Lincecum falters, Cole shines, Giants lose big

Justin K. Aller

Scutaro hurt, bees dying off, global temperatures rising, NSA listening, Guy Ritchie employed, and your last three checks bounced.

There are bad games, close games that don't turn out, and games that are just given away. But about 10 times every year -- more for the really bad teams, fewer for the really good teams -- there's a loss that makes you question the season, your choice in hobbies, and the existence of the last few years in general. Dunno. Maybe the parades were something you hallucinated after eating an expired Cadbury Egg.

This game was one of those 10 times. When you combine an ugly loss with a broken player, you'll get one of those.

First things first: Marco Scutaro isn't that broken. The x-rays were negative, and there's no fracture. So things could have been worse. We were a DL trip and Crawford rest day away from an Arias-Noonan-Tanaka-Pill infield, and this would have been a legendarily awful game. As is, it was just bad.

Edit: Wait! There could be tendon damage for Scutaro! That's even worse! Oh, horrible game, you are the horriblest.

But more than the injury and the final score, did it ever seem like the Giants were the better team? That's the depressing part. I'm not even talking about the lineups, because I don't really have a beef with what the Giants are running out there, even with the injuries. I'm talking about the pitchers. Think about the goals of a pitcher, what they're taught to do. Think about what every pitcher wants to do against a tough hitter. The starter for the Pirates was throwing 97 and hitting the corners. His breaking ball consistently kept the hitters off balance.

The starter for the Giants was throwing 90, and he didn't know where the ball was going. He got the opposing pitcher behind 0-2 with the bases loaded and then gave up a two-run single on a full count.

The relievers for the Pirates were throwing 95 with breaking balls that did what they were supposed to.

The relievers for the Giants were throwing 90 with breaking balls that most certainly did not do what they were supposed to. Okay, maybe that description applies to George Kontos only. Still, there was a lot of George Kontos, so it counts.

It doesn't even matter that Gerrit Cole was making his first career start and looking like a neo-Verlander. Strip away the names and the context. The Pirates were throwing the horsehide spheroid better than the Giants were, and it wasn't even close. That was a Harlem Globetrotters/Washington Generals looking mismatch.

Before you call me a quitter/whiner/cynic, note that I'm just talking about this game. This isn't about the rest of the season. Not yet. We're just talking about Tuesday night. From an aesthetic standpoint, even. One team looked like Goofus and one team looked like Gallant. The rest of the league was supposed to want to be the Pirates. The Giants were the ones sticking the dog in the toaster oven. Don't stick the dog in the toaster oven, Giants.

But if you really want to make it about the rest of the season, go ahead. Because it's still a few days until we get to Chad Gaudin again.


Now, I can't figure out whose movie we were in. Was Tim Lincecum the Ghost of Christmas Future sent to harass Gerrit Cole? Like, Cole was sitting in the dugout, getting cocky and jabbering about his 97-m.p.h. fastball, when a storm cloud rolled over and Tim Lincecum took the mound, rattling chains and moaning?

Loooooook at meeeee. I used to have a 97-m.p.h. fastball. I was a top draft choice out of the Pac-10. Loooooooook into my eyes and listen to my tale ...

Or was Gerrit Cole the Ghost of Christmas Past in Tim Lincecum's movie? Now that Cole reminded Lincecum of what he used to look like, everyone's learned a life lesson and the true meaning of baseball, and we can all go home now.

Probably the former.

It was eerie to see the two matched up against each other. It was like Ozzy singing a song with Kvelertak or something, stumbling around, gnawing on the ride cymbal, while the young guys melted your face. We've spent so much time wondering about what's wrong with Lincecum, paying way too much attention to his mechanics and velocity. Maybe he just needs to throw 97 again with impeccable command. Did you ever think about that, smart guy? Because it worked for Cole.

Still, here was the how the Pirates scored two in the second inning:

1. Line drive single
2. Bloop single
3. Bloop single
4. Pitcher single

How many demerits do we give Tim Lincecum for that sequence? How many of those events do we brush off as unlucky? I'm not writing that because I want to make excuses for him. I'm also not writing it because I want to bury him. I'm writing it because I have absolutely no idea. So tired of searching for explanations for Lincecum. We're trying to split the atom with a toothpick and a pair of empty eyeglass frames.

He got Cole 0-2 before running the count full. Then when he absolutely needed to throw a strike to the opposing pitcher, he did. But it was an awful pitch that deserved to be hit. Does he get credit for the strike, demerits for the bad pitch, a little of both? Don't know, don't care. We're into results-based analysis 'round here.


And the results were, once again, bad.


Gregor Blanco was hit with a pitch in the second inning. Then Marco Scutaro was hit by a pitch in the seventh. So the Giants threw behind Starling Marte and hit Andrew McCutchen. That made Scutaro's hand feel better and the Giants won the division.

I've unwritten some things about how annoying that all was:

And I mean every last unword. If I wanted to watch Bochy do some sort of simian mating dance, I'd pay the $19.99 per month for that fetish website just like everyone else. Nothing was solved. Nothing was gained. There was a two-percent chance that McCutchen took one off the hand, elbow, or knee, and that's an unacceptable risk.

Maybe there can be an unhosted conference where all of the teams could unattend and decide that hitting opposing players intentionally should be reserved for preening at long home runs, shouting at the opposing pitcher, and being A.J. Pierzynski. The old-school, grumbly nonsense that led to George Kontos throwing some purpose pitches was old-school, grumbly nonsense. And it was embarrassing.


But other than that, the game went pretty well.

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