On June 1, the Giants beat the Cardinals, 8-0. Tim Hudson was dominant, Lance Lynn was not, and the Giants secured a series win. Since then, the Giants have played eight series against teams that are currently contending. They have not won any of those series. They split a two-game series against the A's; that's as well as they've played against a good team over the last three months.
This is the unspoken horror of the miserable, post-May team. The Giants have looked completely overmatched against teams that are clearly better than them, reinforcing our darkest fears: this team isn't good and isn't really close. Considering the daily wild card updates somehow don't leave us feeling helpless, we have to search for the source of the helpless feeling. This is it. The Giants can't beat good teams. The Giants can't avoid being humiliated against good teams. In those eight series, they've been outscored 103-57. For every run the Giants have scored against a good team, they've allowed two.
The manic yo-yoing we're feeling after the implausible strong stretch comes courtesy of the lousy teams -- the teams even worse than the Giants. They looked really good against the Phillies (who stink), the Diamondbacks (who stink), the Mets (who stink), and the Padres (who stink), buoying our hopes and allowing us to say, "But they're (x games back) (x games ahead) in the wild card chase."
The Giants have 44 games left, and 29 of them are against lousy teams. Teams that are wondrous messes, like the Rockies, Padres, Diamondbacks, and Phillies. They might continue to allow the Giants a little hope, a little fantasy. Maybe, just maybe, the Giants can make the one-game playoff. Maybe they can get there. Maybe they can squeak in.
And face a good team for nine innings.
That sounds awful.
To the Giants' credit, they had an inspiring sequence of tough and smart at-bats in the ninth against a brilliant closer. They worked the count, didn't get too aggressive, and mounted a spirited rally. Pablo Sandoval waited for a fastball over the plate, got it, put a good swing on it, and hit it hard. There will be a time when that sequence of events actually leads to a Giants win. That time is not the last two-plus months.
Beats the easy 1-2-3-s against closers over the last couple weeks, at least.
Tim Lincecum is bad again. We'll always have the five-start stretch that started with the no-hitter. Dang, that was fun. The stretch made it easy to wonder if he'd figured something out or made some sort of adjustment that was going to help him pitch better for the remainder of his contract.
This was the 89th start of Bad Lincecum's career. Since the start of 2012, his ERA is 4.70, and he's allowed 60 homers over that stretch. He's walking almost four batters for every nine innings he pitches, which is well worse than the league average. He's striking out 21.9 percent of the batters he faces, which is creeping closer to the league average, and that was the last skill he had left.
At this point, getting excited about the good times is like focusing on whatever random poll says your candidate still has a shot at the election, even if there are 20 polls around it that are all trending in the wrong direction. It's what people do when they don't want to give up the dream.
Since the start of 2012, there have been 13 starters with 20 games or more pitched and an adjusted ERA worse than Lincecum's. Only one of them still has a job (Hector Noesi). If you extend the search to pitchers who have started 60 games or more over the last three seasons, Lincecum is at the bottom of the list, behind some truly pungent pitchers.
The no-hitter was a masterpiece of command and good fortune, the kind that hinted at the possibility of a renaissance. The next four starts got our hopes up. But this pitcher looks familiar. He's been around for almost 100 starts now, and he probably isn't going away. The Giants have some serious decisions to make in the offseason, and I'm not sure if they'll have the confidence to make the right ones.
There is absolutely no reason to expect that Lincecum will be consistent enough to be worthy of a rotation spot for a full season. There is reason to hope, just like there was reason to hope that Damon Minor would learn to make better contact, just like there was reason to hope that Jonathan Sanchez would refine his command. There is no reason to expect, though. It kills me to deal with those kind of absolutes, and I hope that theory is wrong. Every piece of available evidence suggests it isn't.
Have an owl.
Somewhere on a messageboard or Internet forum this offseason, someone is going to complain about Andrew Susac's low caught-stealing percentage. It is ethically sound and possibly a moral obligation to obtain the person's Social Security Number and post it on Craigslist. The Giants pitchers were abysmal at holding runners on, even by historically abysmal Giants standards. Not Susac's fault. I don't know why runners don't steal every base against Lincecum.
The only bright spot in the game was Susac's bat, and even that comes with the curse of "Posey at third?" questions. It's going to be a long offseason.
It's going to be a long rest of this season.
At least this puts some distance between us and our own mortality in a Dunbar/Catch-22 way.
Good for the Royals, though. They looked sharp. I will root for them in the playoffs, should they advance that far. Reminder that they're doomed, though.