Giants-A’s: Full moon, great weather, compelling baseball

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — This was what sport is all about, the bay at play on an evening when the moon was full, the weather was fantastic and the baseball was compelling down to the final pitch, a strike by Will Smith that ended a drama you almost hoped was endless.

Two teams with a chance for the postseason. Two groups of fans with a single thought. One beautiful Tuesday evening of fine pitching and timely hitting that left the winners, the Giants, phew, 3-2, gasping, and the losing team, the Athletics, hinting at what might have been.

“Unfortunately, we came up one at-bat short,” said the man who manages the A’s, Bob Melvin. 

The game itself, the first of a two-game series at Oracle Park, didn’t come up short of expectations. Bruce Bochy had predicted it would be a good one and it was, full of the little things that embellish the big things.

The place was alive, seemingly almost as many A’s fans — chanting “Let’s go Oakland” — as Giants fans. A good natured rivalry without any nastiness, excluding the boos that broke out when during the seventh inning the video screen displayed a man with a Dodgers hat. The nerve of that guy.

A different sort of nerve was displayed by Smith, the Giants' closer, who had a ninth inning, his only inning, in which he threw 35 pitches, walked in a run, exhaled after a line drive to left with two runners on went foul by a foot and still got the save.

“The two-run lead helped, obviously,” said Smith, who came in with nobody on and San Francisco ahead, 3-1. “I don’t want to walk in runs. Still we had a one-run lead. That ball down the line? I was walking down the line with it.”

He walked away satisfied, striking out Chad Pinder for the final out.

“You trust your players,” said Bochy as to how he survives games like this. “Let the guys play. There’s nothing you can do. Sometimes you wish you had a seat belt. We’re used to it here. How many years have we played this type of baseball? We go into close ballgames with so much confidence. If it doesn’t work, well, Smith still is our guy out there.”

And Madison Bumgarner was the guy before Smith, pitching as Mad Bum, now on track once more, is supposed to pitch. One mistake, a fastball to Stephen Piscotty in the fifth, powered into the bleachers. Nine strikeouts and the victory. He’s now 8-7.

“I felt like I got to where I was comfortable,” said Mad Bum. “Pretty much everything was working pretty well. I felt (in the seventh) it was a good time to throw a fastball. He hit it (for the home run).

Bumgarner also was adept at the plate, in a subtle way. With runners on first and second and nobody out in the seventh, he laid down a sacrifice bunt. Aramis Garcia went from second to third and scored what proved to be the winning run on Scooter Gennett’s sacrifice fly.

Oakland starter Brett Anderson kept the Giants scoreless through five innings. Then in order, Buster Posey doubled, Evan Longoria doubled and Kevin Pillar doubled: three hits, two runs. 

“He was mowing them down pretty good, and then all of sudden three doubles,” said Melvin of Anderson. “Give them some credit, too. Two out nobody on. To put a rally together like that was impressive, especially the way (Anderson) has been pitching.”

Anderson had retired Posey twice with sinkers. The third time, he got the ball high. “But the biggest thing,” Anderson insisted, “was I threw a horrible changeup to Pillar, and he was able to square it up for that third double. That was the difference in the game.”

Not really. The difference was the walk to Garcia by Jake Diekman to lead off the seventh, Garcia scoring the Giants' third run.

“Give them credit,” Bochy said of the A’s. “They battled out there. Both teams were fighting to the end. But that’s what you expect. They are a very good team.”

The Giants aren’t a bad one. And together they produced an exciting game. That’s all we can ask.

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