Win or lose, Giants may set off mayhem
SAN FRANCISCO -- They will stuff the stands and clog the cove. All through AT&T Park, they will don their Brian Wilson beards, Panda hats and Tim Lincecum wigs. They will chant the name of Cody Ross and dance in crazy abandon to that annoyingly catchy "Fist Pump" song.And at the end of the ninth, this beautiful ballpark at Third and King, they hope, will be the home of the kings of the National League. If the Giants win the National League pennant -- and we'll pause here to let you listen to Russ Hodges' immortal call echo in your brain -- on Thursday night, just imagine the buzz in the Bay. "I hope," Wilson said, "it's mayhem." Oh, it'll be mayhem if they win.
But mayhem might ensue if they lose, too.The Giants have to win this game. If they let it slip away, the series itself just might slip alongside it. Watching this Giants team, with a flair for the dramatic and a multitude of magic, I am vividly reminded of the 2007 Cleveland Indians. This club and that one share some similarities. Neither entered the season as a sexy pick of the protagonists, and both won their divisions thanks to underrated rotations, blossoming youth and veteran pluck. In the Division Series, the Indians ended Joe Torre's tenure with the Yankees, while the Giants provided Bobby Cox's final curtain call. And the national expectation for both clubs in the Championship Series was a whacking by (supposedly) more formidable and playoff-tested teams, the '07 Red Sox and the '10 Phillies. Even this LCS round is playing out almost identical to that one. The Indians, like the Giants, escaped a hostile East Coast environment with a split of Games 1 and 2 and felt a sense of relief. Then they headed home and took Games 3 and 4 to place themselves on the precipice of the Fall Classic. A Cleveland populace that was slow to embrace that Tribe team was now completely enraptured, and the Indians had their ace and Cy Young winner, CC Sabathia, on the hill for the potential Game 5 clincher at home. It was, as any Indians fan will tell you through tears and over beers, not to be. Because Boston had an ace up its sleeve, too, in the form of Josh Beckett. And when he outdueled Sabathia, and the series shifted back to Boston for Games 6 and 7, the lights went out at Jacobs Field. For good. This is not a prediction. This is not a scare tactic. And it's certainly not intended to snuff out the contagious enthusiasm in "The City." It's just a simple statement of fact that this series is not as over as it might appear. And it's a note of warning that the Giants would be wise to wrap this thing up at home. Because a return to Philly could get chilly. Now, about that whole "wrapping it up at home" idea? Certainly easier said than done. They say you have to beat the best to be the best, and the Giants have an all-too-appropriate appointment on that front. Guy by the name of Roy Halladay. You've certainly heard of him. And beating him twice in five days is a tall order. "We've beat him a couple times already this year," Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "We're a team that's pretty aggressive when he's around the zone. But I'm pretty sure he's gonna come out pretty hungry. He's going to go back to the tape from [Game 1] and come in here firing, I'm sure, because he is definitely a warrior." The Giants didn't get this far without having a few warriors themselves. Lincecum, who, predictably, has looked unfazed by the postseason stage, stands out in that category, and his presence on the mound Thursday will only augment the Giants' ever-growing confidence. But let's not ignore what this lineup has done, too. In the first run through the Phillies' vaunted Big Three, they held their own against Halladay in Game 1, redeemed themselves for a Game 2 loss by owning Roy Oswalt in the ninth of Game 4 and handled Cole Hamels pretty well in Game 3. "You deserve to go to the World Series if you beat Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels," injured veteran Mark DeRosa said with a smile. "You've earned it." What the Giants don't want to earn is another meeting with Oswalt and Hamels in unfriendly confines. They don't want to go back to a park built toward the Phillies' strengths, a place where the Phils had the second-best home record in baseball this season. So they need to go back to that Game 1 tape, too. Remember what worked against Halladay and prepare for those inevitable adjustments a pitcher of his caliber is capable of making, both in advance and on the fly. The World Series awaits. On Thursday night at AT&T Park, it's win and get in. And if the Giants ignite one form of mayhem, they'll definitively avoid another altogether.