Giants come back late, take first game against Cardinals

Dilip Vishwanat

The Giants needed to outscore the red heathen, and will you look at that.

I'd be a big ol' liar if I didn't admit to thinking of what I'm going to write well before the game is over. There's nothing worse than realizing in the eighth inning that I have nothing to say, that baseball has been nothing but ambient noise for the last two or three hours. And when the Cardinals took the lead into the eight inning, all I could think is, "Well, this happens against good teams. Turns out they're harder to beat than the Twins and Cubs of the world."

Then the Giants won anyway.

Suppose we can rejigger that a bit, then. That is what happens against good teams. But sometimes better teams can be the scissors to the good team's paper. And on that paper is Matt Holliday making a stupid face, so you cut his nose into a little piggie shape because it amuses you.

That isn't to say the Giants are certainly better than the Cardinals -- goodness, we're still in May, don't forget everything you believed to be true just two months ago -- but we shouldn't have any problems believing that it's possible. Don't know yet, but you'd have to be goofy to ignore what we've watched in the first third of the season. Good teams go on the road and hit dingers and doubles and dingers, pitching just well enough to win.

We'll see if the Giants are actually a good team. I see you creepin', 2011. But the indications so far are yes, yes, a hundred times yes. This is one of the games I didn't think the Giants would pull out, and they did. They're still four games behind the pace of the 1962 Giants and two behind the pace of the 1971 Giants, but those are the only two teams in the San Francisco era that got off to better starts.

★★★

And what's the difference between last year and this year? Dingers and Tim Hudson, Tim Hudson and dingers. More specifically, Michael Morse hitting dingers. And crossbow-bolt doubles to the opposite field, apparently.

Before the season started, I would have made a silly bet about Morse. It wouldn't have been completely ridiculous, like walking from San Francisco to Baltimore in penance, but I would have made a bet that we would have been completely frustrated with Morse by now. Like, Rowand levels. He started off quickly last year, too, and slowly disintegrated, piece by piece. I would have done something stupid if he proved me wrong, like eat a box of licorice or live-blog the entire 10-year run of Beverly Hills, 90210.

But you didn't make that bet with me. So I don't have to. Now I get to enjoy Morse's prodigious dingers and general goofiness without regret. You should have made a bet. I would have licked a picture of Mike Piazza and made a Vine of it, you know. Instead, how about that Michael Morse? He's been fun to watch.

★★★

Pablo Sandoval's homer gave him an RBI in his ninth-straight game, which elevates him beyond the Rick Wilkinseses of the world and into the realm of the interesting. Check out this list of players keeping Sandoval company:

Rk Strk Start End Games HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Mel Ott 1929-06-11 1929-06-20 11 5 27 .408 .508 .898 1.406
2 Jeff Kent 2000-06-07 2000-06-18 10 2 14 .444 .500 .722 1.222
3 Matt Williams 1991-08-27 1991-09-06 10 4 11 .314 .375 .657 1.032
4 Mel Ott 1928-05-29 1928-06-09 10 1 12 .317 .349 .390 .739
5 High Pockets Kelly 1921-06-17 1921-06-27 10 1 15 .381 .435 .571 1.006
6 Barry Bonds 2000-09-04 2000-09-13 9 8 16 .556 .700 1.519 2.219
7 Barry Bonds 1994-07-15 1994-07-24 9 8 17 .463 .500 1.122 1.622
8 Will Clark 1987-08-03 1987-08-11 9 7 12 .412 .447 1.088 1.536
9 Willie McCovey 1969-05-25 1969-06-06 9 8 15 .457 .500 1.200 1.700
10 Willie Mays 1964-04-17 1964-05-01 9 5 15 .556 .590 1.083 1.673
11 Orlando Cepeda 1961-08-18 1961-08-26 9 4 14 .333 .390 .778 1.168
12 Orlando Cepeda 1959-09-23 1960-04-17 9 3 13 .400 .432 .771 1.204
13 Willie Mays 1955-09-11 1955-09-21 9 8 21 .487 .512 1.308 1.820
14 Monte Irvin 1953-07-07 1953-07-19 9 4 20 .462 .488 1.000 1.488
15 Phil Weintraub 1944-06-02 1944-06-12 9 7 16 .485 .595 1.273 1.868

There isn't a ... dammit, Phil Weintraub, you're ruining the narrative ... there are almost no no-names in the bunch. Other than Weintraub -- the Mike Aldrete of the '30s! -- Matt Williams is the worst player on the list. Except Williams was an excellent player. I know RBI is a junk stat, a number that purports to tell you something about an individual when it's telling you more about the team, but it's still a good proxy for "Here's how many times you've cheered for this dude." We've cheered for Sandoval an awful lot over the last three weeks.

Remember the Gambler's Fallacy: Just because Sandoval lost 30 straight hands of blackjack, it didn't mean he was going to win his next 30. Just because he was horrible for a month, it didn't mean he was due to go on an extended hot streak. This is remarkable, in a way. He's a performance artist, using contrast and bold juxtapositions to make us feel insecure about our own mortality. Or, you know, whatever.

★★★

The official Romo worry-o-meter: a strong 6, which is higher than it's been since, dunno, maybe early May, 2010? July, 2009? It's easy to take Romo for granted, but he's been one of the most consistent reliever in Giants history, and I'm not sure I need to add the Giants qualifier there. He's not as effortless right now, though. It's not hard to notice. Pitchers go through peaks and valleys, 2009 Lincecums and 2013 Lincecums, especially relievers, so don't take the worry-o-meter up to a 7 or an 8 just yet, but there's more than a little brow-furrowing when he comes into games now. More than we're used to, anyway.

This is how the other 29 teams live, for the most part. A Romo who strikes out just seven batters for every nine innings he pitches probably isn't going to be a comforting closer, but we're not there yet. Still May.

The best part of Romo's outing was easily how his slider looked from that gorgeous center-field camera. When he snapped off a good one -- and the last out of the game wasn't one of those, mind you -- it was mesmerizing to see its break. He's still got it, but it's coming without the same regularity as we're used to. For the moment, I'll use the one-of-those-things stamp and resume not worrying.

★★★

I am against replacing Sandoval for Joaquin Arias for defense, for the record. It's a silly, reactionary move that makes no sense unless Sandoval's nursing a secret ouchie. Replace Hicks for Adrianza before you do that. It will make a bigger difference, but there won't be the 13th-inning feeling of oooohhhhh nooooo what did we doooo that goes along with it.

★★★

I was about to publish this without mentioning Ryan Vogelsong once. He was the grind grind grind Vogelsong of old, never giving in. He was the whoopsie-doodle Vogelsong of last year, occasionally losing his command and letting balls leak over the plate. He was both, he was all things to all Cardinals. 

Yet at the end of the game, I wasn't worried about him or his place on the 2014 Giants. Not in the slightest. When you don't have to mention Vogelsong, that's probably a good thing. 

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