Roger Angell Newsbeat
Thursday, October 30, 2014
I missed Christy Mathewson somehow but caught almost everyone else, down the years—Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Jack Morris, Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson—but here was the best. Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ left-handed ace, coming on in relief last night in the fifth inning of the deciding seventh game of this vibrant World Series, gave up a little opening single, then retired fourteen straight Kansas City batters, gave up another hit, and then closed the deal. The Giants won, 3–2, claiming their third World Championship in five years. It was almost his third victory of this Series—the scorers had it that way for a time, then gave the W back to Jeremy Affeldt, the left-handed reliever who was still the pitcher of record when the Giants went ahead in the fourth. Bumgarner, who lost a game along the way, in the Divisionals, on a little throwing error of his own, winds up at 4-1 for his October. He had won a game in each of the Giants’ World Championships, in 2012 and 2010, and now, at twenty-five, stands at 4-0 in the classic, with an earned-run average of 0.25. He was pitching on two days’ rest but also on manna: possibly the best October pitcher of them all.
Sure, we can talk about this: we’ve got all winter. Christy Mathewson threw three shutout victories for the Giants in the 1905 World Series, and won two more games (while losing five) in the Series of 1910, 1911, and 1912, but, as Matty would point out if he were here—he was famous for his fairness—even at his best he would not fare well against the enormous, toned-up athletes of our day.
I don’t know what it felt like watching Mathewson pitch, but watching Bumgarner is like feeling an expertly administered epidural nip in between a couple of vertebrae and deliver bliss: it’s a gliding, almost eventless slide through the innings, with accumulating fly-ball outs and low-count K’s marking the passing scenery. It’s twilight sleep; an Ambien catnap; an evening voyage on a Watteau barge. Bumgarner is composed out there, his expression mournful, almost apologetic, even while delivering his wide-wing, slinging stuff. Sorry, guys: this is how it goes. Over soon.
I don’t know how to bring this up, but attention must be paid, as Mrs. Willy Loman used to say. In the last line of my pre-World Series post here, I startled myself with a prediction: the Giants, because of their bullpen, would win this in seven. Yes, exactly so— and who now wants to step up with a wayd-a-minnit objection, claiming that Madison Bumgarner, though he actually emerged from there —we saw him— did not exactly represent the Giants’ bullpen last night? Eat my shorts.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
O.K., a blowout, but who knew? Every year along about this time, friends start asking me, “Who’s going to win tonight? Whadda you think?” But of course I have no clue. Baseball’s absolute unpredictability makes amateurs of us all, and after the Royals’ wholly unexpected 10–0 shellacking of the Giants in last night’s Game Six we can all get ready for the finale tonight with cheerful idiocy. Both starting pitchers—the Giants’ Tim Hudson and the Royals’ Jeremy Guthrie—are veterans who know that they will be gone in an instant, with plenty of time ahead for duck-hunting or sleeping in or a second-grade play, at the first signs of a wobble.
Go, Royals! Stay, baseball. The players on both teams will be cheerful during B.P. tonight, with the end of their long journey in sight, but a last game is always tougher on the rest of us. Get some sleep after.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
These have been fun games, though. Watching Bumgarner, whose amazingly extended lefty delivery begins with the held ball detouring toward short center field, I decided that his great stuff is equalled by the calm and the air of mournful apology with which it’s delivered: Sorry, guys, but you’ve got no chance. It’s quiet when he’s pitching, with little to note beyond the flow of strikeouts or pop-ups or ground balls, delivered without gesture or a change of expression, and the click of another passing inning is like someone closing a door in the next room.
No one is having more of a blast than Hunter Pence, who started off with a home run in the first inning of the Series and has more or less kept it up ever since, running the bases with his mouth open and his eyes alight, making unexpected closing-ground catches in right, and, with his black stockings accenting that half-open stance and slash at the ball, batting .474 in the Series to date. His pop eyes and thick curls reminds you of a young Donald Sutherland, and what he’s telling us is, “Man, am I hot! Watch—here’s more!”
I could say almost as many complimentary things about the young Royals, but let’s hold that for the next two games—two more, please, everybody, here before winter. In passing, I’ll throw in that Lorenzo Cain’s catch of Pence’s line drive to right in the fifth inning last night was as good as any outfield play so far in this upscale Series. It took only seconds—the ball was drilled—and Cain, racing hard after a quick jump, stuck his glove up and back-handed the ball almost directly over his head, leaning in midstride to give himself room.
As I’ve been saying here, thank you.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Last night also put the quietus to that numbing “small ball” we kept hearing from the game announcers all summer, in a season dominated by enormous heat-radiating relievers and resulting low scores and shrivelled offense. You can win games like this, to be sure, as these Giants had been telling us. They’d scored the winning runs in the previous two Cardinals games without anything knocked out of the infield: on a wild peg by Cardinal reliever Randy Choate, and, a night later, two botched plays by first baseman Matt Adams. Wicked laughter is O.K. but not exactly nourishing, and you could almost hear the “Aw right!”s from the massed San Francisco fist-bumpers when their second baseman Joe Panik delivered a two-run homer in the third, putting them briefly ahead, by 2–1. It was the first Giants home run in two hundred and forty-three plate appearances and only their second in the post.
But I’m leaving out the splendid pitching, I see, and the redemption and the luck and the human interest and more. Onward: we’re entering an irony-free zone.
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