Ratto: Playoff atmosphere returns, Giants thrive

Ratto: Playoff atmosphere returns, Giants thrive
September 3, 2011, 5:49 am

Sept. 2, 2011

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On this, the first last day of the Giants 2011, 2010 broke out all over the place.

Since we have decided to cast this as the most important Giants series since last November, the demand for crank-wrapped hyperbole is therefore greater. Plus, how often do these guys score six runs in eight innings?

Not nearly often enough, as we have discussed many times. Therefore, the urgencydesperation of the moment must have contributed at least in some small measure to San Franciscos 6-2 win over their newest arch-enemies, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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All the elements that have been missing from the second half of the season were suddenly and vividly in evidence. The leadoff man, Cody Ross, on base thrice and then making a diving catch along the left field line in the eighth inning. The three-hole, Carlos Beltran, homering, doubling and singling twice. The brand new five-hole, Pat Burrell, walking twice and striking out but using 22 of Joe Saunders 90 pitches to do so.

And Matt Cain, in one of his most manic-depressive starts as a Giant, both tempted and then punished the Diamondbacks. He alternated between being erratic and bloodless, unsure at first that he wouldnt be shut out once again and then invigorated to see they he got four starts worth of runs in two hours.

And they did all these things in front of their second smallest crowd of the year, an announced ant farm of 40,948, larger only than the first Dodger crowd of the year in Home Date No. 4.

Coming into the park, it just had a different feel to it, Cain said afterward of the general atmosphere. It just had a different energy to it. It really felt almost like a playoff game.

But it had to be. The Giants had been treading oatmeal for a month, and were on the verge of being crushed by the application of the raisins and brown sugar.

The imperatives were clear. Sweep and be very much in play in the final 22 games, be swept and be gone, or split the difference and live on the third rail the rest of the year.

So they decided to replay some of the games that got them from the coroners slab a year ago into the playoffs. The offensive execution, the confidence that bordered on swagger, and the general vibe of a team that wasnt but had been ailing for a good long while and suddenly had a very healthy and hearty day.

Hey, we needed that one in the worst way, manager Bruce Bochy said afterward. We had a lot of things going tonight, and its been awhile since weve had a game go that way. But thats the thing. We just need two or three guys to get going, and we can get five or six runs, and we can get on a roll like we did last year.

Of course, it isnt all that good an idea to declare the patient healed yet. Arizona still has a five-game lead and their two best pitchers, Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson left, going against Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong. But the real issue is not whether Lincecum and Vogelsong can deliver the furniture, but whether the offense will break it trying to get it out of the truck.
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The Giants remain who they are, despite Fridays veritable bacchanal. Putting 15 men on base in a single day is essentially Christmas morning for these galoots, and theyll have do that a lot more often down the stretch to be taken seriously, not only by the Diamondbacks but by anyone else.

But for one night, it has the old-timey feel of the team that used to know how to win almost reflexively, and the crowd that knew it was coming. Whether that is just Pavlov at work or the turning of the calendar or, mirabile dictu, a reprise of the happiest time in San Francisco Giant history, remains very much to be seen.

This evening, though, as a refreshing change from the previous 40 games, at least they were watchable.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com