That game was up against the first evening NFL game of the season. My Twitter timeline, normally baseball-centric, was overstuffed with Andrew Luck pictures and pithy Peyton Manning jokes. It's football season again, which means it's time for people to ignore baseball like a nerdy summer-camp boyfriend or girlfriend. The rest of us, the baseball obsessed, hate this time of year. I'm excited about football, too, but baseball is the superior sport, and here's a great late-season matchup, a pair of contending teams who were recently matched up in a World Series, to prove ...
Wait, what's that sound?
That sounds like a tongue being chewed in boredom.
Man. My tongue hurts just hearing that. Actually, my tongue hurts a lot. It's bleeding a little. As if I'm the one chewing on my ... oh. Oh, right. Oh, no.
That was the game that came on as a counterpoint to the start of football season. That four-hour fog of stupor gas. Jim Johnson threw an inning that's still going on. A national television audience of six people watched the Giants get shut down by a pitcher named Kyle Lobstein, which is like the Giants allowing a game-winning hit to Benny Whifften.
And yet. The Giants have reentered that weird purgatory in which it feels icky to complain too loudly about a single loss. We've waited months to feel this icky. Months. Two out of three on the road is good against anyone. A Texas team. The Cubs. Doesn't matter. It's never unimpressive to win a series on the road. One loss isn't the end of the world. Even the '27 Yankees, as they say.
Still, there's something about muffing the chance for a sweep. It's the tyranny of sequence. A stirring win in the rubber match would have enveloped our being, letting us sleep snug without a blanket tonight. The Giants, facing uncertainty and doubt, won the series when the odds were against them. Those hardy souls. Good for them.
Instead, the Giants were flat in the finale, and they looked like dinguses. Now we have an off day to think about them looking like dinguses. There has to be a German word for the feeling of a loss in the final game of a generally good series. Genfreüsinwelp. It's the weirdest feeling, knowing the Giants have done exceedingly well over the last three days, week, two weeks, and still be annoyed at them.
Now picture a normal, well-adjusted couple. One of them wants to watch the Broncos/Colts game. One of them wants to watch Sunday Night Baseball. The latter wins the argument. Imagine how uncomfortable they are right now. That game was the argument against baseball, hidden in the wooden effigy of a baseball game. Then everyone spilled out of the wooden effigy to kill us with weaponized boredom.
Here is this game, as described by SB Nation's photo tool:
That is perfect. That is art.
Jim Johnson threw 28 of the worst pitches you'll ever see, and he didn't allow a run. That was the Sunday night Giants/Tigers game, distilled into a single sentence. And it was awful.
The Tigers, who generally have the team speed of the Molina brothers rolling uphill, stole four bases against the Giants on Sunday. The success doesn't have to mean anything -- two of the stolen bases came on Buster Posey drops, which aren't exactly predictable and commonplace. But the Tigers trying it at all means something. They saw something with Tim Hudson or Posey (probably Hudson) that they wanted to exploit.
If the Giants want to beat a good team in the playoffs, which sounds remarkably less amusing than it did two weeks ago, they'll need to figure out what the Tigers were noticing. After years of watching Giants pitcher after Giants pitcher show off just how lousy they were at holding runners on and delivering the ball quickly, maybe my standards are low. But I never thought of Tim Hudson as a pitcher who was slow to home plate.
For the second time this year, we're nourished after a loss at the thought of Hunter Strickland throwing baseballs hard and making opposing hitters look foolish. He's basically Robb Nen, everyone, just 314 saves behind. Seems like a couple good seasons could fix that.
I know relievers aren't supposed to be that valuable, individually, and that the best closer is usually worth less than the best fourth outfielder when it comes to WAR. When it comes to enjoying the game, though, give me a fireballing late-inning goof for the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. Strickland is the archetype of a late-inning reliever, another addition to the glorious genre of "benevolent and well-timed Pirates gifts." It's like the Pirates made a Herschel Walker trade with the Giants to win the '71 NLCS, and the Giants just keep enjoying the rewards.
Long story short: I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.