In the 71st game of the 2015 season, with a chance to grab a share of first place, the San Francisco Giants lost a dumb baseball game. They've now lost 10 out of their last 11 games at home.
Mike Murphy: /wheels in a wheelbarrow filled with crab sandwiches
Murphy: Here you go, boys! Crab sandwiches!
Buster Posey: Alright!
Joe Panik: Crab sandwiches!
Murphy: Welcome home!
Justin Maxwell: I'm going to eat three at the same time!
Angel Pagan: I'm going to eat four!
Murphy: Ah ha ha, don't fight, boys! There are plenty of crab sandwiches to go around!
Brandon Belt: Mine's room temperature and smells weird.
Murphy: Probably fine.
Bruce Bochy: We love you and your daily wheelbarrow of crab sandwiches, Mike Murphy!
Murphy: You're welcome! Have a contest to see how many you can fit in your mouth!
That's my only guess. That is not an attempt at a dumb joke or cheap laughs. The only possible reason the Giants can be this bad at home is that someone brings them a wheelbarrow of crab sandwiches from the concession behind center field before every game, and the logical person to do this in my logical scenario is Mike Murphy, now a senior advisor. He's not being mean. He just knows that crab sandwiches are good, and he's trying to be nice.
That intro was supposed to be a sonnet about Madison Bumgarner. Instead, it's a note about baseball being dumb. You just watched one of the best pitchers on the planet with his best stuff and command -- really, he pitched as well as he ever has, regular season or postseason -- and he lost to the Padres' fifth starter, who is only dooking up curves and sloopers in the rotation because of injuries. If Bumgarner gets out-dueled by Brandon Morrow at his nastiest, the game is still annoying. But there's something against the Giants-flaying Odrisamer Despaigne doing it that's an extra twist of the knife. He's Livan Hernandez with a Many-Faced God mask on, and he's always waiting for the perfect time to break our hearts.
Bumgarner starting the eighth inning made sense, considering how astonishing he was. Don't look to see if the pitch count is near 100; look at how he finished the last inning. He was blowing 94-mph fastballs by people and curving the Padres into submission. He was fine. More than fine, he was probably the pitcher on the staff least likely to give up a run at that point.
Then he walked Yonder Alonso on four balls that weren't even close. There was quiet grumbling and indigestion. Then Will Middlebrooks swung through a hanging slider on the first pitch and doubled on a hanging slider, two pitches later. There was loud grumbling and nasty indigestion. That was two straight batters where Bumgarner didn't look close to as dominant has he had all game. The relievers were ready. Where's the hook, skip?
Take a breath. Count backward from five. Remember that the only reason the Giants scored two runs was because the pitcher moved a runner over to third, and that runner scored on an eight-foot dribbler that the other pitcher couldn't pick up. If Despaigne picks Blanco's ball up cleanly, our conversation right now is about how the Giants can't score at home. Because Bumgarner was so good, we get to have a conversation about his manager trusting him a little too much.
I don't know. Tired Bumgarner and normal Javier Lopez is kind of a toss-up for me. I'm choosing to be annoyed at the lineup, instead. Odrisamer Despaigne shouldn't shut down a team the second or third time through the order. The Padres shouldn't get four spotless innings from assorted slider-throwing goofs. The Giants, who are supposed to be one of the better offensive teams in the league, needed to score more than two runs.
It's time to rank Angel Pagan faces from his sliding catch because it's better than talking about baseball.
You thought he could not catch the ball. You were misinformed.
#4: The It-Looks-Like-He's-Wearing-Chaps-And-I-Photoshopped-A-Hat-There-For-Modesty
#3: "Are You There, God? It's Me, Angel."
#2: That moment when you realize that you are gravity's cat toy and also have Ludwig Koopa's hairdo
Bumgarner's last three games:
The Giants are 0-3 in those games.
Oh, right, Sergio Romo left the game with a knee problem
Oh, wait, Norichika Aoki HAS A BROKEN LEG. He will miss weeks.
And then you looked out the window, put your head in your hands, and said, "Jarrett Parker will fix this. I'm just sure he will."
For the first month of Hunter Strickland's return, he wasn't exactly a revelation or a force of nature, but he was clearly a worthwhile major league pitcher. If you're assembling a group of seven relievers and Strickland can't make it on merit, you probably have one of the better bullpens in recent history.
And then you saw bad Strickland, the one who really does throw the ball right down the middle of the plate with alarming frequency. When the nation was busy guffawing at him, he had this problem, and it wasn't anything that we had seen in his regular-season trial. It isn't anything we've seen this year, at least before tonight.
Don't write him off. Just note that he still has games where he's a pitching machine. A very, very fast pitching machine, buzzing 98-mph fastballs down the middle. The results won't nearly be as exaggerated as the 2014 postseason, but you'll get nights like this.
Get better at baseball, Giants. People paid to see you play better at baseball.