Friday night was pure joy for the Giants’ revitalized fan base. The 4-0 blanking and spanking of the Dodgers brought out full-throated bedlam, reminiscent of postseasons past.
It sure felt familiar.
During the playoffs, Oracle Park is never more than a big swing, a filthy pitch, or a jaw-dropping defensive play away from an explosion of joy that seems like they can hear it out in the Avenues.
There was all of that and then some Friday night.
That big swing? There were two, actually. Buster Posey provided the first, who christened the evening in the bottom of the first inning, pounding an opposite-field, two-run homer that looked determined to find the crowded waters of McCovey Cove. It landed right on top of an arcade water cannon, instead.
Ecstasy erupted in the stands, and didn’t really let up all night.
The other big swing came late, courtesy of Kris Bryant, the Giants’ hired gun. It only pushed the lead to 3-0, but it felt like more.
Filthy pitching? There was plenty to go around. Logan Webb used a dazzling array of changeups and sliders to keep the Dodgers guessing. Tyler Rogers got the crucial out to close out the 8th inning. Then it was young Camilo Doval, the sensational rookie closer who has emerged as a dominant force in the past two months. Once again, the crowd poured down love on all three. It’s a knowledgeable fan base that knows offense is splashy, but pitching wins ballgames, especially in the postseason. (See Bumgarner, Madison.)
The Giants’ may have found their next incarnation of Tim Lincecum or Bumgarner in Webb. His previous outing was the official coming-out party, pitching and hitting the Giants to the division title in Sunday’s Game 162. He was straight dirty and in total control all day on the mound, and his monster day at the plate included his first career homer.
If that was the coming-out party, this Orange Friday was the coronation. He’s clearly figured something out, and he put that knowledge to brilliant use against the Dodgers, striking out 10 over 7-2/3 innings and frequently finishing his frames with an overpowering punchout of some sort.
In terms of defense, you may have noticed second baseman Tommy La Stella’s of Joe Panik. La Stella had a nice night at the plate. His long walk in the first preceded Buster’s blast, and he squared up a pair of loud singles in his next two trips.
But very few will remember those hits. No one will forget that he provided that one big defensive play.
With one out and a man on first in the Dodgers’ fourth, La Stella did well just to get to what looked like a sure single up the middle by Justin Turner, hit well to the third-base side of second. Any pitcher would have appreciated the effort to keep the ball from reaching the outfield and prevent the lead runner from moving to third.
La Stella wanted more. The moment the ball hit leather, he redirected it with a glove flip to shortstop Brandon Crawford gliding right over the bag for one out, and Crawford’s cannon did the rest. The inning-ending double play generated a deafening roar, followed by an extended ovation.
Asked about it after the game, Webb deadpanned. “That was pretty sick.”
What more could you say? All night long, the Giants gave the fans a reason to stand up and cheer. The orange rally towels spun often, they spun hard and they spun fast.
“It was so awesome,” Webb marveled. “Seeing the orange towels and all that stuff. It was sweet.”
Pure candy. Let’s see what Saturday brings.
Mychael Urban has been covering Bay Area sports for more than 30 years.