There's no such thing as a must-win game in June. Or July or August. That's a cliché that has been thoroughly debunked every day for the last 1,600 years, the last time a gladiator fought a bear, give or take. People take such pride in busting that cliché. It's accepted pedantry in the sports world to point that out, and we're probably better for it.
There's certainly no such thing as a must-win game for a team in June that has a huge lead in the division. Anyone who used that term before the game on Thursday deserved to be slimed.
There are, however, must-win-or-else-I'll-be-really-uncomfortable games in June. There are must-win-or-I'll-be-unable-to-enjoy-my-next-Pop-Tart-quite-as-much games. There are games that, if not won, will make you enjoy the next win less because of what came before it.
This was one of those games. The Giants haven't been swept in a four-game series at home since they played at Candlestick. It would have been a serious mellow-harshing, a bear trap of reality that we weren't ready for. Say the Giants were swept and won the first game of the Rockies series, but dropped the second game. The cynicism would have bubbled up again, even if we knew it was irrational. Our brains would have swapped the 2013 Giants in for the current batch, at least until they ripped off another ridiculous streak.
This was a must-win-or-baseball-would-be-annoying game. Yes, that will do. And the Giants won that must-win game.
The Dodgers lost.
Eno Sarris has a great writeup on Tim Hudson at FanGraphs, describing his various pitches and his move away from the slider following elbow surgery. If you're still in a mood to think about Hudson and the good things he's doing for this world, shimmy on over there and read it.
I have nothing to add. The Giants are 10-2 in Hudson's starts, he's had quality starts in 10 of his 13 starts (with one of the misses a rain-suspended game), and his ERA has never risen above 2.40 this season. I know those three stats don't impress the modern baseball fan, and there's a reason for that. Those stats aren't necessarily predictive. You can't look at a team's record in a pitcher's starts and predict how he'll pitch in the near future. At least, not as accurately as you can with other stats.
As an explanation for why you look forward to a pitcher's starts, though, those stats do well. As a way to understand why you're smitten with Hudson two-and-a-half months into the season, they'll do just fine. Barry Zito had six quality starts last year. There's a malaise that builds up when a pitcher can't make it out of the sixth inning over and over and over again. It taxes the bullpen and it irritates the fans.
Hudson, though, just keeps pitching. Seven innings, seven innings, seven innings, eight innings, seven innings. Sinker, sinker, sinker, curve, sinker. Thirty pitches through three innings, 42 pitches through four innings, 54 pitches through five innings.
There were so many ways to screw this offseason up. Somehow the Giants emerged with the best free agent pitcher of them all, and they didn't have to spend $100 million over five years to do it. He's a treasure.
Hudson began postgame presser by instructing his little boy, who was sitting in his chair, not to fart. #sfgiants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) June 12, 2014
Just a treasure.
Allow me to get a little negative in a happy fun thread. Just a touch. Apologies.
I get that the Giants want to keep Ehire Adrianza. Henry Schulman spent the better part of the game twit-yelling at the ninnies calling for his head after he struck out with the bases loaded. The main points were that a) Ehire still had value, so the Giants just weren't going to give him away, and b) it isn't fair to evaluate him based on four or five at-bats a week because he's rusty.
I agree with those points, but here's my problem with Adrianza: I don't get the end game. He's not going to be a valuable player unless he can hit his weight; the chances of him being Brendan Ryan are slim. He's not going to hit his weight until he gets regular at-bats. He's not going to get regular at-bats in the majors. Which means he'll never be a valuable player.
Is that tautology about right? If he's never going to go to the minors, and he's never going to start ... where does that development come from? He's basically a shortstop in a glass case in the event something happens to our handsome, doubles-machine of a shortstop, and the Giants are willing to weaken the bench to keep that emergency plan in place for the next couple years.
I just can't fathom how the difference between Adrianza and Joaquin Arias over an extended period would be so great as to justify the weaker bench in a contending season. For all I know, the Giants have been actively trying to trade Adrianza since November, so it's not like this is a call to arms. But if the rationale is "we don't want to lose him" ... why? He's useless unless Crawford is unable to play, and even then he's of dubious value.
I don't know, maybe I'm underrating him. I've been wrong before. Like, say, about Crawford. The Giants sure shut my yapper with that one, so they get the benefit of the doubt before I do. From blogland, though, I'm not sure what they're doing with Adrianza. I feel bad for him, too. He's been a regular his entire life, I'm assuming.
Still don't trust defensive statistics wholeheartedly, but it's nice when they match up with the amateur scouting. I'm agog with Brandon Hicks at second base all of a sudden, and the stats confirm that he's been excellent. The footfingers from early in the season are gone, which leaves a player who turns some of the prettiest double plays I can remember.
Bobby Evans described Hicks as "Gold Glove-caliber defense" in an article about the Giants not calling up Joe Panik. I'm not sure I'd go that far ... but I'm not not sure. He was in the game for just three innings and still made a stellar turn on a crucial double play.
He struck out in his only plate appearance, of course. But, considering the defense, it's not crazy to ford the slump and see if there are dingers on the other side.
I hope there are dingers on the other side.