BY RYAN LEONG
The Dodgers and Giants are arguably the best rivalry on the west coast but it pales in comparison to the heated feud between the Yankees and Red Sox. Although many might argue that New York and Boston isn’t exactly the Hatfields vs. the McCoys anymore either given how sports have changed into popular entertainment.
Years ago, the Northern vs. Southern California debate was much more prominent. Perhaps because in the days when the Giants played at Candlestick Park, they were always the underdogs. From the time Dodger Stadium opened in 1962 until the new wave of ballparks arrived, it was one of the crown jewels of baseball.
As for Candlestick, former Giant Jack Clark once said it best. When he was asked what could be done to improve the old concrete bowl, Clark replied, “dynamite!” As it turns out, Candlestick eventually was finally given its official date of expiration but with bulldozers and not TNT.
It’s barely a month into the 2017 season and after 23 games, the Giants are 8-15. Back in 1980 and 1984, they got off to 8-17 starts and both those teams were not Michael Jackson Bad as in not to be messed with, but simply awful. The 1980 squad, managed by Dave Bristol was a mediocre 75-86 but the 1984 team was 66-96. The next year, the 1985 group became the only team in franchise history to lose 100 games limping to a 62-100 mark.
So it’s safe to say the Giants better get their you know what together soon if they want to avoid being remembered like those lousy teams. The two games the Giants won in this series were good, particularly the Wednesday night game which saw the return of fan favorite Michael Morse who endeared himself to everyone with his contagious enthusiasm and a lot of “little boy” in him as Vin Scully used to say.
Wednesday was only the third career game for prized rookie Christian Arroyo and he hit his first career homer, a two-run blast off former Giant Sergio Romo. The night before in a 2-1 loss, he collected his first career hit off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. For the series, Arroyo was 4-for-16 (.250 average) with one home run and three RBIs. He certainly impressed the man he needs to the most, his manager Bruce Bochy.
“This kid, in the early go here, he’s already shown he’s not in awe of anything or overwhelmed by being in the big leagues or who’s he’s facing,” Bochy said. “The upper decks, the bright lights, all those things. He comes to play.”
Everyone sang the praises of the baby faced rookie who looks like he hasn’t even shaved.
“It’s very impressive that at 21 years old he’s not far removed from high school and the way he carries himself I wouldn’t have guessed he’s 21 years old,” said Giants starting pitcher Matt Moore who got a no-decision despite pitching seven innings of two hit ball and giving up only one run with eight strikeouts. “You’ve got to tip your cap to someone like that because you can tell he’s been focused while he’s been in the minor leagues and getting himself ready.”
Unfortunately the Giants bullpen blew it again, this time coughing up four runs in the 10th inning eventually losing by the score of 5-1.
In the clubhouse afterwards, Arroyo continues to sound like a grizzled veteran, recounting how he was given his number 22, once worn by both Jack Clark, and more famously by Will Clark.
“When I first got to spring (training) and I found out I was wearing 22, Will Clark texted me and said, ‘hey man congratuations again on the spring invite. I see you’re wearing # 22. Good thing there’s a lot of hits left in it.’ So when he told me that I chuckled. It’s an honor to be able to put that number on my back.”
Without question the highlight of the series had to be the pinch-hit homer by Morse in the bottom of the eighth with the Dodgers leading 3-2. Morse faced hard throwing right hander Pedro Baez and all he does is bring the heat. In an epic four pitch sequence, Morse took ball one, then swung and missed on two consecutive 96.5 mph four seam fastballs. Baez tried to sneak a third strike past him and Morse connected with the 97.2 heater and launched it to the bleachers in left-center.
When reporters gathered around Morse in the clubhouse, Morse was so giddy he said aloud, “so cool.” Then he said, “That was pretty awesome, you know just what this team needed, a little excitement and the biggest part was the way we came back and won, that’s a shot in the arm which is good so I just hope we can carry this on, and continue going.”
Tied 3-3, in the 10th with the bases loaded, Hunter Pence eventually won it with a sac-fly.
“It definitely felt very deja-vu,” Pence said. “I know it’s a regular season game but it’s Giants-Dodgers, and a huge clutch homer like that in his first at-bat back it’s like fairy tale stuff right there. So it was pretty cool. It was the most memorable moment of the season by far.”
NOTE: Thursday’s game was the 500th consecutive sellout at AT&T Park, the longest active streak in Major League Baseball.
Ryan Leong is a San Francisco native and covers all Bay Area sports teams as a correspondent for ESPN radio and wire services. He is a former sports anchor for KCBS and has reported on over 3,600 live games since 1998.