Well, here it is–my last post of the 2010s. I know I may be beating a dead horse here with this end-of-the-decade stuff, but let’s face it: It’s Christmas/New Year’s week, and nothing is happening in baseball, particularly with the Giants. I could complain some more about Gabe Kapler being hired and MadBum being a Snake and don’t even get me started about the USC Trojans. But it is still the holidays, so I’m going more positive (again).
Surf Maui already hit his most/least favorite Giants moments of the decade, so as not to be entirely derivative, I’m going with entire games, again using a top-ten countdown format as I did last week for players. Also, to make this a bit less obvious, I’m limiting myself to one World Series-clinching game and one pennant-winning game. The rest were picked for the entertainment value of the game itself and not (just) its high stakes (or lack thereof, in some cases). I’ll try to be a bit more succinct than I was last week, mainly because we just got home from vacation late last night and I have mountains of laundry to do before the 49ers game.
#10: The Giants rally from an eight-run deficit, May 3, 2019, Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati
The Giants had a bad April and went on to have a bad May, but early that month, this wild thing happened. 2014 first-round pick Tyler Beede was called up from AAA to make his 2019 debut. In hindsight, that was kind of a mean thing to do to him, and it didn’t go well, to put it politely. The Giants trailed 8-0 by the end of the third inning. But they fought back, and with two outs in the top of the ninth and the Giants trailing by a run, Stephen Vogt, making his Giants debut, hit a dramatic game-tying homer. In the top of the 11th, Evan Longoria hit the game-winner.
#9: Giants score a cajillion runs, September 14, 2013, at Dodger Stadium
2013 was not a good year for the Giants. In fact, it was one of the worst years in MLB history for a defending World Series champion. Only a strong September kept them out of the cellar in the NL West, and they ended up 76-86 and in third place. But this game was fun. The Dodgers were trying to clinch the NL West (as it turned out, their first of seven straight division titles and counting) at home, and the Giants were trying equally hard not to let it happen on their watch. And they succeeded, winning three of four in that series, including this epic beat-down that broke a record for the most runs scored by a visiting team at Dodger Stadium–previously held by the 1987 Giants, in a game that, oddly enough, I attended.
In this 2013 game, 13 of the Giants’ 19 runs were driven in by Brandon Belt (6) or Hunter Pence (7). Pence was in the middle of one of the greatest September salary drives I’ve ever seen, culminating with a Willie Mac Award win and a five-year contact extension.
As a fun postscript to that game and series, the Giants’ preventing the Dodgers from clinching the division on their home field meant that the Dodgers had to wait to finish the job at Chase Field in Arizona, leading to the infamous “pool celebration.” (Two things can be equally true. The Dbacks can be whiny and the Dodgers can be douchey.)
#8: Jean Machi bunts home the winning run, May 5, 2014, PNC Park, Pittsburgh
Just watch the recap video to see what a crazy game this was. Remember #ForeverGiant Jake Dunning throwing TWO run-scoring wild pitches in the same inning? Remember Brandon Hicks? Remember when Hunter Pence could run like the wind? And after all of that, the game-winner comes on a bunt by reliever Jean Machi (better known for passing gas in the bullpen than for throwing gas on the mound). It was an AWESOME GAME.
#7: Angel Pagan’s inside-the-park walk-off homer, May 25, 2013, AT & T Park
The Giants had rallied from a four-run deficit to take this game into extra innings, but the Rockies scored in the top of the tenth. With Brandon Crawford on second and one out, Pagan hit a ball to right center that easily scored Crawford with the tying run and put Pagan on third with a tri–oops. Flannery sent Pagan on home with the game-winner.
As an unhappy postscript, Pagan injured his hamstring in that game and didn’t play another game for three months. But it was still one of the most exciting finishes to a game imaginable.
#6: The “Donnie Two Trips” game, July 20, 2010, Dodger Stadium
The game began with a marquee matchup, Tim Lincecum vs. Clayton Kershaw. At the time, Lincecum was the two-time defending NL Cy Young Award winner and a very young Kershaw, while obviously talented, hadn’t become CLAYTON KERSHAW yet. In 2011, Lincecum and Kershaw would face off five separate times, and their battles were so epic that season that they ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated together.
