Usually at this time of year, I have my family vacation all planned out and I’m marking off the days until I can pack up my bats and get out of town. There is nothing worse for a baseball player than slogging through September when your team is out of the running. You find yourself arriving at the ballpark later and later. When the game’s over, you’re out of the clubhouse before most of the fans have reached for their car keys.
With the Giants, I’m finally playing games in September that mean something. I can’t wait to get to the park. And I’m not alone. This clubhouse is buzzing five hours before the first pitch. You definitely feel a lot more sense of urgency right now. Every game feels like the most important game of the year – and that’s because it is.
I look at where we are with the Padres, just three games back, and I can’t help but think back to losses early in the season. That’s a new experience for me, too. Those early losses never mattered before. But now those games – the ones you should have won – start eating at you. What if that game had gone a different way? You think about the guy sliding in to home who should have been called out. The double play that just missed and would have ended an inning.
Until now, I never fully appreciated how important EVERY game is, not just the ones in September. You lose a game early in the season and think, “Oh, well, there are so many games to go. We’ll get it back.” Then you get to toward the end of the season and you lose a game like Monday’s against the Rockies. If that happens in April, you’d think, “OK, this stinks, but we’ll get ’em tomorrow.”
When it happens this late, in such a tight race, you take it hard. This clubhouse was absolute silence after that game. That last inning, I hit the ball as hard as I can hit it and it doesn’t go out. Ishi hits the crap out the ball and it’s right to somebody. Same with Buster. Three hard hits and three outs. It’s one of those games that stays with you longer than others, but you have to shake it off and get ready for the next one.
Which we did. That’s what I love about this team. We beat the Rockies Tuesday night and played one of the best games of the season last night. Timmy was awesome. Freddy Sanchez made a catch to end the game that I have never seen anyone make, ever. Darren Ford shows up in the middle of the game and runs around the bases like he has super-powers and scores the winning run.
That’s September baseball.
This is going to be a hellacious road trip, and I mean that in the best possible way. Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Padres. I can’t wait.