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Giants fall to Marlins, 5-3

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This is the way the road trip begins: Not with a bang, but a whimper

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In a sick, twisted way, it almost would have been better for Mat Latos to have thrown a one-hit shutout. Hear me out, I know that's perverted and wrong, but it's a feeling I can't shake. In the past, there have been generally two kinds of Giants vs. Mat Latos games.

1.
In which Latos sneers and snorts and sliders, and the Giants flail around like a Little League World Series team that runs into a kid with the first A+ curveball they've ever seen. We've seen these games. We've seen many of them. They are not fun.

2.
In which the Giants hit Latos around a bit and win. We haven't seen too many of those games. They are fun, though. They sure are.

This is a new species of Latos start, or at least one that hasn't picked up a lot of press. He was basically a neo-Vogelsong, relying on command and doing okay with it, but only erratically so, leaving some balls up and getting into and out of jams. You would think on the surface the first reaction might be, "Well, at least he didn't humiliate the Giants."

No, you want the humiliation. Secretly, you crave it. You want to swallow it and sit inside you, like a kidney stone, just waiting and waiting for the right moment. Except when that kidney stone is passed and the Giants clobber Latos, it feels like rainbows and starshine is escaping and not like you're, you know, passing a kidney stone. The humiliating, feckless attempts at Latos serve a greater reward. There is justice and mercy on the other side.

This kind of start? He could have been some dude. Brad Hand. He could have been Brad Hand. I don't know if Brad Hand has ever started a game, but he might as well have started this one. How do you get mad at a forgettable Brad Hand start? You don't save that for later; you start thinking about the next game almost immediately.

You might disagree, and my goodness, I understand. But when the result is the same, save for the style points, give me the one that fuels the nuclear reactor of low-grade sports-loathing. At least it's an ethos.

★★★

Ryan Vogelsong threw bad pitches. The bad pitches were hit far. This has been a test of the Ryan Vogelsong Scouting System. This was only a test. If this had been an actual lousy start, the Attention Signal you just heard would have been followed by star-divides, bad jokes, and half-hearted analysis. Which, oh, dang, that wasn't a test. That actually happened. Ryan Vogelsong threw bad pitches. The bad pitches were hit far.

Voglelsong has alternated the good with the bad for a couple of months now, making it inappropriate and lazy to freak out after every bad start. He's a master of muddling the endpoints, which makes it impossible to get a great read on him. Coming into this start, he'd enjoyed a 2.37 ERA in his 10 starts since May. That's outstanding! But you can't just lop off April as if those games don't count. They do count. And if you take just June into consideration, he now has a 4.11 ERA for the month. That's middling, at best.

The solution? All of it counts. Every single start, including the hard-luck messes from April where he seemed to allow a three-run dinger with two outs so often, it seemed like they were an inside joke to a buddy back home. They were just bunched together, but they would have happened throughout the year. His ERA of 4.19? Probably about as good as we're going to get, the same as last year. Note that FIP and xFIP dislike his chances even more, but I'll err on the side of optimism, of whatever you want to call resigned acceptance of the innings-eating arts. If he didn't eat them, the innings would just hang out all over the place, breeding and making a mess. He serves a valuable role.

The overall analysis hasn't chanced. We have to truism that a) Vogelsong is one of the five best starters the Giants are willing to consider right now, mixed with b) where he absolutely isn't dominant enough to keep the team from exploring deadline options.

★★★

I want to add a personal note, here, and bring up something from this site's past. It used to be that whenever Mat Latos's name was brought up around here, I was quick to follow it with a GIF from the 2012 NLDS, in which Buster Posey launched a grand slam into the sun. It is a fun GIF and a transcendent snippet of Giants baseball, but I went to do it again, and it didn't feel right. It felt played out and tired.

That ... that GIF might be out of style. Not the GIF itself, but the knee-jerk reaction to include it with every single mention of Latos. Posey hit another homer off him on Tuesday, and it would seem like the perfect time to go back to the old running gag. But you know what? A lot has happened. There have been Game 7s and Matt Holliday barrel rolls and Barry Zito being a danged hero and Madison Bumgarner eating an entire bison and fashioning the bones into ninja stars. So much has happened. Is it really the best use of our time to remember one play, as great as it was, even after the Giants lose?

I don't know. The time away did something to my noggin. We'll have to revisit this later, but I'm erring on the side of dropping the gag, or at least picking our spots a little better. Maybe it's time to grow up and leave Neverland, I'm sorry.

★★★

That game was a drag, but let's all agree on one thing: Thank goodness that Dee Gordon is out of the division. Like, hoo, get the heck out of here, buddy. You seem nice, but go away. I figured the Marlins were nuts for trading for him -- giving up an actual prospect, no less -- and that it was a coup for the Dodgers to exchange him for prospects and a year of Howie Kendrick. I was not a believer.

Instead, imagine seeing him 18 times a year, all for the bad guys, slapping and swiping in his inimitable way. It warms my heart to remember that the Dodgers are questioning that deal, even after a tough loss. The inside-the-park homer was a punch to the nose, but at least he isn't a Dodger is all I can think now.

Not that it matters, but like fun was that a real inside-the-park homer. The rules are vague about boneheaded attempts to flip a ball into the ether to prevent a triple that was almost certainly going to happen regardless. That's because these attempts rarely, if ever, happen. The rules offer this:

The official scorer shall not score mental mistakes or misjudgments as errors unless a specific rule prescribes otherwise. A fielder’s mental mistake that leads to a physical misplay— such as throwing the ball into the stands or rolling the ball to the pitcher’s mound, mistakenly believing there to be three outs, and thereby allowing a runner or runners to advance— shall not be considered a mental mistake for purposes of this rule and the official scorer shall charge a fielder committing such a mistake with an error.

The first part suggests it was an inside-the-park homer. The last part says that a mental mistake combined with a physical misplay was pure dunderheadedness, and it should have been scored as such. But if Blanco picked it up cleanly and tried to throw through his cutoff man and make a 400-foot throw on the fly, that wouldn't have been an error, and it would have been in the same spirt as what actually happened.

It makes no difference to me as a fan. Just as someone who likes to quibble and debate, though, I'm going with triple and error. Blanco tried to make some sort of heads-up crafty play, except there wasn't really a reason to, and he's never really a heads-up-crafty-play guy. In fact, he might be the exact opposite of that kind of player. With ordinary effort, almost every other fielder who touched that ball could have held Gordon to a triple.

Maybe we can compromise and call it an inside-the-park homer with a boner. That works for me. Blanco really needs to cut it out with the boners on the bases and in the field like that. He's a good player, certainly, but he can sure err on the side of frustration.

★★★

lol just kidding

latos