Ratto: Giants Kiss Third Rail, Live to Tell the Tale

October 21, 2010, 5:11 am
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Well, now theyre just showing off.

The San Francisco Giants, who like to see how close they can get to the third rail before dancing away, decided Wednesday night to put their tongues right on it.

And of course, they survived. In fact, they won Game 4 of the National League Championship Series because of their devotion to a man too injured to start the game ... because the third baseman who couldnt be trusted to get the big hit did ... because the catcher who had been struggling at the plate broke out enough for two normally-hyped players ... because the center fielder who costs too much made a throw worth every bit of his salary ... because the bullpen that looked like it couldnt actually did.

And now, with a 6-5 win so rich that it causes cholesterol levels to ring carnival bells putting them one game away from the World Series nobody in their right mind saw for this team, they now can say theyre just screwing with the legend now.

Oh, they dont say they are, because that's tempting fate too much. But Juan Uribe alone -- I mean, thats so over the top, it hardly seems believable.

He hurt his wrist sliding in Game 1. He didnt play in Game 2. He played ineffectively in Game 3. And he didnt play in Game 4 until, well, until the game had to be won.

And on a night when Aaron Rowand, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Buster Posey, Cody Ross, Buster Posey, Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey stood out as heroes, it was the guy who couldnt play -- until he could -- that made the two plays that brought down the house.

The first, a very long throw from the hole to snatch a single from pinch-hitter Ross Gload, was epic enough. The second, the sacrifice fly off Game 2Game 6 starter Roy Oswalt (Roy Oswalt!) so deep that it scored Huff with the game-winner, basically put the story on tilt.

He came in and took BP, and he said that he could go, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, shrugging with that what-do-you-think-he-said look he likes to wear. He said he was available, and when we checked on him late in the game, he was good to go.

Oh yes he was.

I knew I could play (infield), Uribe said. I knew I could do that. But when I swing, it hurts a little bit. But I went out and tried to help the team.

He swung through a fastball from Oswalt, who had come on to start the ninth after essentially telling Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel he wanted to go. He then looked at a fastball down, had a fastball hit the knob of his bat and shoot toward the Philadelphia dugout, took another fastball out of the zone, and then got a knee-high changeup that he lifted to Ben Francisco in left.

A perfect throw might have had Huff, but Rowand had already used up all the perfect throws on this night to cut down Carlos Ruiz at the plate in the fifth. This wasnt perfect, and Uribe became the latest in a long series of Giants heroes in a postseason that makes sense only when you abandon sense.

The only regular player who hasnt done anything substantive to help win a game is backup catch Eli Whiteside. The only pitcher, Guillermo Mota. The rest of the time, the Giants have behaved like a wrestling tag team with unlimited partners. Or maybe a Mini Cooper that doubles as a clown car, emitting players and performances you are sure the car cannot hold.

Bochys maneuverings seem to work with uncanny regularity, and there seems no end to the wizardry his players emit when placed in the high tension moments.

And dont forget that all but a few players -- Huff, Posey, Pat Burrell -- have had their turn in the abuse-o-wheel that is Giants fandom. They talk about the torture of following this team, but they dont actually like it until its done, which is too late to claim credit.

Its the moments when the adrenaline rises into the mouth and tastes like burnt almonds, when the fan knows, absolutely knows, that the bad thing is going to happen, when Uribes hand is going to fly out of his glove and land in someones drink.

Thats when the torture is really torture, and when Uribe came up, surely outmatched by one of the games best pitchers, the stadium knew.

But it hoped, and when Uribe chased Francisco back and Huff was golden, thats when everyones bingo card was filled. The Giants have won six of eight games in the postseason with a full complement of heroes, a different one each night.

So yeah, it is showing off, even more brazenly than Huffs choice of aprs-jeu delicates. The Giants have depth they didnt know they had, and now they are beating up yet another team with it.

And Thursday, they can clinch the World Series berth. No doubt with Mota pitching six innings of spotless relief and Whiteside hitting three homers.

Well, OK. Thats probably over the top. But not by as much as you would have thought.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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