CINCINNATI A baseball clubhouse is a superstitious place,and never more so than when a team takes the field in an elimination game.
So the Giants have developed their rituals and quirks overthese past few days in Cincinnati as they try to recover from an 0-2 deficitand knock off the Reds. Tim Lincecum, Clay Hensley, Javier Lopez, Brian Wilsonand a few others arrived Wednesday for Game 4 with the same streetclothes they wore to the ballpark for Game 3 a night earlier.
Underwear, I think, is OK, Lincecum said, in case anyonewas wondering.
BAGGS' INSTANT REPLAY: Two down, one to go
Hunter Pence wanted to keep everything the same, too. Hewasnt going to reprise his fiery oration word for word from a night earlier.But he did deliver another similar speech, and he did gather the team in afootball huddle once more in the dugout.
Yeah there was a rally today, Pence said. Just a littleone.
The initial sermon still echoed in his teammates ears. Andalthough it was meant for theirs only, enough bits of the speech have leakedout that Pence is now at least willing to acknowledge that he delivered one.
The momentum we started was having Hunter and hismotivational speeches, Lincecum said. They are extremely inspiring. Theyraise us up and they bring us together at the same time.
You just want to go alongside him and tag along. He hasntbeen here for long, but he stepped up like hes been here for six years. Hesjust an extremely intense personality.
Hes here for baseball. Nothing else.
Added center fielder Angel Pagan: He inspired us to go outthere and be positive and bring the best we can bring, and thats what weveshown. Weve shown that there is no tomorrow. There is only today, and thanksto the win today, there will be a tomorrow.
Not long after Lincecum and Pagan pitched and hit the Giantsto another tomorrow in Game 4, Pence already began thinking about what hed saybefore a decisive Game 5.
He has to, Pablo Sandoval said. Its superstition.
Ive got one ready, Pence said. Actually, I've got a lotmore of those coming. Theres a lot of great moments yet to come.
Weve still gotta stay locked in and stay focused. Webelieve in (Matt) Cain and we believe in everybody weve got. We look forwardto another day of baseball together. I couldnt be happier to have another daywith these guys.
What did Pence expect Tim Lincecum to deliver as a longreliever?
THAT, said Pence, after Lincecum dazzled the Reds with ashower of strikes over 4 13 innings. What he did, right there. Everyoneexpected that.
Hes a big-game pitcher. You dont win two Cy Youngs and aWorld Series without that. Hes just got a lot of heart and Im so happy forhim. He picked us up and that was huge. I just congratulated him, everyone.
RATTO: Tim Lincecum is a graphic novel
It wouldnt be a Lincecum postseason game without one of hispatented brain farts. This time, he made a pickoff throw to first base whenBuster Posey already had backpedaled away from the bag. Dioner Navarro tooksecond base on the error, but went no further in the inning.
"Yeah, flashes of the 2010 World Series, said Lincecum, recalling the time hefielded a ball in Game 1 of that series and jogged a runner back to third base,not realizing the bases werent loaded.
As for the ball he threw to an invisible first baseman Wednesday night? Posey had to laugh.
I almost had it, Posey said, sarcastically.
For the first time this postseason, the Giants played thekind of game they played all through the second half on the road. They got anearly lead, they protected it and they added to it.
The Giants are 12-0 in Barry Zitos last 12 starts.Mathemagic!
I didnt think about it at the time, but Bruce Bochysdecision to have Hector Sanchez catch Zito makes all the sense in theworld now.
It wasnt just about getting a different bat in the lineup,or Zitos sense of comfort. Bochy KNEW Lincecum would be throwing multipleinnings in this game. And like Zito, Lincecum has a better rapport with Sanchezbehind the plate, too.
The lineup change wasnt so popular with the pro-BrandonBelt segment of the fan base, who often bemoan Sanchezs lack of platediscipline compared to Belts much better on-base percentage.
Well, Sanchez drew two walks. He drew five all during theregular season. And so he had a postgame request for bench coach Ron Wotus.
I told Wotus, I need the lineup card, Sanchez said. Becausetwo walks in one game? Thats amazing for me!
Pretty sure Joaquin Arias has to be in the Game 5 lineup.
My goodness, Bruce Bochy. Can a double switch turn moregolden?
Wouldnt you know, superstition governs who takes the snackbag out to the bullpen, too. Usually its the guy with the least service time.But when 39-year-old Guillermo Mota returned from his suspension last month, hetold his teammates to let him take over.
We won the game, rookie George Kontos said. So hes beendoing it ever since. He said, Im taking it and thats that. I said,Whatever you want, Guillermo.
So on Thursday, Pence will crane his neck and strain hisvoice, Mota will pack the seeds and gum, and a few Giants will wearstretched-out clothes to the ballpark.
It's Matt Cain and Mat Latos. Once again, the Giants playing for another tomorrow. The difference thistime: So are the Reds.
As Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker put it: Tomorrow is thefinal fight.