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9:25AM

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.

9:39AM

At Giants reunion, tales of flying hot dog wrappers and the quake

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — Some of the nostalgia wasn’t so sweet. “Hot dog wrappers blowing around,” Will Clark recalled about games at — where else? — Candlestick Park.

Much of it was very sweet. “Thanks to the fans who went through it,” was Clark’s next comment.

Will the Thrill, or Nuschler, the middle name by which he occasionally was referred. This was a Sunday for nostalgia, for a return to San Francisco — if not the ‘Stick — by players from the 1989 Giants, the team that took part in arguably the most infamous World Series in history.

This also was a day for Clark, whose uniform number, 22, will be retired, as announced by Giants president Larry Baer — who, in a way, was celebrating his own return to the team.

Thirty years; some guys with less hair (right, Will?). Some with more pounds (Kevin Mitchell was filling that jersey).

Backslaps and hugs. The way Mitchell and Clark embraced belied those rumors they were more rivals than teammates.

These men, now in their 50s, other than Roger Craig, the manager, 89, and Norm Sherry, the pitching coach, 88, brought their friendships and stories to Oracle Park as part of a 30th reunion.

“Would love to have played here,” said the retired pitcher Scott Garrelts, surely echoing the thoughts of others who with the Giants in the 1980s never had that opportunity.

You had to be here, or at least be involved in baseball, as player, executive, fan or journalist, to understand those up-from-nowhere Giants. So much of their existence was shaped by Candlestick and the all-too-present woe-is-us atmosphere.

In 1985, Al Rosen became general manager and Craig manager of the Giants. The culture changed. As did their record.

“Roger said let’s use Candlestick to our advantage,” recalled Garrelts, who now lives in Louisiana, “Yeah, it’s cold and nasty, but when you walk out that door to the field, why start cussing? Before Roger and Al, we struggled.”

In fact, during the reunion, Baer, who only returned July 1 from the four-month suspension imposed by baseball for a confrontation with his wife that was captured on video, mentioned that the current Giants carried Craig’s “hmm baby spirit.”

Rosen was all tradition and discipline. “Al didn’t let you get away with anything,” said Garrelts. “He didn’t care who you were. These days, there’s so much emphasis on analytics. How in the world did Willie Mays ever play?”

The reunion guest list included Kelly Downs, Ernie Riles, Atlee Hammaker, Craig Lefferts and, of course, Dusty Baker, who would go on to manage the Giants in the 2002 World Series. That went seven games, the Giants losing to the Angels.

The 1989 Series, Giants against the A’s, the “Battle of the Bay,” as it was labeled, went only four games, Oakland sweeping — but also going almost two weeks after the Loma Prieta earthquake struck a few moments before the first pitch of Game 3, shattering freeways and knocking out a section of the Bay Bridge.

“I was in the locker room watching TV,” said Garrelts, “and suddenly the room just rolled. I busted out the door to the parking lot. Nothing was moving. I came back in, went out to the field and realized there were fires in the city, and the Bay Bridge was down.”

Chris Speier knew earthquakes, if not any as intense as Loma Prieta, which had a magnitude of 7.1 or 7.2. Speier grew up in Alameda, went to UC Santa Barbara and as a shortstop joined San Francisco to start a baseball career he hopes to resume with the Giants in some capacity.

Speier on the afternoon of the quake, which hit at 5:04 pm. Oct. 17, 1989, had finished warm-ups and was talking to Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers, who were to sing the national anthem.

“We looked into the outfield,” Speier, now 69, remembers about the moments the quake hit, “and guys trying to run couldn’t run. It looked like the ocean was coming through. Huge waves of grass.

“Larry looks at me. His face is completely white. He ran out through the doors. He was done.”

The Giants were not. Thirty years later, they came back to hear cheers in a ballpark they never knew.

10:10PM

A’s Melvin calls his pitcher’s frustrating day a ‘clunker’

By Art Spander
For Maven Sports

OAKLAND, Calif. — If you were taking a survey of the Athletics’ post-game comments from starting pitcher Brett Anderson. the word “frustrating” would beat the word “tough” by a two-to one margin.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2019, The Maven 

8:43PM

After 11 innings and 4½ hours, Oakland’s faults overtake its virtues

By Art Spander
For Maven Sports

OAKLAND — A hit batsman, a wild throw, a few hits — not a lot in the great scheme of things, but more than enough in any single game, especially one that lasts four and a half hours and in which a star reliever fails to pitch like a star reliever.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2019, The Maven 

8:45PM

A’s: Ten in a row and a place in the NY Times

By Art Spander
For Maven Sports

OAKLAND — These are great times for the Oakland Athletics. And their winning streak, now 10 games and not to be dismissed, isn’t the only reason.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2019, The Maven