Playoff Baseball Returns to San Francisco For First Time Since ’03

The last time the San Francisco Giants were in the playoffs, they were trailing the Florida Marlins in the NLDS by a total of two games to one. Trailing by a run in the top of the ninth inning with two outs and their season on the line, a single to shallow left field prompted the Giants to wave J.T Snow home, who was on second base. Not noted for his running ability, Snow chugged along as fast as he could, but the ball beat him to home plate, and he went barreling into Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez who held onto the ball and ended the Giants season. Jason Schmidt was penciled in to pitch Game Five in San Francisco, had they made it.

The Giants were in every game of that series. After Schmidt pitched a complete game shutout in Game One for the win, the Giants lost Game Two 9-5, and the next two games by only one run, with scores of 4-3 and 7-6. But nevertheless, the Giants were out of the playoffs, where they would remain for the next seven seasons.

The team the Giants will field tonight as they make their return to meaningful October baseball will be much different. There will be no Barry Bonds, or Marquis Grissom, or Rich Aurilia. Instead there will be Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, and Buster Posey– two of which were playing for different teams in 2003 and one of which was not even a thought. The Giants rotation is stronger this time around, however. Aside from not having the brawny and intimidating Jason Schmidt, this team makes up for it with the smaller Tim Lincecum. Matt Cain and Jonathon Sanchez are also superior to Kirk Rueter and Jerome Williams. The Giants also go from Tim Worrell, who replaced the injured Robb Nen that season as the team’s closer, to All-Star Brian Wilson.

But not only are the namesakes different, but the way the teams are built differ drastically. The 2003 team was very experienced, and borderline ancient when you look at who was the driving force behind it. A 36-year-old Grissom led the team in batting, a 39-year-old Bonds with homeruns, 42-year-old Andres Galarraga was the team’s hot bat off the bench, and 38-year-old Benito Santiago was doing the catching.

This time around, the Giants can send a 23-year-old Buster Posey to the backstop, a 24-year-old Pablo Sandoval to be the infield anchor at third base, and the “old men” on the team be 34-year-olds Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell.

Though this Giants team does not have the playoff experience that the 2003 team had, or the 2002 team that made it to the World Series, they have the energy to compete and learn along the way. Many of the Giants leaders, such as the entire starting rotation, except for Barry Zito, and offensive catalysts Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez have never even been to the playoffs. But the Giants have Pat Burrell to handle the locker room in that department, something he has been doing all season, especially the last few weeks.

It was like a Godsend when San Francisco claimed the fast-falling Burrell off of waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays. After struggling all of last season, and getting off to a poor start this season, he was waived and many thought his baseball career would be over; a career that saw him have four 30 HR seasons, and eight seasons with 20 or more HRs. He has done everything the Giants have asked of him, including hitting 18 HRs, but also to be a mentor in the locker room. Barry Zito has also served as the same with the team’s incredibly young pitching staff, though his numbers are not what the team would like them to be.

The Giants will now face the Atlanta Braves in the 2010 NLDS, a team that is young and exciting to watch such as themselves. I will not make any predictions, because the ones I make never come true anyway. All I am looking for is some good October baseball and some games that will make waiting the last seven years for worth it.

I apologize for not being able to cover the Giants on here as often as I should, but my hands have been tied with the Rangers. Hopefully the Giants will give me something good to write about in the next few weeks, and maybe even longer!

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