Saturday, April 24, 2010

Home Stand Part II (Padres-Giants Game Story)

I've been house sitting at my friend/co-worker's home for the past four days, feeding his dog, watching sports on his TV, and sleeping in his guest bed with my girlfriend. It's the first time I've done something like that and it was an interesting feeling, especially this morning when we gathered all of our things and left. It felt like we'd been staying at a nice hotel that had an exuberant English bulldog for us to hang out with. I first went to my friend (let's call him Joe)'s house on Tuesday night so he could show me around, explain what I needed to do, and have me sleep over so I could drive him to the airport at 4:30 in the morning. We ate pizza and watched the Laker game (fittingly, because heavy clouds were gathering all day, they were playing the Thunder) before going to bed and then popped up at 4 AM and drove in the dark to the airport.

After dropping him off, I went back to my apartment (which is pretty close to the airport) while the sun crept up giving a gray tint to everything and I hurried inside to get some sleep before having to wake up again and go to work.

The weather that day would be very un-San Diego-like, chilly with varying degrees of heavy downpouring showers and dark clouds. I spent most of the afternoon trying to secure someone to come with me to see the Padres-Giants game at Petco Park in the afternoon at 3:30, a game for which I'd been given free tickets. At about 2:45 my buddy Allan indicated that he was ready and willing and so I picked him up after leaving work at 3 and cruised southward through heavy rain showers, heading towards downtown San Diego and hoping the rain would let up so we could watch some baseball.

Thankfully, it did. But it was still freezing, windy, and drizzly. It was as though the San Francisco Giants had brought their cloudy Bay Area weather with them. I recalled how, in August 2008, I ventured up to San Francisco for a couple days to visit a potential grad school and went to a Giants-Braves game that I had to leave early (something I never do) because it was just too cold and windy. This time, though, we would bear the elements. We sat in the upper deck just behind home plate and watched as the Padres finished off a sweep of the Giants for their 6th win in a row, putting them in first place.

A chilly Wednesday afternoon game in April (that wasn't even televised) with an unspectacular pitching matchup is about as nondescript as a baseball game gets but, as I looked over the lineups, I found a way to be excited about seeing such players as Giants leftfielder John Bowker whose defensive ability Baseball Prospectus 2010 likened to a James Thurber-invented monster named Todal: "It sounds like rabbits screaming and smells of old, unopened'd think his glove work was so Todal-y awful you dared not go looking for him, lest he gleep you." Sounds cool!

Bowker didn't do anything to attract attention in a game the Padres completely dominated. Starter Jon Garland shut down a meek lineup (7 innings, 6 hits, 1 run) and the Padres struck big blows (homers by Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Hundley) and tortured crappy starter Todd Wellemeyer with their patience, drawing four straight walks in the second inning. Wellemeyer was wild throughout the game but somehow managed to gut out 4 innings only giving up 2 runs. It was the Padres' continued propensity to pound bullpens that would put the game away, as they knocked 6 hits and three runs off the Giant penmen.

The game was pretty sparsely attended and featured a very diverse crowd including many bundled-up elderly folk. By the 9th inning, whatever warmth the sun provided was gone as it had retreated behind the stadium walls and most of the attendees had retreated along with it. Thankfully, we stayed and got to see Pablo Sandoval swing from his heels at a 3-1 pitch and make perfect contact on an absolute missile of a homerun. It was undoubtedly one of the hardest-hit homeruns I've ever seen in person (and I've been at Shea Stadium for a doubleheader with a couple Mark McGwire bombs) as Sandoval laced a line drive to dead centerfield in the major league's biggest park. Here's a video of the hit.

I walked out of the game proud of a team that I'm growing to really enjoy. They'd swept two straight division rivals handily (and, as of this writing, they've continued their streak with their 8th win in a row) and my bold prediction that they'd win 80-82 games and finish ahead of the Giants seemed more realizable than ever. Yes, it's only April. But this team looks very good. My blog voice is still a developing whisper but I look forward to yelling in the faces of the many analysts who have thoughtlessly brushed aside the Friars as 2010 cellar dwellers. Go Pads!

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