July 20, 2010 was not one of those pitching classics. Lincecum was as wild as I’ve ever seen him–I mean, check out this pitch. He struggled through 4.2 innings and 80 pitches, giving up seven hits, five runs, and three walks, and hitting Matt Kemp, at the time the Dodgers’ best hitter, twice. That last factoid is the important one to remember. Kershaw pitched better (four runs, two earned, in 6+ innings) but was ejected in the top of the seventh when he hit Aaron Rowand. A warning had been issued to both benches, so Kershaw and manager Joe Torre (by rule) were both ejected from the game, and Kershaw was suspended for five games for the obviously intentional retaliatory plunking of Rowand. So Don Mattingly, who was the Dodgers’ hitting coach at the time, was acting manager in the top of the ninth.
The Giants had rallied from Lincecum’s bad start and were only trailing 5-4 when the ninth inning began. Dodgers’ All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton got into some trouble, loading the bases with one out in the ninth. Mattingly went out to the mound to talk things over with Broxton. As he turned to go back to the dugout, James Loney asked him a question, Mattingly turned around and took a couple steps, and–BOOM, Bruce Bochy pounced. “That’s two trips,” he said. The umpires agreed and the Dodgers had to replace Broxton with an un-warmed-up George Sherrill, who promptly gave up the winning double to Torres. Anyone who watched that game in its entirety will never forget it.
#5: Giants win NL West, October 3, 2010, AT & T Park
All of the clinchers were great, but I picked this one because it came down to the wire, and, more importantly, was the Giants’ first playoff opportunity in seven years. The Giants went into a final weekend showdown series with the Padres with a three-game lead in the NL West. They just needed one win at home to pop champagne. Surely, Matt Cain, on his 26th birthday and having one of the best years of his career, could get it done on Friday night, allowing Bochy to rest players and set his rotation for the NLDS. Oops. Nope.
Who’s up ne–? Oops, Barry Zito, having a horrific second half. His final start of 2010 sealed his fate as to the postseason rosters, too.
So now it was up to the enigmatic Jonathan Sanchez, having a great season and an especially great September. He also had a memorable season of running his mouth, guaranteeing that the Giants were going to chase down the Padres and win the division. If the Giants lost, they’d have to fly to San Diego for a tiebreaker the next day. Bruce Bochy famously ordered the team not to bring luggage to the park for the Sunday game.
October 3 is a date dripping with meaning for Giants Nation. That was the day that Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Heard ‘Round the World in 1951. It was the day that the Giants rallied to win the pennant in 1962. The day Joe Morgan knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs in 1982. And it was the day in 1993 that Salomon Torres…well, never mind.
Anyway, Sanchez pitched well enough against nemesis Padres ace Mat “I Hate SF” Latos (you ain’t seen nothing yet, Mat–just wait until 2012), and more importantly, started the scoring with an unlikely triple. Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey added insurance runs, and Brian Wilson closed things out with remarkably little torture (for him) in the ninth. The team took a victory lap high-fiving the fans, and Tim Lincecum dropped an F-bomb on live TV and over the stadium PA system.
I guess Jonathan Sanchez did know what he was talking about, after all.
#4: The “Brooks Conrad” game–October 10, 2010, Turner Field in Atlanta
The Giants had home-field advantage in the NLDS over the wild-card Braves, but they had squandered it by losing Game 2 at home, blowing a late lead. The Giants faced a tough road, needing to win at least one road game to bring the series back home for Game 5. Game 3 was a seesaw battle. Jonathan Sanchez pitched another gem and left the game in the bottom of the eighth with the lead, but a very young Sergio Romo gave up a two-run homer to Eric Hinske. The Giants had three outs left or they would go down 1-2 in the series and face a very formidable Derek Lowe (whom Lincecum had outpitched in a 1-0 Game 1 nail-biter) in Game 4 with some lefty rookie slated to start for the Giants.
But in the ninth inning, some crazy stuff happened. With one out, Travis Ishikawa, wearing #10 on 10-10-10, drew a walk. With two outs, Freddy Sanchez barely stayed alive against rookie reliever/future stud Craig Kimbrel and singled Ishikawa to second. Aubrey Huff hit a soft liner to right, and not-Rookie-of-the-Year Jason Heyward was unable to either catch the ball or throw out the lumbering Ishikawa at the plate. Posey then hit what should have been an inning-ending grounder to second baseman Brooks Conrad, but it somehow went through his legs, allowing Freddy to score from second with the go-ahead run. Brian Wilson closed it out in the bottom of the ninth, and the Giants won Game 4 the next night to move on to the NLCS. That game was the turning point of the series and arguably the 2010 postseason.
Brooks Conrad made three (3) errors in that game and four in the series. Poor guy.
(Check out Andres Torres’s great baserunning on the first of those three errors.)
