Then there was the time the Giants went into Atlanta and held the Braves to three runs for an entire three-game series.
Sweeps are magnificent. Sweeps on the road are doubly so. Sweeps on the road against a first-place team are exponentially so. But there’s nothing quite like a sweep on the road against a first-place team whose fans have the most annoying tradition in professional sports. I don’t have anything against Braves fans, specifically — some of my best friends are ... — but they absolutely have the most annoying tradition in sports. The Tomahawk Chop has no peer. It's like 40,000 fans in Dinger costumes gyrating their hips around Coors Field before every pitch.
Can you imagine the drunken fool who came up with that? Now imagine him getting the entire crowd to follow along. Horrifying. Now, I’m sure Braves fans don’t really mind the annoying label when it comes to the chant. That’s part of the charm, I reckon. Get under the skin of the opposing team and fans. That’s the whole point. Of course it’s obnoxious. When it works and positive Braves-related events happen, it has to be fun.
That comes at a price, though. And that price is that it’s exceptionally fun for the other side to hear the chants turn into cuss words en masse. It’s just as fun as the chanting, I’m sure.
Not going to lie: I had fun watching that series.
It’s getting to the point where Brandon Crawford has to start getting consideration for most-underrated lists around baseball, and that’s even if he doesn’t improve a lick with the bat. A shortstop with his glove and arm, combined with his ability to not be a total zero at the plate, makes him valuable in all sorts of easy-to-ignore ways. He’s good with the glove, but he’ll never win a Gold Glove as long as Andrelton Simmons is healthy. He’s fast enough to be a net positive on the bases, but he doesn’t steal. He can hit a tiny bit, but rarely for power, and he doesn’t take a lot of walks. And he plays in a park that makes his offensive output seem even more meager.
Add it all up, and he’s one of the best players in baseball who might go undrafted in a fantasy league. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more wrong about a player, either, as I thought he would be Neifi 2, the unwatchable sequel to an unwatchable movie. The Giants inexplicably brought him up in 2011, and he was clearly overmatched. I spent the entire offseason railing on the Giants to do something/anything about the shortstop position (Clint Barmes!) and was throughly dejected when Crawford was the Opening Day shortstop.
I was wrong, you were right. I’m stupid, you’re smart.
The first Crawford dinger of the day was impressive because it came a) off a lefty and b) in a 1-2 count. The second dinger of the way was impressive because it came off Jordan Walden, who c) throws 98 m.p.h. and d) cheats with an illegal, freaky delivery. I don’t really mind the delivery — it’s fascinating — but it has to be impossible to face after seeing normal pitchers all day.
It’s not time to assume dinger-hittin’ Crawford is a thing now — remember his April last year — but it’s nice to acknowledge every so often that, say, this Crawford guy really does help the Giants win more often than he helps them lose.
True fact of the day: That was the first two-homer game of Brandon Crawford’s career. No, really.
Ann Killion wrote a feature about Madison Bumgarner in 2011 that I keep going back to.
"I definitely don't think I could have (reworked my mechanics) on my own," Bumgarner said. "I never really knew anything about mechanics. I didn't know what I was doing, I'd just throw whatever the catcher put down."
I don’t know if there’s a way to suggest that one pitcher’s mechanics are more important than another’s. Every pitcher needs to have their delivery working right if they want to succeed. But for whatever reason, I pay more attention to Bumgarner’s mechanics than I do for any other Giants pitcher. His delivery is the first thing I think about when he gets shelled. Wonder what's up with Bumgarner's mechanics. Can they fix what's up with Bumgarner's mechanics? They should probably find out what's the matter with Bumgarner's mechanics. I don't think that about Cain or Lincecum nearly as often.
And by "pay attention to his mechanics," I mean "wait around for smart people to spoonfeed me information about his mechanics." It's not like I have any idea what he's doing out there, other than the ol' rot snockets. Mike Krukow is one of those smart people, and before the start of the Game, he mentioned there was something wrong with Bumgarner's mechanics in previous starts, but that everyone was really encouraged by his mechanics in his mid-week side-session. And I thought, hot dang, that's encouraging.
Then he struck out two batters in the first inning and featured low-to-mid 90s fastballs. And every last one of you thought, hot dang, that's encouraging.
The Braves' center field camera gives a great angle (almost dead-center), showing exactly how impossible Bumgarner's slutter must seem to right-handed hitters. The movement is so late, and he puts it in a place where the hitter has to make a split-second decision between "over the plate" and "broken thumbs." I would ignore every other sport in the world if the typical baseball game were filled with dead-center shots from left-handed slutter slingers.
Bumgarner's mechanics were lost, but now they're found. It took him only two starts to figure it out. He can get even better, you know.
The Giants were 19-12 at this time last year, which was totally different than the current 20-11 record. It's probably time to get really arrogant and short-sighted because nothing bad is ever going to happen to this team!