Up is down. Black is white. Republicans are, well, they're still lost. And the San Francisco Giants are two wins away from a trip the World Series.
Unbelieveable. I wrote earlier that the Giants would go only as far as pitching and luck would take them. Right now they're getting copious amounts of both. Aubrey Huff told Sports Illustrated that he had sense of calm during a critical AB in the NLDS was because he felt "the baseball gods owe me one."
I know the feeling.
Apparently in payment, said gods have offered up a plethora of pitchers and Cody Ross. Aside from some kind of devine intervention, how do you explain this team? Can they hit? Not really. Do they run? Nope. Do they look really good in their uniforms? Uh, anyone caught a glimpse of Pablo Sandoval lately? I don't even want to speculate on shoe-polish beards and rally thongs.
This may end up being one of those times where you just have to admit that something has no logical explanation. The stars align, fate smiles, and you find yourself at that perfect moment at the autumnal equinox when you supposedly can stand an egg on its end. Maybe there really is magic inside.
Matt Cain simply dealt. The pundits all said the same thing: the Phillies had too much offense. San Francisco coudn't hope to compete. But a team doesn't have to get many breaks when the opposition is sporting zeroes.
To be sure, it's not a fun way to win. Every at-bat is the baseball equivalent of teetering on cliff with one foot on a banana peel. A starter can be throwing the game of his life, yet the team is always one Eric Hinske long ball from disaster. But give that same pitcher some breathing room.....
Cain has had precious little of that in recent years. But spotted a 3-0 lead in Game Three, he exhibited the ace-like demeanor Giants fans have long awaited. Two hits over seven shut-out innings. He wasn't especally overpowering, but he was relentless. The Phillies had chances. But when push came to shove and Cain had to make a pitch, he made it. When he found himself in a jam, he escaped. And when he needed to get mean, he got down right nasty.
Cain may have a baby face, but on this day he showed he also has the heart of an assassin.
I'm a big an of the MLB Network, and the talking heads there had pondered how Cain would fare given his lack of career success aainst the Phils. Would be bring his A Game? They weren't the first group to question why Cain had never developed into the full-fledged ace the Giants predicited when he came up in 2005.
Maybe he just needed the right stage. On a day the Giants had to have Cain at his best, he delivered.
As did Cody Ross, who by the time this is over may be in line for a statue at AT&T (he can replace the seal at the Marina Gate. Sorry, Lou).
More often that not, the story includes an unlikely hero. For every Reggie Jackson putting his stamp on October there's a Donn Clendenon or Bucky Dent.
Enter Cody Ross.
In all five Giants playoff wins, Ross drove in the first run of the game. The Giants have a team playoff batting average around the Mendoza line. Ross, is hitting .368. The Giants have three home runs in the NLCS. Ross has all three. Ross has 13 total bases through three games. The rest of the team, 16 combined. If there's an early favorite for series MVP, that's the guy.
Ross' heroics overshadow the fact that the Giants still aren't hitting. Much was made about Bruce Bochy shuffling the Game Three line-up, but the 3-4-5 guys in the order were still only 1 for 8. The Giants aren't going to overpower anyone. They are, however, getting the kinds of breaks that make you wonder if there isn't something beyond baseball at work here.
Come on, how many balls can one Brooks Conrad boot in one series? When did Chase Utley's glove turn into paper mache? Raul Ibanez can't hit the ball off a tee. Jeez, if Carlos Ruiz weren't leaning into pitches the Phillies would have no attack whatsover. Am I imagining things or was there a guy at the Lefty O'Doul Bridge selling Ryan Howard voodoo dolls?
Pitching? Sure. Kharma? I'll take some of that, too.
One complaint I've had all along has been that the Giants haven't been able to deliver a knock-out punch. Game Four is a grand opportunity to set up that hay maker. A three-games-to-one lead obviously wouldn't seal the deal, but needing just one win with Lincecum, Sanchez and Cain lined up would certainly raise the confidence factor.
Still, I don't want to think too far ahead. The Giants are that girl that you just know is about to break up with you. There's always this sense of dread; the thought that it's all about to go horribly wrong -- probably at your parents' house during a holiday a dinner right after grandma tells you this girlfriend is her favorite but before said girlfried reveals those "art" photos she posed for in college.
So we'll take it one day at a time and hope this is the magical year.
Pitching and luck. That's not the recipe you draw up when trying to build a winner, but it sure beats losing.