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Giants take series behind Madison Bumgarner's arm and bat

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The only home run of the day came from the pitcher, which is just about the best way to beat an American League team.

that's not how you're supposed to follow through but whatever
that's not how you're supposed to follow through but whatever
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants are apparently the best team in the universe. Remember this when they're the worst team in the universe. Take a little snippet of this game, this feeling of incredulous inevitability, and keep it in the freezer. Defrost it on HIGH for 5 minutes (microwave times may vary) the next time they lose 73 straight games and have their only double of the week overturned on replay. It'll nourish you.

For now, though, nothing but good times. Get drunk and throw the empty bottles at the odd year. Be obnoxious about it. Giants gonna win the Wooooorrrld Serieeeeees, yeeeeeeee.

Probably not. That doesn't mean it isn't fun to experience another extended run of outstanding baseball. The valleys don't have to come after the peaks, you know. Can just be peaks for the next few months. There isn't a mathematical proof that the losing stretch is coming. That's just our limited human brain looking for patterns, ha ha. The Giants might not ever lose again!

/dutifully puts snippet of game in freezer

The Giants moved back into postseason position, and they're roughly even with their pace from last year. Not bad for a team at .500 just a couple weeks ago. Every stretch like this is unsustainable -- even if the Giants were the '98 Yankees, it would still be unsustainable to win 10 out of every 11 games -- but that doesn't mean you can't appreciate the blueprint for success. Start with the best catcher in baseball, hitting balls all over the place and stealing strikes in every inning. Get a deep, underrated lineup that can work counts and annoy pitchers. Pray for improved and sustained health. Expect Madison Bumgarner to be himself and for the rest of the pitchers to contribute as best they can.

When it all happens, it looks like this. When none of it happens, well, it looks like that. Don't talk about that. That never happened. I'm all about the this right now, where one-run games go the Giants' way, and there are delightful blowouts sprinkled in. This is much more fun. Really, you can deal with this, or you can deal w...

★★★

After the first couple of innings, I had notes on Bumgarner.

there are always stretches where he's weird
Mechanics a fickle thing
remember that twins game
okra
milk
flour

My notes always get mixed together like that, sorry. For the first couple innings, though, Bumgarner was just another 25-year-old kid looking for consistent mechanics. Walks, pitches left up, pitches left over, the works. He wasn't bad, per se, considering he's still Madison Bumgarner, but you know the feeling. There are games where every hitter expects a slutter to sever his thumbs, and there are games where hitters seem to dig in quite comfortably. This was one of the latter, but only for a little bit. After a shaky start, Bumgarner finished with his best outing since before the All-Star Game.

Part of me wants to note that the Giants would have lost last night if they had scored only two runs. Another part of me wants to celebrate the idea that when Bumgarner pitches, and pitches well, that two runs is just ducky, thanks. That blueprint for success up there also includes Bumgarner pitching as well as he's capable of, and it probably includes him getting a little help. Forget about that for now, and just focus on the good parts of Bumgarner's outing. If the start kept trending toward the direction of the second inning, there would have been a lot of loaded words thrown around. Tired. Overworked. Exhausted.

Instead, we got a Bumgarner start that was on the right side of the spectrum, but not too far right -- effective, not dominating. That's okay. We know the dominating starts tend to hover around the effective starts, waiting to make a grand entrance. It's just comforting to watch the effective again.

★★★

Oh, to have the stats for this query: Pitcher home runs, in interleague games, in innings following an AL pitcher making an out with runners in scoring position.

You know, this might be the first.

The A's opened the fourth inning with a single and a double. Hot dog, a rally. The ended the inning with a pitcher at the plate, looking like he was asked to split the atom. How many A's fans were cursing the NL-style rules at that point? I'll guess a million. There were a million A's fans yelling at the National League right then.

Except the previous inning ...

American League fans hate when you bring up pitcher hits as evidence against the DH.

What, like I'm supposed to be excited about a guy hitting .200 who can occasionally hit a homer? No thanks.

Look at that dinger.

Got it. So the best-hitting pitcher in baseball is basically Jeff Mathis, and I'm supposed to get excited about it?

Look at that dinger.

Right, no, you're point is clear. Wait for the blind squirrel to find a nut, then proclaim it makes 573,039 awful pitcher at-bats worth it. It's not. You're delusional. Do you know that? Delusional.

/rewinds that dinger to look at that dinger

Stupid. The National League is stupid, and so are you.

Perhaps! I know how I'd feel if I watched AL baseball all the time. Death-by-pitcher is the saddest end to a rally possible.

Except, well, it's hard to explain until it happens to you. Look at that dinger! It's a proud dinger. And pitcher home runs are like the end of a movie where the foreshadowing pays off. It's where Lieutenant Hooks screams at the perp, or where Milton from Office Space finally follows through on his threats. You pack the dumb pitcher at-bats into a can, and then they pop out like spring-loaded snakes when something good happens.

I promise, it's worth it.

★★★

A quick note to remind you that Matt Duffy and Joe Panik do everything well. There are better defensive third basemen and second basemen. There are players at their positions who hit for more power or run faster. There are better players for their position -- although Panik has been one of the top-10 players in baseball over the last calendar year, according to FanGraphs.

It's still indescribably fun to watch Duffy and Panik run, hit for average, hit for power, field, and throw. They're five-tool players with five average-or-better tools, which means they aren't five-tool players. Except they are. Kind of. In the loosest sense possible.

What they aren't is one-, two-, three-, or four-tool players. They can't be slapped with those labels, not if they're hitting doubles and a dozen homers or so. So if they're not one-, two-, three-, or four-tool players, does that mean they're five-tool players? No, not really, which is why they were never top-100 prospects. But if they're not five-tool players, then ...

Yeah, I don't get it either. I don't know how to explain them. They emerged from the sea foam, fully formed, and now they're here for a while. I don't know how many tools were supposed to say they have, but I do know they're exceptionally fun to watch.

★★★

If you've been an Internet baseball nerd for a while, you probably know that ERA is a lousy way to evaluate relievers. If you're just starting the baseball-nerd thing, it's an important lesson to learn. Relievers pitch so few innings that the sour outings can mess with an ERA all year, even if they're generally excellent in the non-sour outings.

The point of this:

Sergio Romo, 2015
ERA: 4.40
FIP: 2.05

FIP, which takes his homers allowed, walks, and strikeouts into consideration and sets everything on an ERA-like scale, suggests that Romo is as good as ever. ERA, which aligns with the games and blown saves that have ruined your afternoons and evenings, suggests that Romo has really struggled this year.

It does feel like there's a hesitance against left-handers that wasn't there in 2009 or 2012, even. That whatever allowed him to avoid extreme platoon splits in the past is gone, which means that his FIP is skewed because he's basically two pitchers in one. He's Craig Kimbrel against right-handers and Jim Poole (today) against left-handers.

That is, unless he's been unlucky. Which is what I'm choosing to believe. Romo had a fine outing, a game-saving outing, in his traditional eighth-inning role on Saturday. There was a don't-wanna-bother walk to Ben Zobrist mixed in -- which doesn't exactly fill everyone with confidence that he's okay against lefties -- but everything else was vintage Romo.

Vintage Romo would make the Giants' job so much easier at the trade deadline.