Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Clearly, choke was the right word.

Marty; On Sep’t 16th this page carried an article which raised the question whether “choke” was or was not too strong a word to use in connection with the performance of Benitez in the third Padres game. This was the game, as you will undoubtedly, painfully, recall, in which Benitez blew a two run lead when one strike away from completing a sweep of the three game series.

Click below for a most interesting analysis of the Giants.
This is being written three hours following today’s game, the three hour interval having been made necessary in order to allow the writer a small degree of time to cool off. I have already been the recipient of e-mails from some of your devoted web-site adherents questioning how I am going to address today’s exhibition.

For the benefit of those who didn’t have the benefit of watching the game, very briefly, it went something like this. For eight innings, Cain and Hernandez were locked up in a pitcher’s duel. The score at the end of eight was Washington two, SF one. The Giant’s one run was the result of a Bonds monster home run in the fourth. In the ninth inning, with a man on second and two out, Bonds was walked on four pitches. Alou then did what it was hoped he would do, following Bonds in the order, when they signed him and before Bonds proceeded to have surgery three times on his right knee. Alou hit a home run.

The bottom of the inning saw Benitez strolling out to the mound. San Diego was losing by ten runs at the time. Once again, Benitez had a two run lead in a game the Giants had to win in order to maintain a semblance of still being in contention.

He gave up a double after getting the first man. He then proceeded to walk the next two men, loading the bases.

At no time while he was pitching to these batters was he throwing the ball for strikes which were tough to hit. He was clearly not in control. This was not an untried young pitcher who was having control problems. This was a frightened, veteran pitcher, a pitcher who had absolutely no confidence in his ability to get any batter out. This was a closer who was capable of successfully closing games in the ordinary course of a season. But this was a pitcher who couldn’t rise to the occasion when the game involved more than the usual “won” or “lost” in the standings.

This was a pitcher who simply “choked” when, for instance, something more was at stake, as might have been the case in the Padres game or in the game today.

He managed to get the next batter out on a fly ball, one run scoring, although he didn’t look in charge in doing so. The next batter hit a line drive to left. With the runners on the move, two runs were certain to score and the game lost. Linden, after a small step back, changed course and made an astonishing catch to save the game.

Throughout this inning, once the first out was made, any knowledgable observer could have predicted that this was going to be a lost game. Observing Benitez’ hang- dog expression throughout the inning, knowing something of his previous history of falling apart in crucial situations, one could only wonder why Felipe didn’t have someone warming up the moment the closer walked out there. Eyre didn’t get up until after it was obvious to all that Benitez had lost it.

It is well-known that Alou feels the need to stick with his closer no matter how apparent it is to everyone that the job isn’t going to get done without some divine intervention. The divine intervention came in the shape of Linden. Neither Benitez or Felipe deserve credit for this one.

It makes one wonder what the Giants are going to do for a closer in a must-win game during the remaining two years of Benitez’ contract. More immediately, in the still unlikely event of getting into the playoffs, what do they intend to do for a closer? There are frequent “must win” games in a post-season.

We may not know the answer to that this year. One answer we do know.

“Choke” was the right word.



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