Cardinal Hunting in the Rain: Game 7 of the 2012 NLCS
By Aaron M. Smith
This past Sunday while sitting on my friends couch watching the eighth inning of the San Francisco Giants matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6, I looked at my friend and said, “We need to do whatever it takes to make it to Game 7.” San Francisco hasn’t hosted a Game 7 since 1962, so to say it doesn’t happen every year is a vast understatement. Despite being a broke college student living on a 20 hour a week income, I knew that win or lose, it would be an experience to forever mark my immense baseball addiction.
My shallow bank account was emptied, tickets were purchased, and all that I had left to do was to make sure I could assemble a clothing ensemble with the largest amount of “good joojoo”. Baseball is easily the most superstitious sport for not only the fans, but also for its players, and I am no exception to the rule. So I laced my shoes with the same orange laces I wore to game 4 of the 2010 NLCS, put on the same ratty old giants hat, and grabbed the rally rag I waved in the San Francisco air back in 2010.
Once we arrived at the stadium, you could feel the electricity flowing through the crowd from the moment we made our way through the turnstiles. For the first time all day, I felt such a sense of confidence. I turned to my friend and told him, “Bro. We got this!”
We made it to the Left Field Bleachers, found our bench, and did not move for nearly four hours. The bleachers can be an annoying place to watch a game during the regular season, but during the postseason there is no place I would rather be. As we introduced ourselves to the neighbors we would be cheering, heckling, and high-fiving with for the next 9 innings, the anxiety of the moment began to take over and I had a tough time breathing. We were all obviously excited, but we were also extremely nervous to the point that none of us could eat. This game was officially win it all, or go home. Either magical history would be made, or a miserable Monday we would attempt to quickly forget.
The Giants had not been matching up well against the Reds during the regular season, and the Reds home stadium was a place the Giants had not won a game at in over three years. The boys in black and orange stunned everyone when they went to Cincinnati and took three games in a row, leaving a whole city in shock and rewriting the record books. Next up were the 2011 defending World Series Champions St. Louis Cardinals, a team whose experience and comeback capability is without question. After watching what they did to the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS, I felt that the Giants were going to need some special magic to counteract what the Cardinals would bring to the game.
AT&T Park and the fans it held within it would provide the magic the Giants would need. From the moment the first pitch fastball snapped through the strike zone and popped in the leather of Buster Posey’s mitt, Matt Cain’s will and well-focused adrenaline was unequivocal. On a night that Cain did not have his absolute best stuff, his veteran grit and determination along with some great defense behind him carried him through trouble all night.
The first three innings I would look over at my friend and see him chewing at his glove in anxiety much like I was. The Cardinals are a darn good team, a lineup full of great hitters and proven winners that would make even the most casual fan nervous. However, the Giants’ fortune was made clear in the bottom half of the third inning. The NL Champs notched 5 runs and knocked the Cardinals excellent starting pitcher, Kyle Loshe, out of the game, and the entire stadium let out a collective sigh of relief.
The next 6 innings were a party I will never forget. Highlighted by hugging complete strangers, superstitious towel rubbing, glove tapping, and some of the biggest raindrops I have ever seen in any sporting event. The rain had to come and cool the Giants down; because they were so hot all night they risked the possibility of completely burning away.
Next up is the World Series, versus the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are a very good team with the best pitcher in baseball and the first Triple Crown winner since 1967, Miguel Cabrera. For superstitions’ sake, I am going to side with the Tigers winning this one. Each and every time I think the Giants don’t have a chance; they leave me nothing short of amazed. Who would have thought that a team who lost its All Star Closer after the fifth game of season, lost its best offensive player to suspension, had its two-time Cy Young award winning ace be one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball, whose starting rotation has Barry Zito and a guy told in two different languages by three organizations he wasn’t good enough to play baseball, would be ready to shock the world and be the victorious underdog once again.
I have been lucky enough to watch in person as the Giants won an LCS game in 1989, 2002, and 2010, but never a game 7. This past Monday’s victory was easily the best in my baseball fan hood, but I hope it is short lived as I am saving every penny I have to make it to one of the later World Series games.