Before noting the score, before noting the complete game effort from Madison Bumgarner and the two home runs from Brandon Belt, note the relative crispness of the game.
This wasn't a game with the Giants flailing at Scott Kazmir helplessly, just like it wasn't a game with Bumgarner getting lucky on balls in the middle of the strike zone. It felt like a game between two talented, focused teams, behind two excellent starting pitchers. Look beyond the obvious highlights. It was apparent with the relatively routine plays, too. Belt leaping to spear a line drive in the ninth. Matt Duffy nabbing a short hop like it's no big deal. Brandon Crawford charging a ball and winging it one motion to get Jose Altuve by the tiniest of margins and that is absolutely an intentional choice of words.
The Giants and Astros were playing baseball, then. Whereas the Cubs knocked over the Operation board and told the Giants to pick everything up, snapping them with the rubber band before they could even finish, the Giants and Astros were playing nice, clean, watchable baseball.
And of course, we're so chipper because the Giants happened to be on the right side of that nice, clean, watchable baseball. You know, this really is a fun sport everyone! Not sure why I said the things I said over the weekend, but I'm sorry. Come give me a hug, baseball.
The last game Madison Bumgarner started for the Giants was in June. Or so. Maaaaaybe more recent than that, but I'm not going to bother looking it up.
At least, that's what it felt like. The Cubs, those stupid Cubs, got to play a four-game series against the Giants in which Bumgarner did not appear. That's not against the rules of baseball, but it's probably against some unwritten rules. They missed Bumgarner after one of his better starts of the year, when he appeared to lock into an unshakable groove.
After that series, literally and figuratively at least tied for the longest series of the year, Bumgarner got to pitch again. And before the game, the only thing running through my mind was a tiny, nagging question.
what if the giants lose this game?
Goodness. It would have felt like another month between starts, and there would have been added urgency for every subsequent pitcher in the rotation. If Heston disemboweled the Giants' chances in the first inning of his next start, if Jake Peavy pitched only four innings in his next start, if if if if. I'm not saying all of those scenarios wouldn't stink if they happened, but with a loss on Tuesday, the losing streak would continue. The panic would increase. The Panik would not increase. Every misstep would be heightened. Every flub, every double play every aaaaack I can't take it.
It didn't happen. It didn't happen! Bumgarner was at his best, just sublime. He was facing an all-or-nothing team that chose rock when he chose fastball and scissors when he chose curveball. There will be times when that kind of team guess right pitch at the right time, and Bumgarner's control will be a liability. There will be other times when Bumgarner will make those hitters look foolish, consistently and without mercy. It was the latter on Tuesday, of course.
It wasn't always so peachy. The game started with a grounder up the middle, followed by a seeing-eye grounder from Carlos Gomez, who pretended he was a little airplane on the way to first, making me quite glad that Bumgarner's back was turned. Two on, no outs, and mythological man-child Carlos Correa at the plate. This is the dust that losing streaks blow in your face to see if you're skittish. Even after getting out of the inning (with the help of Buster Posey's arm and quiet leadership and general derring-do), Bumgarner had still thrown a lot of pitches. Just make it through seven, I thought.
Instead, a complete game. No walks, 12 strikeouts. How rare is that combination in Giants history?
|Madison Bumgarner||2015-08-11||HOU||W 3-1||9||5||1||0||12|
|Madison Bumgarner||2014-08-26||COL||W 3-0||9||1||0||0||13|
|Matt Cain||2012-06-13||HOU||W 10-0||9||0||0||0||14|
|Jason Schmidt||2002-08-20||NYM||W 1-0||9||5||0||0||13|
|Atlee Hammaker||1983-06-26 (1)||SDP||W 2-0||9||4||0||0||12|
|Ray Sadecki||1968-08-11 (1)||NYM||W 2-1||9||4||1||0||13|
|Ray Sadecki||1967-09-12||LAD||W 4-2||9||4||2||0||12|
|Bobby Bolin||1963-06-12||CHC||W 3-1||9||4||1||0||14|
|Sam Jones||1960-08-30||PHI||W 2-1||9||7||1||0||14|
|Roy Parmelee||1933-07-02 (2)||STL||W 1-0||9||4||0||0||13|
|Carl Hubbell||1933-07-02 (1)||STL||W 1-0||18||6||0||0||12|
Pretty danged rare. It's something of a yearly event for ...oh, that doesn't even count, Carl, you big showoff.
In the first inning, Carlos Gomez made an absurd catch, a twisting, death-defying lunge at a ball over his head that ended with his face in the padding.
He might have had a concussion, but I'm not sure if there are concussion tests strong enough for Carlos Gomez.
Doctor: Well, he bit my tongue depressor in half, then spit it into the ceiling fan while chanting his own name and high-fiving anyone who walked by. This is either a great sign or a horrible sign. We'll need to invent more tests.
It was still the second-best catch of the day. Did you catch the best one? I'll set the scenario for you: Jose Altuve hits a pop-up to short-center -- also a pun -- and the center fielder paused for a split-second, then ran in and made a running catch.
Can you imagine such a thing?
Wasn't even on ESPN, but you should have seen it. Gregor Blanco just sorta ran in and caught the ball.
To be fair to Angel Pagan, we don't know if any outfielder on the roster would have made the catch. I have my biases, which means I have my suspicions, though.
Later in the game, Blanco ran to the wall and clanked a ball off his mitt. It would have been a spectacular play, and maybe in a closer, late-inning situation, the DAMMIT BLANCOs would have rang off the distant hills. In this situation, though, it was more like, "Did you see the center fielder come close to making that tough play? Did you see? Can you imagine such a thing?"
You can tell Blanco was lapping it up, too. Glove-flipping the ball back to the infield, swiping a base, flipping the bat a little after a walk, attempting a swinging bunt ... if you thought you wanted Blanco to start, you were still probably well behind Blanco.
The first game as the de facto starter was a good showing. A+++. Would watch again.
Brandon Belt dingers? Brandon Belt dingers.
Both against a tough left-hander. Both with two strikes. Both of them weren't pulled. We're into a new, improved era of brandoning. It's exciting. Instead of going over it again, I'll just quote myself from last week toot toot:
Well, okay, that's me quoting me quoting FanGraphs, but the point stands. Belt is still using the whole field, and he's hitting more dingers because of it.
Still waiting for that 69th Splash Hit, though. We haven't got all year, people.