It takes a game like that to make you remember that, wait, there aren't that many of those games these days. Whar my 2-1, 3-2 nail biters, whar? This kind of close game, this anything-can-happen nonsense, is a relic. In March, we were expecting 160 or 161 of them. 'Twas not to be.
Not that I've minded. Turns out the Giants are in first place, a billionty games ahead of the Dodgers. So I'm not going to scrutinize the aesthetics of a win. An 8-7 win in Coors Field doesn't feel any better or worse than a 3-2 win in Arizona. It's just weird to remember that, oh, right, every game used to be like that. The starting pitcher used to dominate, and the offense used to stagnate. Every game.
But, uh, it didn't used to come in the Zito package.
This was something of a statement game for Zito. He was a cheerleader in 2010. And I have no idea how good he did with the sis-boom-bahs, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't just a mopey ass the whole time, sitting in the corner of the dugout, drunkenly telling anyone who'd listen that he won a Cy Young. He was probably a pretty good teammate, sucking up more pride than any of us have ever had to suck up. That's just a guess. But I haven't had to come close to sucking up that much pride. I can't even imagine a situation where it'd be possible. "Sorry, guy. Sullivan's going to write up this entire World Series. You work on a list of 'Top Rule 5 Prospects', 'kay?"
So this was Zito pitching as well as he possibly could, at a time when Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, and Tim Lincecum are all struggling. I mean, holy hell, what is that about?
In 2010, Zito had the common courtesy to start strong and suck late. There was no ambiguity. He pootered out, and Bumgarner took over. Parades ensued.
Now, though, there's an open question. And to be up front, I still don't think it's much of a question. Zito is a strong fifth-place when it comes to a list of pitchers I'd trust to make a postseason start, even if he's been pretty fantastic over his last two starts. But it's still a question. A silly question. But a question.
There will be time for those debates. But for tonight, don't worry about it. Because Zito pitched very, very well. His curve might have been his best of the season, which replaces the previous honoree from last week.
Even more impressive than the performance was the fire. He got the fire. Oh, he got the fire. When he struck out Justin Upton looking on a pitch six inches off the plate inside -- but after not getting a call on a slider down the middle with the second pitch of the at-bat -- he stormed off the mound and yelled a bunch of naughty words. FUZZY CATERPILLAR'S GOTTA GIT HIS STRASBURG. Something like that, anyway. And them's the stakes: He's pitching for a rotation spot in the postseason.
It reminded me of the war shriek that Kirk Rueter let out the night before the Brian Johnson game. It was unexpected and out of character, yet perfectly appropriate. It was a great game, especially considering that wasn't exactly an easy lineup for a soft-tossing lefty to navigate.
Let's talk about the sound that baseballs make when they come off Buster Posey's bat. There are thwacks. And then there are twhwwwwhwharrerrrkcaaacks. Posey's is the latter. When he hit his home run, you knew it before the camera cut to the right fielder running back. If it were just a typical thwack, there might have been drama. Did he get enough? Is there wind or something playing havoc? How's the ballpark playing tonight?
But it was a twhwwwwhwharrerrrkcaaack. It was the same sound his last home run made. The ball sounds different when it's a homer coming off Posey's bat. I could go down a really weird rabbit hole right now, using words like "purity" and "Platonic ideal." Instead, I'll just note that Buster Posey is good at baseball, and he has a pretty fantastic chance to win the Most Good at Baseball award given out at the end of the year. I don't want to jinx anything, but he has a shot.
This is probably a good time to revisit the expectations of Posey before the season. Here's the community projection from before the season. I thought he'd get 440 at-bats. He's at 551. I was fanboying out a projected line of .301/.376/.428. He's at .333/.407/.546.
He's also 25, you know. The same age as Yonder Alonso, Pedro Alvarez, and Jemile Weeks, all players who are still figuring things out.
I think of the best possible projection for Posey this year. Then I double it. Then I snort some powdered optimism and double it again. We're still not close. That's how good he's been this year.
The other catcher done good, too:
I recently waxed rhapsodic over Yadier Molina, and it was an article that was inspired by an amazing throw. This one from Sanchez was right up there. In the comments of that Molina article, a Cardinals fan notes that there was a time when Molina wasn't the golden god of catcher defense that he is today. He was supposed to be a little rough around the edges.
Well, a fella can dream. Sanchez is still a pup. When you watch a play like that, you can see the potential poking through. That isn't to say that he's going to be an All-Star catcher or a Gold Glover one of these days. No, it's just a note that a lot of smart people like his chances to be a good player some day. You can disagree, sure. But you can also understand a fraction of that sentiment with a throw like that.