the park and walking around the Portwalk as I enjoy doing before every game, the only concern was that the Diamondbacks wouldn't be able to finish off the Dodgers before the Giants beat the Padres. Our friendly usher Ray stopped by to inform us that in the unlikely possibility of that occurring, the Dodger game would be on the jumbotron, but I wouldn't even allow the possibility in my mind. The Giants win just had to be the clincher, not the Dodger loss. And things seemed to be on schedule early, as when the Giants took the field, the Diamondbacks had already begun playing and had already scored a run.

Of course, some worries were there after watching Schmidt inexplicably give up three runs in first two innings. But, even after watching the future Cy Young winner struggle, something felt right. The Dodgers were now down 2-0 and that game was almost an inning ahead of ours. And sure enough, soon the Giants woke up. Andres Galaragga and Marquis Grissom tattooed a couple of balls, and Schmidt began to put up one of the best strikeout performances Pac Bell Park had ever seen. And for a Giants fan, everything was right with the world.

Until the 8th inning.

Suddenly, the Diamondbacks-Dodgers score wasn't changing. A listen to the radio revealed both teams were putting men on base and changing pitchers, slowing that game down. Even though no scoring was going on, the Giants game was quickly catching up on them. Worse, the Giants game was due to be a half inning shorter, since the Giants wouldn't be batting in the bottom of the ninth. Soon, it was a horse race, watching the game on the field and listening for updates from Jon Miller and Joe Angel from Los Angeles.

And, finally, it was the Giants in the top of ninth, and Felix Rodriguez somehow found his way to quickly work through batters, and a couple of quick ground balls later, the Giants had won. Everyone got up and cheered, and the Giants strolled out of the dugout for the usual congrats to each other, but it wasn't the same as the defeat of the Padres in '97 to clinch. It was very subdued. The Dodgers were just going to the bottom of the ninth. Well, I thought, at least we were going to clinch, which was more than could've been said the last two years, so that sense of ‘take what you can get' settled in. Soon enough, the game was on the big board, and the Giants were filing into the clubhouse, seemingly to attack the waiting champagne, but then something unexpected happened.

The Giants came out onto the field to watch the game on the big screen, too.

Maybe this seems natural to some people, but it didn't to me. I entirely expected the guys to go back into the clubhouse and watch in there, where they could watch in relative comfort, good audio, and get a better look. And seeing them come out to watch with the fans gave me a similar feeling as watching Game 6 of the World Series at Yerba Buena Gardens, and da Mayor, Willie Brown came out to watch with all the other fans. That's not something everyone would do, and that's one of the great things about being a fan in San Francisco. No matter who you are, we're all fans, even if you're on the team.

And, well, you all know how it turned out. And we got our clincher celebration after all. Obligatory T-shirts and all.

So, with the postseason now a certainty, I've put together a little to-do list for the Giants, things they would be well to do in the last two weeks before the season.

J.T. Snow and Edgardo Alfonzo – Visualize Palm Trees. Find a beach where it's actually warm. Visit the zoo. Surf a little. But whatever you do, pretend you're in San Diego wherever you are, because that series at the Murph last week was exactly what the Giants need of you going into the postseason.

Sidney Ponson – Hit The Batting Cages. Grab some wood and get in there. This is the NL, and the pitchers hit. And with our team's sometimes lethargic offense, we do need our pitcher to be a productive part of the lineup. You don't have to be a slugger, but please, please, at least learn to get down a sacrifice bunt regularly!

Marquis Grissom and Jose Cruz Jr. – Grab Some Pine. With all due respect, please find a comfy spot on the bench a couple of times in this last couple of weeks. You two have played more than anyone on the team, and it sometimes shows that you guys are getting tired. Both of you have played better after days off, so please take some.

Jesse Foppert, Kevin Correia, Todd Linden, and anyone who doesn't make the playoff roster – Watch and learn. With all the veterans on this team, a number of the youngsters are unlikely to make the playoff roster. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be a part of the team. Guys like Foppert, Correia, Linden and many others will soon be the guys we're counting on in playoff situations. So take advantage of this time and learn what it's like, and what all the old vets do in this situation. That way, you'll be acting like seasoned vets in your first shots at the playoffs.

Everyone – Scoreboard peek. Don't stare, don't even watch properly. But peek at them everyone once in a while. After clinching we remain a half game behind the Braves for Home Field Advantage in the NL, and that's key. We have the best home field record in the League, but the Braves have the second best. Getting that HFA may be the intangible that puts us over the top in that series, so let's try to get it.

That's it. October's coming, so let's get ready to Bring It Home.

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