SAN FRANCISCO -- In case you went to sleep early, this was what happened over the course of nearly three hours here Wednesday night:
Boston Red Sox ace David Price and San Francisco Giants counterpart Madison Bumgarner went pitch-for-pitch, each allowing a solo home run, through six innings of the rare pitcher's duel that lived up to its billing.
Rookie outfielder Mac Williamson, a 46th-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2011 who was called up by the Giants last week, broke a tie by driving Price's first pitch of the eighth inning over the left-field fence for his first major-league homer, then dropped a fly ball in the gap for a two-base error to open the top of the ninth.
Two batters later, Red Sox manager John Farrell used David Ortiz to hit for the sizzling Chris Young rather than the slumping Travis Shaw. Ortiz walked, Shaw struck out, and pinch-hitting rookie Marco Hernandez rolled into a game-ending fielder's choice in a 2-1 Giants win. With the Red Sox idle Thursday, Farrell's in-game maneuvering once again figures to be the topic of heated sports-radio debate.
But after the past two nights and a couple of taut interleague games, there's no debating this point: We want to see more of the Red Sox and the Giants.
"San Francisco has a good team, we have a good team, and we just had one of those series with each other back and forth," said Young, whose fourth-inning homer against Bumgarner gave the Red Sox a short-lived 1-0 lead. "Good pitching, good defense, solid at-bats. During the game, I was talking to some of the guys, and it was just a battle. They just had the upper hand today."
The Red Sox won the opener of the too-brief two-game series, 5-3 in 10 innings Tuesday night, before the Giants struck back. And maybe it was the sellout crowds at AT&T Park, or the large segments of Red Sox fans in attendance, or the typical evening chill coming off San Francisco Bay, but both games seemed to have a playoff atmosphere.
Just imagine how much better it would've been if Giants catcher Buster Posey (irritated thumb nerve) or outfielder Hunter Pence (right hamstring surgery) had been healthy. Or if Ortiz had been in the Red Sox's lineup. Or if it had been October instead of June.
With all due respect to the other 28 teams and at the considerable risk of getting way too far ahead of ourselves, a World Series that pits the Red Sox's best-in-the-majors offense against the Giants' shutdown starting pitching would be fascinating -- especially if Boston is able to strengthen its pitching and San Francisco can find another hitter to lengthen its lineup.
"[The Giants] are a very good team," Price said after what he termed his "best outing of the year," an eight-inning gem in which he allowed three hits and two walks and struck out seven. "Both teams play good defense. We had a bunch of really good defensive plays and so did they. We had some big hits [Tuesday], they had some big hits today. When two teams like this face each other, that's kind of what you expect."
Price needed only 68 pitches to cruise through six innings against the Giants' shorthanded lineup. Despite grinding through a 29-pitch seventh, he still had plenty in the tank to face the bottom of the order in the eighth.
But because Bumgarner held the Red Sox to one run on four hits through six innings and relievers Derek Law and Cory Gearrin mowed them down in the seventh and eighth, all it took was one bad pitch -- a cutter that caught too much plate -- for Price to give up the go-ahead run.
"I was looking for that pitch because he'd struck me out on it twice," Williamson said. "The first one was on the outer half and I swung through it. The second one was in and I swung over the top of it. I was just hoping he'd leave it over the plate. I was trying to remain confident in my approach."
The managers matched wits in the top of the ninth. Although Giants skipper Bruce Bochy began the inning with closer Santiago Casilla, Farrell anticipated the Giants would turn to lefty Javier Lopez as soon as Ortiz was brought into the game.
"It's either David against Lopez or Chris Young against Casilla," Farrell said. "Either way, I wanted David right there. I like David against Lopez versus the other matchup."
With first base open, the Giants could have walked Ortiz. Instead, Lopez pitched to him, even getting ahead in the count, 0-2. Ortiz wound up walking on seven pitches, and after Lopez struck out lefty-hitting Shaw, Bochy brought on right-hander Hunter Strickland to record the final out.
"You never expect the closer to be replaced, but Bochy's a genius," Ortiz said. "He knows what he's doing. His players, man, it seems like they totally understand. It's why they've won so many championships. Play the matchup thing. It works for him."
Farrell, on the other hand, left himself open to second-guessing after a wildly entertaining series that will continue with two games at Fenway Park on July 19-20.
Mark your calendars. It shouldn't be missed.