When the Giants went down in order during the National Anthem, the only ball hit with any authority was Melky Cabrera's fly ball. It wasn't exactly crushed, but he got a good swing on it. It went about 350 feet -- about half the distance need to hit a ball out to right-center. I, along with about two-thirds of the TV audience, mumbled "I got a bad feeling about this."
Not because the Giants have been moribund offensively over the past two weeks. They've earned at least a little confidence with their improved play. But Anibal Sanchez and a park that can fit six Petco Parks and four Hard Rock Cafes in the outfield seemed like a bad combination. That's like a booby trap in the jungle. One second the Giants are bebopping along, scoring runs like an average team, and the next they're swinging from a net in a tree top. Also, grounding out.
But big parks don't necessarily suppress runs. And after the Giants scored a dozen-plus runs, it's not too crazy to think this is the perfect park for the Giants. Vast green fields for baseballs to drop in and roll around. For a team that can put the ball in play, this park isn't a bad thing at all. They don't have too many guys who can hit the ball 400 feet, so why should they care if they don't have any who can hit them 425?
Now I'm pining for the vast, green pastures of Miami. Maybe there's a way to move the fences back at AT&T Park. Put some landfill in the bay -- sorry, hippies and fish, but there are games to win. Push those babies way back. Our guys can strike the other team out, and their guys can allow hit after hit after hit. Melky Cabrera would hit .450. Buster Posey would hit .899. It would be glorious.
But then again, the Giants already have a .387 OBP at the top of the order, a #3 guy hitting .362/.409/.519, a cleanup hitter with a .306/.373/.486 line, and their best hitter isn't even on the roster right now. Maybe I don't need to worry about ways to get the Giants a little extra help. Maybe this is some It's a Wonderful Life crap, and we're learning the offense is just fine the way it is, regardless where they're playing. That's a weird feeling. And every time you hear a bell ring, Albert Pujols grounds out.
In the fifth inning, Ryan Vogelsong was scuffling. An infield hit and two walks. The last walk loaded the bases for Giancarlo Stanton, who changed weather patterns with a home run in his last at-bat. The at-bat to Stanton went like this:
- fastball to the outside, well-placed
- slider low and away
- fastball over the outer-half of the plate, popped up
Vogelsong got out of the inning unscathed. Because he didn't melt down, his ERA is still 2.50. He gets credit for the win, and he gets the hosannas. I don't know what those are, but he can at least be polite and pretend to like them.
Lincecum -- at least the one from the first two months of this season -- would have allowed a triple and a wild pitch, possibly on the same play. This is because he's pressing too much, or he doesn't have the same confidence, or his fastball is shrinking.
But baseball isn't just about the pitcher on the mound. And if Stanton were looking to go to the opposite field with the first pitch, or if his bat was centered about a half-inch more with the third pitch, this game turns out much differently. Vogelsong's night turns out much differently.
This isn't to say that Vogelsong got lucky, or that all of Lincecum's problems have to do with bad luck. Vogelsong does have some steel eggs on the mound -- the kind you earn with a few trips around the Pacific Coast League, Japan, and the operating table. And Lincecum's body language can give away a hint of premature defeat when he gets into trouble. But it's so, so easy to get caught up in results-based analysis. Vogelsong had a good game. Why? Well, he didn't give up that many runs, that's why. But if Stanton swung just a little differently in an at-bat that followed a couple walks, Vogelsong wouldn't have had a good game.
It's just weird. I don't even know where I'm going with this. It's almost impossible to evaluate players on a game-to-game basis. You can't crawl into the players' heads during a given at-bat and figure out who was really setting up the Vienna Gambit, and who was trying to unwrap the rook to see if there's chocolate underneath. Vogelsong walked Greg Dobbs to get to Giancarlo F. Stanton, yet he lived to be one of the heroes of the game. Lincecum gets to two outs, and then he can't retire Freddy Galvis's stunt double.
Of course, Clay Hensley and Jeremy Affeldt felt this was unfair, so they added a couple of runs to Vogelsong's total. But the point still stands.
We were supposed to be patient with the Giants' offense -- if they kept getting the runners on, eventually they wouldn't be so lousy with runners in scoring position. That patience was rewarded over the last week or two. Eventually Vogelsong will get burned after an inning like that. Which is fine. All pitchers have those innings, even the very good ones. But eventually, Lincecum won't get burned at every opportunity. That's the hope, anyway.
And while we're giggling that Melky Cabrera isn't Jonathan Sanchez, let's give a premature congratulations to Brian Sabean for the Ryan Vogelsong extension. He was going to be a free agent after this year, remember. There's still a lot of season left, and this paragraph can still look awfully stupid, but right now, it looks like a steal. Dude's fun to watch, even if only because he looks so irritated.