The only complaint about Friday night's game is that it wasn't meaningful in the big picture. This didn't have the stakes of the Brian Johnson game or the lesser-known Bonds-pirouette game. This wasn't Mattingly coming out to the mound twice, or a flurry of late-inning homers off Jonathan Broxton with everything on the line. This was a team in a bad way against a team that's going to win the division. That's the only complaint.
And before the endorphins wear off, let's just say it's a petty complaint. The Giants beat Clayton Kershaw. It was a taut game, and Yasiel Puig came up as the winning run in the ninth. There were heroes, but no goats. There was luck, and it was distributed to the Giants in an inequitable fashion. It was a game, suckers. A fun baseball game. An actual, fun-to-watch baseball game that you're pleased to talk about when it's over.
Again, the only way to keep your sanity is with the small-picture appreciation. Romo getting Puig on a slider he knows is coming. Brett Pill with an excuse-me doink down the line to score two runs. Hunter Pence taking yet another letter-high fastball the other way for a home run that doesn't even surprise you anymore. The Giants beat Clayton Kershaw in a Cy Young season. In isolation, that's … hell, Murph, put the tarps over the lockers. Might as well use some of the extra bottles from last year.
Let's take a moment to remember just how silly the Kershaw/Giants match-ups have been. Here's a list of all 20 starts before tonight. The last time Kershaw allowed three runs or more? Thirteen starts ago, in 2011. Tonight was only the second time in 21 starts against the Giants that Kershaw has allowed more than two runs. That's like one of those stats you need to read six times before you believe it -- "Tony Gwynn struck out once in 1988, and it was the same day he had a vasectomy." It's that crazy.
Worry about the failures of 2013 on September 14. But on September 13, light something on fire and dance around it in the middle of the street. The Giants won the pennant of the last three hours. The Giants won the pennant of the last three hours. The Giants won the pennant of the last three hours. They're going crazy, they're going crazy …
Do you think there was a ceremony when Matt Cain bequeathed the Pentagram Amulet of Shit Luck to Madison Bumgarner? Did everyone put on robes and hold a candle? Or was it something that happened quickly? "Here, hold this."
Or maybe it's more like a staph infection, and now they both have it. Oh, no, no, no.
Whatever the case, it was nice to see Bumgarner pitch well without his team losing for once. It's been a remarkable stretch, really. He's pitched as well as he has at any point in his career, yet the Giants were just 2-8 in his starts since the All-Star Break. And they were going to go 2-9 because of some Benedict Arnold jazz hands. The worst kind of jazz hands.
As is, Bumgarner gets a no-decision. It's always fun pointing out this is his age-23 season, mostly because that information contains some kind of implicit hope that he'll get even better. Pitchers don't always develop in a linear way like that, but it's a nice sentiment.
Except, I'm not sure how much better Bumgarner will get from a stuff perspective or a command perspective. Usually the stuff declines with age, but the command improves. That's the Gift of the Magi that every pitcher has to deal with. You can't just assume he'll get better.
But I have an answer now. Pitch counts. He can get more efficient with his pitch counts. Pitch counts, he said into Ben Braddock's ear. Pitch counts. Bumgarner creeps up on 100 pitches in the seventh inning of just about every game now. Imagine if he could work a couple more innings with the same pitch count. That kind of efficiency would be a can of Machi-B-Gone sprayed all over the clubhouse.
When it comes to suggestions as to exactly how Bumgarner is supposed to do this, well, I have no idea. But other pitchers seem to do it. Bumgarner has the stuff and command to hang with just about any pitcher in the league, and the good ones can hang around in the seventh and eighth without throwing a 19th-century start's worth of pitches. One of these days, Bumgarner's going to join that club. Just a guess.
In the seventh inning, with two runners on and Adrian Gonzalez at the plate as the go-ahead run, Bruce Bochy let Jean Machi stay in the game. With Javier Lopez, Jose Mijares, Jeremy Affeldt, and even Mike Kickham in the bullpen, Bochy kept Machi in there for no good reason. The game was on the line, and that's when Bochy stops bothering with lefty-righty/righty-lefty strategy? Too much of a hassle, man.
No point, really. It's just weird. Really, incredibly strange. Bochy has confounded us before, and he probably takes pride in it.
Juan Perez's run-saving catch in left reminded me of just how obnoxious it was that the Giants were messing around with Jeff Francoeur. They had the real thing in the minors, except the homegrown version could play defense and throw and run.
That was probably the difference in the division, right there.
(Okay, probably not)