The San Francisco Giants sweep of the Oakland Athletics this past weekend was a big truck roto-grudge match between two of the best pitching staffs in the game. Friday 2-1 Giants, Saturday 3-0 San Francisco, and Sunday 5-4 Giants in 11 innings only begins to suggest how well both teams pitched. And how poorly both teams hit.
But the moment to savor from the weekend was the bottom of the 11th inning in Sunday’s contest. Oakland pinch hitter Ryan Sweeney hit for pitcher Craig Breslow to lead off the top of the 11th in a 4-4 tie game. Sweeney rapped a single to right field but was erased when Coco Crisp hit into a fielder’s choice and the inning sputtered for the A’s. Sweeney then stayed in the game and took over right field in the bottom of the 11th.
The Giants came out hacking in the bottom of the 11th. Lead-off hitter Andres Torres popped out, but Darren Ford pinch hit for Sergio Romo and slapped a single to right center. The amazingly swift Ford immediately stole second base in a blur of cream colored home jersey.
With one out, Oakland intentionally walked Buster Posey because a) Posey is heating up at the plate; and, b) it set up a one out double play scenario.
Emmanuel Burriss was up next. Burriss had been called back up from Fresno on May 19th after Mark DeRosa went down with a reoccurring wrist injury– this after DeRosa bumped Burriss back to Triple A on May 10th after rejoining the team from the disabled list. Baseball is built on the contradictions defined by opportunity and disappointment; the admirable and determined DeRosa’s latest injury setback provides an opening for Manny Burriss. And another chance to play in the big leagues.
With one out and Darren Ford on second base, Burriss hit a line drive single to right field. With Ford thundering to third base, right fielder Sweeney scooped up the baseball and in one smooth movement unleashed his own accurate line drive right back to home plate. Unable to hold back, Pablo Sandoval and several other Giant players climbed the dugout railing as the play unfolded.
That’s when a breathtaking baseball moment jumped up. Just as Ford was careening around the third base bag with Sweeney’s throw slicing through the afternoon air, Giants third base coach Tim Flannery, his left arm spinning like a B-17 propeller at full throttle, started running down the line paralleling Darren Ford’s wild dash toward the plate.
For a wonderfully crazy instant the right field camera followed Ford down the line with Flannery running along side just beyond him. And out of nowhere, there was the unstoppable Sandoval, somehow out of the dugout and himself hopping sideways down its length in a line beyond Ford and Flannery as they all made a collective dash to outrun Sweeney’s throw to home plate.
Replays seemed to show Sweeney’s throw got to Athletic’s catcher Kurt Suzuki just as Ford slid across the plate. And if the ball had not popped out of Suzuki’s glove when Ford’s left leg jarred it loose? Hell, I suppose they could still be playing that game.
The Giants win 5-4 in what the celebrated East Coast philosopher Yogi Berra would have described as ”a real cliff dweller”. At AT&T Park this season, the San Francisco Giants are 13-5, and 11-0 in one run games at home. This is developing into a season rife with electric moments, and it’s only May.