Before the chest-puffing, horn-tooting, BEAT-LA part of the recap, let's take a second to wonder what the heck is different about the Giants on the road. It's not like they're an okay lineup on the road and an iffy one at home. It's not like they're an above-average lineup on the road. They're the best in all of Major League Baseball and they're waaaaaaaay ahead of second place.
I don't want to start a post-Dodgers-defeat recap with this kind of cocked-dog-head confusion, but it's all I can think of. This team is the Big Red Machine on the road, give or take some hyperbole. And do you know who was in the rotation for the Big Red Machine? Don Gullett, Randy Whatever, and Petey Surefinewhatever. They were still a team that we're talking about 40 years later. That's what the Giants are on the road. Kind of.
Yet when they're at home, in front of 42,000 very pleasant fans, they're swinging newly dead ferrets instead of bats. You can tell they're newly dead because the rigor mortis hasn't set in. And it's punishing to watch. Here they are again, though, the Big Orange Machine on the road, just whomping dingers all over the place.
I don't have a theory that's more advanced than "Well, baseball's weird, everyone," so don't expect a prescription of hot takes to make things right. It's just weird. I've seen good lineups do well at AT&T Park, park effects be damned, from 2000 through 2012. This current iteration is different, and I can't put my finger on why.
At least they're the reverse-Rockies and not just awful everywhere.
BEAT LA. BEAT LA. BEAT LA.
This is the spot where trenchant analysis should go, really mind-blowing stuff that makes you realize something about baseball. Except I'd like to talk about Yasiel Puig looking like a dingus on Brandon Belt's home run.
Belt's dinger wasn't the one that put the Giants ahead. It helped keep our blood pressure down in the late innings (and allowed Hunter Strickland and Sergio Romo to pitch without a walnut in their tuckus), but it wasn't the home run in the game. And yet it was one of my favorite home runs of the year. The qualifications I implore you to consider:
1. It didn't look like a homer at all off the bat
Surprise dingers are just as satisfactory as no-doubters. I'm sure Dodgers fans were giddy about Joc Pederson's GOOD-LORD home run in the bottom of the first. Those kinds of dingers are the best.
But they're tied for the best with the hemming, hawing, grimacing, wait-this-might debates you have with yourself as the ball gets closer and closer to the fence. The no-doubt homer is delightful, but in an almost cliche kind of way. Power turns into power, which turns into gawking. Fun, certainly. But the just-enough homer is like finding a $20 in your coat pocket. Damn, that's a good feeling. It's a twist you weren't expecting.
2. Puig looked like a dingus on the play
When Puig started back on the ball, he was here:
And he never, ever looked comfortable from that point. He twisted, turned, gyrated, and shimmied. And he eventually slammed into the wall and came down in time to provide my favorite GIF of the 2015 season so far (mouse over):
HUH WIBBLEWOBBLE HUH????, like a danged vaudevillian trying to make sure the person in the 48th row knows the gag. It's this magnificent tomfoolery that made me realize a very important truth: Yasiel Puig just might be Jose Canseco. One day he's the toolsiest sucker in the National League, and the next he's head-butting homers over the fence and hiring a tuba player to follow him around and make bromp brommmmp brooooreeerrroooo sounds whenever he does anything. Man, maybe he'll have a dippy publicist run his Twitter account in 20 years, too, toeing the line between satire and dumbassery.
That homer helped break Belt out of a nasty minor-slump, hopefully.
Mostly, I liked the part where Yasiel Puig looked like a backup catcher running in from the bullpen to catch the ball.
The best way to describe the Giants on the road: They can have one of their most productive hitters leave because of an injury and have the replacement wallop a well-timed dinger. Does that happen in AT&T Park? I submit that it does not. If Norichika Aoki gets injured in AT&T Park, the camera will cut to Calvin Murray in left, making eye contact and growling like the gremlin from Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, and you'll know that we're all doomed.
On the road, though, the replacement comes in and hits a game-winning homer on an 0-2 pitch. Nothing to it.
(Aoki is fine and day-to-day, by the way.)
Tim Hudson threw 6⅔ innings on Saturday, allowing two runs. I don't think it's much of an exaggeration to note that's about as well as he can pitch now. Like, that's the ceiling, right? Doesn't seem like that's a controversial point at all.
Still, at the risk of being a jerk, I just want to make this section a quick note of how I still don't trust Hudson. So many balls up and in the middle of the zone. He took Joc Pederson to three different 3-1 counts because he didn't have the command and stuff to challenge him on the corners of the strike zone.
On one hand, two earned runs and a win. Sounds good to me. Get a pitcher who can do that every time, and you're looking at the first $500 million pitcher.
On the other hand, while I'm well-versed in the struggling-pitcher-surprises-us-all narrative, I'm not sold on Hudson because of this outing. Sorry. Maybe that's just a problem with my black heart.
On the other other hand, did you see Yasiel Puig looking like a dingus on a homer that Brandon Belt hit? That's really all you need to know.
I'm not going to jinx anything now, but in about five years, I'm going to right the fiercest, nastiest "TOLD YOU HUNTER STRICKLAND WAS PROBABLY OKAY" piece, and it's going to get a million Facebook comments from people who still think he's trash. What he went through last postseason was a fluke. A freaky, funky fluke. Either you have to believe that Strickland is literally the worst pitcher to ever appear in the postseason, or you have to shrug those shoulders and blame sample size.
There were so many comments/tweets/calls about how you could see how scared Strickland was. Those comments/tweets/calls don't give a damn about your sample size. they're just assigning a reason for possible struggles to a struggling reliever.
Still a lot more season left, but I feel somewhat comfortable noting that I feel pretty danged comfortable with Strickland on the mound in the late innings. He is not throwing an inconsistent tumbling forkball of hit-or-miss nonsense. He's throwing gas.
Strickland goes 98, 98, 98 to Puig. Strikes him out on three pitches.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) June 21, 2015
Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaasss. I applaud this new development of late-innings, trusted Hunter Strickland. And in five years, man, I'm gonna tell you all off. Unless this is a failure, in which case I'll edit this out of the recap.