#3: A perfect game and three no-hitters from 2012-15 (June 13, 2012, at AT & T Park; July 13, 2013, at Petco Park; June 25, 2014, at AT & T Park; June 9, 2015, at Citi Field)
I’m cheating a little bit by lumping these four games together, but weren’t they all awesome? Remember that until Jonathan Sanchez threw a no-hitter in 2009, the Giants hadn’t had a single one since the mid-70s. But with the Sanchez no-no and the four this decade, the team had five (by four different pitchers–Sanchez, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum twice, and Chris Heston, of all people) in the space of six years.
I missed watching both Sanchez’s no-no and Cain’s perfect game in real time due to schedule conflicts, so Lincecum’s first no-hitter in 2013 is my favorite of these because I got to live and die with every pitch and probably also because I just loved the guy so much (see last week’s post at #1). It was not pretty. It took Lincecum nearly 150 pitches to finish it, and that in turn almost finished off Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti, pacing the dugout anxiously hoping Timmy’s arm wouldn’t fall off. It also took a heroic circus catch by Hunter Pence to save it in the bottom of the eighth.
This no-hitter also ended with one of the better Buster Hugs of the era.
#2: Giants win NL pennant on Ishikawa’s walk-off, October 16, 2014, at AT & T Park
Picking among three pennant winners is like picking a favorite child. All three of those games were amazing, from Wilson freezing Ryan Howard on a 3-2 pitch in Philly to Marco Scutaro singing in the rain, but how could you pick anything other than Travis Ishikawa’s “Bobby Thomson moment”? You can’t.
We all know the story–former Giant Ishikawa, who’d bounced around after being on the 2010 championship team, was discouraged and almost ready to quit baseball earlier in the 2014 season. Then the Giants signed him to a minor league deal, he ended up on the postseason squad (and playing left field of all things), and then he had a moment for the ages.
The whole game was great. It was a fantastic matchup between Madison Bumgarner and Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright. They both pitched great, though Ishikawa’s fielding gaffe in the third cost Bumgarner a run. Rookie Joe Panik stunned everyone with a two-run homer in the bottom of the third, but the Giants trailed 3-2 going to the bottom of the eighth. Then Michael Morse hit a dramatic pinch-hit homer to tie it, Jeremy Affeldt pitched out of Santiago Casilla’s jam to take the game to the bottom of the ninth still tied, and then Ishikawa won it. We’ll let Joe Buck take it from here.
One of my favorite images of that scene is the shot of crusty old Brian Sabean dissolving into tears up in his suite.
#1: Giants win first San Francisco championship behind Lincecum/Renteria, November 1, 2010, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
Again, how in the world do you pick, when you think of Romo freezing Miguel Cabrera for a called strike three to end the 2012 World Series or Bumgarner making history in Kansas City? It’s clear, though, that you have to pick the first one.
And it was a great game. Aces Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee faced off for the second time in the Series, and unlike Game 1 when both were shaky (Lee more so of the two), they were both masterful through six innings. Then Cody Ross got things started, as he did so many times throughout the 2010 postseason, with a leadoff single. Juan Uribe singled, too, and Aubrey Huff put down the first sacrifice bunt of his career to move them both into scoring position. Pat Burrell struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch, and up came Edgar Renteria. Renteria had driven in the Series-winning run as a 22-year-old playing for the Florida Marlins in 1997. Thirteen years later, in the waning days of a fine career, he did it again for the Giants.
And here’s Dave Flemming’s call, not to make fun of him but because it’s part of the memory.
When Renteria hit that homer, I jumped to my feet and screamed so loudly that I’m sure they heard me in Texas. The way Timmy was pitching that night, I knew it was over. All those years of waiting, all that sadness in 2002. It was finally over. Nine outs later, it really did happen.
So those are my top-10 favorite Giants games of the 2010s. I obviously had to leave many out–when you’ve had three lengthy postseason runs plus two wild card wins, there’s a lot to choose from. Among my “just-missed” games were #RallyZito (2012), the 2014 Wild Card game, and of course all of Bumgarner’s World Series appearances.
What are some of your favorite memories–games that really stand out for you, maybe ones you attended? Where were you (bar, living room, ballpark) while watching the game? Leave ’em in the comments.
The year and the decade are coming to an end, and aren’t we grateful for those memories? By the time I write next, it will be a new (even) year. Though there may not be much to get excited about with regard to the Giants at this moment in time, it’s now closer to spring training than it is to the World Series, and any time there’s baseball, Iife is good.
Happy almost 2020, everyone, and go Niners! Lefty out.