These meaningless end-of-the-season games are weird. Wins would be nice, but what you're really looking for are signs, dang it. Ryan Vogelsong looked like his old, grinding self on Friday. Madison Bumgarner's struggles are still a little worrisome. It's all about the signs.
It's kind of like being deep into a conspiracy theory. You'll take a sliver of information, and extrapolate, analyze, stretch, and distort it to fit what you were already expecting to see. I want Tim Lincecum to look good in his final start because then I can make the argument that he's his old self (his new old old new self, at least), and this comforts me. I'm making this argument against the other half of my brain, who can usually be bought off with a little scotch, so I don't know what the big deal is. But I want those signs.
The playoffs are a swirling miasma of nonsense, though. You'll spend the last few days of the season looking for signs, and then you'll look up in the playoffs, and for whatever reason, you're counting on Brad Penny. You can read anything you want into what you just watched, but right now there's a baseball god watching all of this with a stupid grin, and he's holding either a Jose Cruz, Jr. or Cody Ross behind his back. Probably the former. Them's just the odds. It really doesn't matter that the Giants have momentum, or that they came back against a tough closer in the late innings of a game.
But, like a good fanboy, I'm going to ignore all that and pretend that I can tell what's momentum and what isn't. And the Giants have momentum1 that they'll ride through the postseason2 because they're acting like a team that knows how to win3. That sign you were looking for? It was that the Giants are a team that never gives up4.
Until those eighth- and ninth-inning rallies, here were the two positive signs the Giants were giving us:
1. Dan Runzler can still look like a left-handed relief god when he has all of his pitches working, and
2. Aubrey Huff has been working on his RBI groundouts, which will help in the postseason
Say, those aren't exciting signs. And the one we really wanted to see -- Lincecum looking dominant -- didn't happen, either. He was the first Giants pitcher to allow three homers in a game at Petco since Noah Lowry in 2006. He looked good at first, then got sucked into a dingerz vortex, which might mean nothing, unless it means everything. He's still one of the Giants' four best starting pitchers heading into the playoffs, which is mostly terrifying.
The late rallies, though, gave us some good signs. Hunter Pence is looking better. It's nice that the Giants' ridiculous late-season surge has allowed his lousy hitting to be largely ignored, but it'd sure be swell if his segmented body could align into the devourer of crops and fastballs that it was last year.
If Xavier Nady is going to make the postseason roster -- and it looks like that's a given -- a reminder of why he interests teams in the first place is a good thing.
The same thing goes with Aubrey Huff drawing a walk down by three to start a rally in a game the Giants would eventually win. If he's going to be the late-inning bat off the bench, that's a good sign.
Signs, signs, everywhere a sign. And at the end of the game, we could pretend they were mostly good signs5. It sure is nicer to spend a Sunday watching them win a prosy, stale, and ultimately meaningless game with the B-lineup against the Padres than it would be to watch them lose, though. That I know. The Giants have lost one of the 13 series since Melky Cabrera was suspended. That's just weird. And awesome.
3. Usually by scoring more runs than the other team
4. They'd probably be fired from their high-paying jobs if they literally gave up, so I'm not sure why this is surprising.
5. Long-haired freaky people need not apply.