The original idea for this post-game thread was a list of the top-10 Cainings. As in, a list of the worst losses that came after great Matt Cain starts.
This is much more fun.
Oh, how I wish this game happened in the middle of June or July. This was a metaphor game. This was a sign. This was written in the stars, a million miles away. The Giants, having been swept by a 100-loss team after losing ninth-inning leads and leaving the bases loaded several times, held on to a ninth-inning lead by shutting the other team down after they loaded the bases with no outs. The symmetry, man. The symmetry. It surely meant that the Giants were about to go on a run that …
Well, shucks. It's August first, and the Giants are a billion games back. That game wasn't a metaphor. That game didn't have meaning. That game was a Dukes of Hazzard episode. Fun to watch. Don't look at it too closely. But Roger Kieschnick slid into the car through the window, and Brett Pill took the car over a ravine, and sweet fancy Jolson that was something. Sergio Romo pulled a Tyler Walker, a Rod Beck. Bases loaded, no outs, and some wiggling here and some gyrating there and the Giants win. Means little. Means a lot.
So instead of the last Caining, let's look for the last game the Giants won like this, where it looked like a definite loss until the last second. That would be June 18. That's a long time to wait for a little hero dust.
But it comes now, and we get to roll in it. The Giants didn't exactly slap Papelbon around, but they strung together some bloops and floops and beat a good pitcher. That's what normal teams do. You get sequences like that every now and again. The absence of those sequences doesn't tell us anything about the character of the club, the mental fortitude, or the derring-do of hitters in clutch spots. It's just one of those things. And in some seasons, these kinds of ninth innings happen with some frequency. In this season, not only did the ninth innings dry up for the Giants, but so did innings one through eight.
Or, to put it another way, the Giants had two runs on 11 hits. Have you realized how nutty this season has been when it comes to the ratio of plenty-of-hits to paucity-of-runs?
That nutty. This isn't an aberration. The Giants are better at leaving runners on base than any team in the league. They lost 36 of those 48 games up there.
Well, this game is ours.
/takes quarter from wishing well, Feldman-style
And I'm taking it back.
I realize that the lack of power contributes substantially to this. Homers are better than triples are better than doubles are better than singles. The Giants hit singles, for the most part. That makes a difference. But I still think this season is a freak season, and it takes a win like this to make me think, "Yeah, dammit. Bring Pence back. Bring Lincecum back. Bring the whole team back. They can do this. It's not the team that's the problem. It's bad luck. Bring them all back."
Also, I'm drunk.
There was an at-bat against Michael Young in which Cain missed the target by a bunch. The mitt was over the outside edge, and the fastball tailed into the middle of the plate. Young swung through it. Partially because Young is on the downslope of his career, and partially because Matt Cain keeps his money in a Jules Winnfield wallet. It wasn't a good pitch in form, but it was a good pitch in function.
All I want to know is how many of those pitches Cain isn't getting away with in 2013 compared to other years. A lot? A little? None of them? Most of them? There's no missed-catcher's-target stat. But I've suspected that Cain's problem hasn't really been mechanical or physical for a while now, but something that would be explained by a simple hard-hit-ball/missed-catcher's-target equation. Feels like Cain isn't getting away with anything this year. He got away with something tonight, and he got a well-deserved win.
The Giants are pretty solid defensively, to be honest. If Pablo Sandoval is your worst defensive problem -- and he made a great play on Thursday night to rob Michael Young of a hit -- it's a pretty capable bunch.
Eventually, though, the Giants will have a bad defensive player. Like, a really bad defensive player. The worst. And maybe he'll hit okay. Not great, but okay. Okay enough to make people think he's good.
Remember this game and Michael Young. Roger Kieschnick's single went under the glove of Young, who might be the worst infield defender of our generation. Ryan Howard gets to that ball, and he's a below-average defender. Young in the field is Eugenio Velez with hero gloss, and no one can see through the truth but you. Put him at first, put him a third, doesn't matter.
If you want stats, here you go. Young is one of the worst ever. The Giants strung some hits together, but let's not fail to appreciate Michael Young, friend of the Giants.
One of these days, I'm going to break down his play in the 2010 World Series. One of these days ...
After Jeff Francoeur struck out with runners on against Hamels, Mike Krukow muttered "He (Hamels) never threw him a strike." It was for public consumption, but it was also right before the cut to commercial. It wasn't supposed to be an illuminating piece of commentary; it was an honest reaction to a bad at-bat. Krukow got frustrated with the same thing coaches have been frustrated with over the past eight years.
That written, that dude has a hose. A real humdinger of a hose. And it's fun to watch.
Put Francoeur in left, Juan Perez in center, and Pence in right, and change the rules of the game to make it so players don't really hit anymore, but just throw each other out on the bases. World champs, baby. Threepeat? Threepeat. Them arms are good.
If Francoeur were used like Perez, he might almost make sense. Instead, he's a former SI cover boy with tools upon tools, so he'll get the chances.
That hose, though. That hose. It's aesthetically pleasing to watch a play at the play develop. The grounder goes through, the runner hesitates for a second, and you get to see the outfielder wind up and uncork something fierce. The Giants don't win tonight without that hose. That hose.
An aside: Do you know how many runs the Giants have allowed with the bases loaded and no outs this season? Zero. This team leads a charmed life, alright.
(Just don't look up the bases loaded with one out.)