And on September 12, 2013, Brian Wilson held the last-place Giants scoreless to help the first-place Dodgers win a game.
It could have been worse, mind you. Yasiel Puig could have bat-flipped a 460-foot homer into the night. The Giants could have lost on a throwing error. The tying run for the Giants could have been called out for passing the runner ahead of him. As far as Dodger wins go, that was mild.
But there's still time for that other stuff. That's what the next three games are for, silly. Clayton Kershaw tomorrow, everyone. Clayton Kershaw tomorrow.
At no point did it feel like the Giants were going to win the game. It's not because the Dodgers are that much better, even though it appears they are. It's just that we watched the Giants with an attitude of "How are they going to screw this up?", whereas Dodger fans watched with an attitude of "How are they going to win?" It's palpable. I don't believe in momentum or the will to win, not when the same group of Giants won the division and World Series last year. They didn't unlearn how to win.
You felt it too, though, right? Just watching, waiting, waiting, watching, waiting for the Giants to screw up one time too many. It was comical, even. Like a guy covered in gasoline, trying to light a cigarette in a slapstick movie. The match comes closer, the crowd titters. The match comes closer, the crowd titters some more. There was no way the Giants were going to win.
I can't believe the Giants made a ninth-inning comeback, actually. That didn't fit the scri ... oh, wait, that was the only way Wilson was going to pitch. Right, right.
You know the Giants had more hits, right? More baserunners, more extra-base hits, more walks. Really, Matt Cain out-pitched Zack Greinke, and it shouldn't have been that close. But you knew one team was going to lose the close game. Sounds fatalistic, but we're 147 games into this season. We've seen it before.
Now as to how they lost it, well, let's take a gander ...
With runners on first and second and no outs in the eighth inning, Brandon Belt bunted. Belt has been one of the best hitters on the team this year. He has more late-inning, clutch hits if you're the kind of person who believes in that sort of thing. He's the guy you want at the plate. Instead, he made an out on purpose.
There was rage, the kind that gives Internet baseball nerds a bad name. There was rage on the Twitter. An impressive amount. People in the gamethread were just as aghast. Bochy needed to be fired. Into the sun, perhaps.
But do you know what the Giants' win expectancy did? It went from 44.9 percent to 45.6 percent. It went up. This is based on generic base-out situations, so it doesn't account for Belt being an excellent hitter over the last couple months. Considering, though, that Paco Rodriguez has been death on lefties (and everyone else) this year, I'm not going to pretend that it was like Joey Votto bunting against Guillermo Moscoso.
Then people were upset because the bunt "took the bat out of Posey's hands." But that's backwards. The bunt forced the Dodgers to make a bad decision. They loaded the bases on purpose. Again, the win expectancy ticked in the Giants favor, with a team in that situation winning 46.7 percent of the time. Hitters do better with the bases loaded. Pitchers need to throw strikes, and hitters can sit on pitches they like.
If the choice is between Brandon Belt against a lefty with two on and no outs, or Hunter Pence against a rightie with the bases loaded and one out, you take the latter. Every time. And if it seems like I'm being a contrarian, the numbers back me up. The Giants had a better chance with Pence up in that situation than they did with Belt earlier in the inning.
So don't focus on a single move by the manager. That's an easy target. Focus instead on the Giants' season-long ability to screw everything up at exactly the right time. It's stunning. It's hard to double up Pence. If he hits that ball a foot to the right, the Giants tie the game there and keep the inning going. If he does just about anything else, the Giants are still in good shape. Instead, it was exactly the wrong break against the team that's getting exactly the right breaks.
When the Dodgers bunted in the 10th inning, their win expectancy went down. It was a bad move. But of course they got the hit after the bunt because this season is a sociopath.
Cain out-pitched Greinke tonight. He had better command and better stuff. It was one of the best Cain outings of the year, really.
There were two mistakes. First, he tried to start a double play himself. This is how pitchers start double plays:
I don't know why it's so hard for pitchers to throw the baseball to second. This isn't a new observation. But pitchers would at least make a highlight video if they winged the ball directly into the stands instead of throwing it into center and wasting our time.
The second mistake came after the prettiest slider you'll ever see. There was a runner on base because of general mittfuckery (by Hunter Pence, who lost the ball in the lights, probably because he was thinking about walking around them and humming after the game was over), and the runner ended up on third with one out. Cain needed a strikeout. It came on the Platonic ideal of a slider. Just perfect, right down to the part where it annoyed a Hairston.
And the next pitch was a fastball down the middle to Yasiel Puig. Worse, it was on the inside part of the plate, even though Puig stands in the on-deck circle. He's not bothered by pitches on the inside. He welcomes them, even.
Two mistakes. I'm not going to be so hyperbolic as to suggest they were the only two Cain made. But close enough. He pitched magnificently.
At least he didn't take the loss.
At least the Giants are going to draft Harrison Barnes.
At least ants aren't the size of armadillos with dolphin-sized brains.
At least the Giants aren't in last place with the Dodgers in first.