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Giants settle for split, fall to Astros

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There's no shame in a split, only the missed glory of a sweep.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

This is the part of the season in which you can't complain too much. The Giants have been playing well, and losing to the Astros on Wednesday night still means they're 13-7 since April 19. That's three weeks of playing like a 105-win team, just winnin' all the time. There have been walk-offs and sweeps. So they dropped a close game. Happens.

No! That's the trap! That's the curse of the .500 team, to never feel the highs of a winning streak, to never explore the futility of losing! To enter a trade deadline not knowing whether to buy or sell. It's not a horrid place, this purgatory of .500, but you end up saying, "Eh, things could be worse." Don't get pulled in by the undertow. Get mad. Get fired up! Get ...

I don't know. They really have been playing well. Gave it a splendid effort at the end, they did! Can't get too mad.

No! You fool, you're getting lulled into submission by the ... walk-off wins and solid starting pitching and generally competent lineup and ... okay, maybe they're not that bad.

It was easier to write about them when they were dreadful, really.

★★★

Giants baseball!

asdf

Giants baseball!

(That was a successful play, which makes the picture a possible metaphor for three out of the last five seasons.)

★★★

Here, though, was a game where you saw the beauty of the dinger. Shame it happened for the other team. The Astros hit into two double plays, they were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position, and they left five runners on base. They still scored four runs, and they probably should have scored a lot more with their dinger black magic. When the Giants hit into two double plays, go 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position, and leave five runners on base, it's usually a bad thing. We like to call those "regular season games" in the industry. When the Astros do it, they have a chance to win if they hit the ball over the fence multiple times.

Really, I wish there were some sort of supercomputer simulator from the future that could show us what a 162-game season would look like between the Giants and Astros. Not because I'd want to watch it, I'd just want a stack of notes after the season is done. Because the Giants generally don't care if they strike out players on the other team; they're looking for contact. And the Astros generally don't care about making contact; they're looking for the hardest contact possible.

It's a fascinating contrast. Sometimes you'll get Chris Heston striking out the world and pitching like an All-Star, and sometimes you'll get three dingers and a loss.

As currently constructed, I could see the Giants and Astros going 81-81 over a 162-game season. Jake Peavy would have 16 shutouts and a 4.33 ERA; Tim Hudson would have 18 quality starts and a 5.18 ERA. Just think, in the future, we'll all get to argue about simulations like this instead of real baseball. Finally, statheads will be living the dream.

★★★

One of my favorite things I've ever done is a series on where home runs look the best. It combined my love of a) dingers with b) subjective opinions masquerading as analysis, and I'm really proud of it. The whole thing was inspired by Albert Pujols in the 2005 NLCS, one of the more majestic home runs in postseason history.

Which brings us to Buster Posey's home run. You see? You see what I mean that home runs can look even better in different ballparks?

Enhance!

dng

Where's the ball? Well, that's the point. It's tough to find at first, lost in the tangled architecture of the ballpark. Then you catch flight of the ball, and it's really, really, really far up there. It lands somewhere where they don't sell tickets. Minute Maid Park does legitimate home runs well.

Nolan Ryan was all ...

nolan

... and then he was like ...

nolan

Good dinger. Wish it meant more.

★★★

Tim Hudson's last start was something of a career lowlight, so this was something of a return to form. His pitch count never got out of control, and he cleaned up a couple messes with sinkers beat on the ground, just like the old days.

On the other hand, his ERA is 4.57. His K/9 is 4.57. That's right about the point where it makes sense for both marks to be the same. A pitcher with a 9.0 ERA and K/9 is Jonathan Sanchez before he's out of the league. A pitcher with a 3.30 ERA and 3.3 K/9 is Kirk Rueter in 1997. Man, I miss that guy.

Doesn't mean I really want to watch him again, though! And that's the comparison of the night, the vibe I'm getting with Hudson. He's lost the ability to miss bats entirely, and that muscle memory isn't quite allowing him to keep the sinkers away from the middle of the zone. His velocity is on a downward trend, and he didn't have a lot to give away.

That isn't to say he's not valuable. Just that this is exactly what we should expect. His game log so far:

  • 6⅓ innings pitched, zero earned runs
  • 7 IP, 3 ER
  • 5 IP, 5 ER
  • 7 IP, 3 ER
  • 8 IP, 3 ER
  • 6⅔ IP, 6 ER
  • 5⅓ IP, 3 ER

That, but over and over and over and over again. His 2015 season is going to be a repeating decimal, stretching out for as long as the Giants will let it. He's great, he's an innings-eater, he's awful, he's pretty okay, he's done, he's back, he's okay, repeat and repeat. Don't get too worked up over it, and it's not so bad. Calming, even.

I will say, when Hudson is grinding with runners on base, pounding the bottom of the strike zone and teasing hitters mercilessly, it sure is fun to watch when it works. Like a nice game of three-card monte that you don't have money on. There's a weary slickness to it that's beautiful.

★★★

It turned out not to matter much, considering Matt Duffy struck out immediately afterward, but even if he had hit a 400-foot fly ball that couldn't score Brandon Crawford, I'm still thrilled that Bruce Bochy doesn't bunt runners over to play for a tie. Other managers would have bunted Norichika Aoki. Bochy, who is at least a bishop in the Church of No Bunt, didn't even consider it.

We'll return you to your regularly scheduled complaining later. But for now, just remember that Bochy doesn't like to bunt, and it's possible that at least one of the Giants championships depended on it.