Marcos Breton: Giants play winning ball, but they don't talk about it
06/20/2013 12:00 AM
06/21/2013 7:30 AM
SAN FRANCISCO – In the code of the Giants' clubhouse, what happens on the field stays on the field.
The subplot of Wednesday's 4-2 win over the San Diego Padres was effectively buried in postgame remarks that skirted the motivations behind a purpose pitch, benches clearing, heated words and some pushing and shoving between the teams.
To a man, the Giants would cop to none of it.
Were they mad at the Padres going in? Did they see a weakness in San Diego pitching that caused Giants hitters to pounce on three consecutive first pitches from a nemesis reliever to score three runs late and pull this one back from the annals of bitter defeats in 2013?
"We were fortunate to hit some balls," said catcher Buster Posey, who most embodies the Giants' ethic of aggression on the field that's concealed afterward.
That's in the Giants' DNA.
From top to bottom, this franchise succeeds – they sell out games and win when they should lose, like Wednesday – through talent backed by emotional maturity, controlled aggression and aversion to deconstructing how they do it outside their inner sanctum.
The Giants are a mixture of Silicon Valley secrets and old-school baseball repressiveness.
"We don't pay attention to what other teams are doing," Wednesday's offensive hero, Gregor Blanco, said with a straight face.
Sure they don't.
This was a chippy game in a chippy series in a chippy National League West, where it's not an exaggeration to state that the Giants have real animosities brewing between them and every other team in a tightly wound, tightly packed division.
All it took was an obscure Padres first baseman named Jesus Guzman to celebrate a little too vociferously after a home run Tuesday night for the Giants to not only take offense but to seek old-school justice.
The first time Guzman dug into the batter's box in the second inning on a gorgeous Wednesday afternoon, Giants starter Madison Bumgarner heaved a purposeful pitch that didn't hit Guzman – but delivered a message as it sailed behind him.
Guzman, formerly of the Giants, showed he is nothing if not excitable by barking at Bumgarner and stepping toward the mound as plate umpire Tony Randazzo and Posey blocked his path. Bumgarner, an old soul at 23, strode off the mound and barked right back. In fact, Bumgarner was screaming as if Guzman had insulted his family name.
No punches were thrown, no one was ejected, but everyone's adrenaline level soared. The rest of a tight pitchers' duel was played on the razor's edge of tension that grew inning by inning after the umpiring crew warned all that ejections would follow if hostilities continued.
The Padres were surprisingly one of the hottest teams in baseball entering the series and were tired of being abused by the Giants at AT&T Park. The Giants are simply trying to tread water until Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval return from injury in a matter of days.
When Guzman led off the seventh inning by crushing a Bumgarner pitch into the left-field bleachers to give San Diego a 2-1 lead, all that macho posturing seemed – for a moment – to have backfired on Bumgarner and the Giants.
The way Padres starter Eric Stults was mowing down the injury-compromised Giants, a bitter loss seemed probable. Guzman would have gotten the last laugh, though he was far more respectful rounding the bases Wednesday than he was Tuesday. It would have meant the third consecutive series loss by the Giants in a difficult month.
Bumgarner would have suffered a frustrating defeat in which he conceded only three hits, although two of them were solo home runs – the other to Will Venable. It was the first time this season Bumgarner had allowed two homers in a game.
Meanwhile, Stults' deceptive mixture of off-speed pitches and biting stuff kept the Giants from hitting many balls with authority. Then, when everything turned in the bottom of the seventh, when the Giants struck back for three runs, two narratives came to mind.
The Giants were fired up by Guzman getting the best of them. San Francisco's batters saw something in Padres reliever Luke Gregerson, who has often pitched the Giants tough but was pounded by Blanco, Marco Scutaro and Posey – each swinging on the first pitch they saw from the right-hander.
Blanco's two-run triple and Scutaro's RBI single put the Giants up 4-2. They cruised from there, with closer Sergio Romo looking and throwing as if he were on fire to end it.
So what was going on, Mr. Bumgarner?
"No need to go through that," he said.
Of course not.
About This BlogHello, my name is Marcos Breton, and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a native of Northern California and the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.
Contact Marcos Breton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 916-321-1096.
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