A veritable laugher by those offensively challenged Giants. A win with only a few grimaces. A win manager Bruce Bochy said was “important.” A win without anybody in the lineup batting higher than .290. A win because of that old, reliable pitching.
Every day is a party at AT&T Park, where the stands are full — Wednesday was the 27th consecutive sellout of 2011 — the games are torture and the town’s team is almost immune to the consequences.
The Giants beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 and Matt Cain went nine innings. Thirteen of the 62 games they’ve finished this season, the Giants have scored one run or fewer. It happened when Buster Posey was around. It’s happened since Buster Posey was hurt.
“We’ve done it so much, we get used to it a bit,” Bochy said. “But we do want more offense.”
They couldn’t want much more from a pitcher than they got from Cain. He gave up five hits and one walk. He struck out 11. He had his 13th career complete game. He doubled home Eli Whiteside for the first run of a game which threatened to go scoreless until July.
Not that anyone had much time to notice. The first five innings took a mere 1 hour, 3 minutes, a wonderful balance to that 13-inning, just-before-midnight, almost-5-hour marathon of Monday.
“Matt was very efficient,” Bochy said. “His pitch count was low. That’s why I let him pitch the ninth, Go get ’em, Matt.”
Team baseball, that’s what is. Agonizing baseball, that’s what it is. A line drive here. A bloop single there. The bottom three in the order — Brandon Crawford, the rookie shortstop from Pleasanton and UCLA; Whiteside, the man who’s taken over for Posey at catcher; and Cain — drove in all the runs.
Champion teams do things like that, which is why they are champions. Someone, anyone, the unexpected, doubles to left in the sixth, as did Whiteside; or triples to center in the seventh, as Crawford did, with Whiteside singling him home.
“I’m happy for Eli,” said Bochy. “We all are. It’s been tough for him.”
Whiteside has been the designated impossibility. He took over for the Rookie of the Year, Posey, the star ripped up in that home-plate collision. Eli was hitting .164 (he’s now at .190) and throwing out runners trying to steal second as often as Sarah Palin says nice things about President Barack Obama.
“He needs playing time,” Bochy, an ex-catcher, said of his current catcher, Whiteside. “As he gets more comfortable, he’ll be better. His throws are strong, but they’re a little high.”
Wednesday, they were a lot high, heading toward center, and the Nats stole two bases in two attempts. No matter, as neither runner scored.
“A couple of hits for Eli,” reminded Bochy, always the optimist. “That will get his confidence up.”
The Giants’ confidence never wavers. They pulled this rabbit-out of-the-fedora stunt a year ago, and, intentionally or not, they seem determined to do it once more. As Bochy says, they’re used to it. So are their fans. Whew!
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.