Nationals fall to Giants in playoffs
Posted on October 9, 2014
Ian Desmond of the Washington Nationals reacts after he is called out on strikes in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants during Game 4 of the National League Division Series at AT&T Park on October 7, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo Brad Mangin)
I am still gathering my thoughts two days after the San Francisco Giants improbable three games to one win over the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series. Coming off the best regular season record in the league the Nats had home field and the best team. But, they didn’t didn’t hit, their bullpen wasn’t so good, their rookie manager got schooled, and the Giants ran with every break the Nats gave them en route to a series win. Next stop for the Giants is Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Saturday night. For the Nats? A long winter of what ifs. For me? Plenty of ball to watch on television before I shoot Game 3 of the NLCS between the Cards and Giants in San Francisco at 1:07pm PDT on Tuesday!
I was on assignment to shoot both Giants home games of the series, Games 3 and 4, in San Francisco for Sports Illustrated. Besides shooting the game I needed to shoot a few Instagrams with my iPhone 6Plus for the SI Instagram account. Twist my arm! Game 3 started at 2:07pm. This mean we would have amazing October sunlight to work in for most of the game. Days like this are incredibly special and not to be missed. I could not wait to get out to the ballpark early!
The Giants had somehow got out of Washington with a 2-0 lead in the best of five series, so everyone headed to the park on Monday knowing that a Giants win meant the day would end with a champagne celebration in the clubhouse. I was ready for that, but had an uneasy feeling with Doug Fister on the mound for the Nats. He is super tough and had a great year. The Giants had their guy going, big lefty Madison Bumgarner, but the Nats were not gonna go down easy. By the time the first pitch was thrown I was in my favorite spot to shoot on a camping chair in the Lexus Dugout Club ready for action. The Nats were wearing their pretty red tops, the light was great, and I had a gorgeous blank canvas in front of me. I was ready to make some pictures!
I have always loved shooting the Nationals, especially since they drafted Bryce Harper. Harper is one of the great young players in the game and a blast to shoot. He has such amazing raw ability and shows so much emotion on his face you just can’t take a bad picture of him. We got screwed this season when he was on the disabled list for an extended period of time and did not play when the Nats came to town to play both the Giants and the A’s. Since I had not shot Harper in over a year I was super excited when the Giants drew the Nats in the NLDS, even through he scares the Hell out of me as an opposing player.
All Hell broke loose defensively for the Giants in the top of the 7th inning of a scoreless game, and by the time the dust settled Harper was the hero and the Nats were still alive after a stirring 4-1 win, forcing a Game 4 on Tuesday night. This was not what the Giants had in mind. This became a must win as there is no way the Giants wanted to board a plane back to Washington for a Game 5 in hostile territory. They would need to win at home. There was no more margin for error.
Game 4 just had to be different for the Giants. They needed starter Ryan Vogelsong to be at his best. They needed to catch the ball. They also needed to score some runs. Once again I got to the park early to check out the scene and do a few Instagrams. It was another pretty day and I caught myself taking it for granted that I was shooting another post season baseball game in the Bay Area. We have been blessed to have so many of them lately.
I am a Giants fan and I want my team to win, but I also love shooting baseball. That means if the Giants win I get to shoot more games in San Francisco next week, so there is some extra meaning for me in this game. Shooting big games like this is the ultimate. Each pitch means so much. Every play is such a big deal. Great pictures are made and great pictures are missed. There are times I come through, and there are times I choke.
I was pretty nervous early in the game waiting for the Giants to score. Sloppy play by the Nats handed the Giants two runs on a silver platter. The Giants had an early 2-0 lead but kept squandering opportunities. They left a million guys on base and could not get a big hit to save their lives. You just knew this lack of clutch hitting would come back to bite them in the ass. Eventually that one guy started biting, and his name was Bryce Harper. First he made the score 2-1 with an RBI single in the 5th. Then he came to the plate in the top of the 7th inning against Giants rookie flame thrower Hunter Strickland and turned into Barry Bonds by hitting a moon shot into the McCovey Cove to tie it at two. Oh man did this quiet the crowd!
Bottom seven and the Nats were trying to give it away again. This time the Giants did their best to accept the gift with open arms. Rookie Joe Panik scored a run on a wild pitch, and then Buster Posey was thrown out at the plate on a wild pitch on an intentional walk ball four to Pablo Sandoval (when was the last time you ever saw that?). Heading to the 8th it was 3-2 Giants and now it was time to count outs. Six were needed and the only guy anyone seemed to worry about was Harper. As a whole the entire Nats lineup had been just awful in the Series. With the exception of Harper they had been a huge disappointment. It looked like Harper would be up in the ninth.
Surprisingly the last two innings were pretty uneventful, with the exception of a two out walk to Harper in the 9th. This was a good move and one that I liked because it gave me a chance to try and make a picture surrounding the lightning rod player of the series for the Nats, young Mr. Harper. I had such a great time shooting him in both games I thought I would try and tell the story of the end of the series through him since he was on base. I also figured the Giants would not go crazy nuts on the field.
I did not get into the clubhouse til kind of late, so most of the good pictures were already over by the time I got in there. I hung out for awhile waiting for something cool to happen. I especially wanted something quiet and slow to happen that I could capture with my iPhone for a fun Instagram to end my coverage. After a long time I finally got a few decent frames of Sandoval smoking a cigar that Hunter Pence had passed out to his teammates (see below).
By the time I got home on Tuesday night and crawled into bed after my traditional post-champagne shower and editing work it was after 2am and I was exhausted, but I could not stop watching the highlights on the MLB Network. I will enjoy watching both playoff series on TV this weekend as I gear up for my game to shoot on Tuesday.
A few post series thoughts, in case you were wondering. No, I did not get a frame of the incredible catch by Pence and yes I wish I did! From my cool spot I had a bad sideways angle through netting that just doesn’t work. I am happy to say that many of my friends made amazing pictures of the play though!
Also, you might notice that I posted many pictures of Bryce Harper here in this blog post. I can’t help it- the guy is a picture just waiting to happen!