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Giants take first game of series against Nationals, gain game on Dodgers

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The Nationals scored their only run on the first pitch of the game, and the Giants found Triples Alley more than once against Stephen Strasburg.

I forgot to mention Gregor Blanco in the recap below. Please forgive me. He's energized and fun to root for.
I forgot to mention Gregor Blanco in the recap below. Please forgive me. He's energized and fun to root for.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Don't forget, in the glow of a solid, clean 3-1 win, how the game started. Ryan Vogelsong threw a pitch, and the Nationals had a 1-0 lead. There is nothing more discouraging in the world than a leadoff homer. I'm not sure if we'll ever quantify the ins and outs of baseball psychology, but I'm pretty sure that leadoff homers usually suck the life-force out of teams and leave the husk on the side of the road.

Of course teams lose more often when they allow a leadoff homer -- you're removing the chance of a shutout, limiting the different ways to win. But it felt like it was more than that simple math, something embedded into the DNA of individual baseball games. So I did a little research. The Giants had allowed seven leadoff homers at AT&T Park since the start of 2011. They lost all seven.

Then Vogelsong gave up hits and walks and had a grind grind grind first inning, ensuring at least a partial bullpen game, and you looked at the opposing pitcher, and -- even if he had a higher ERA than Vogelsong -- you winced. Nationals win, 6-2. Nationals win, 8-3. Nationals are still batting in the top of the eighth, as you get ready for work, up (a + bi) - 1. You saw exactly how the game was going to go.

Then the Giants hit a leadoff triple in the bottom of the first, and say what you will about leadoff homers, but leadoff triples are even more exciting. There's something about their potential energy, their ability to expand into something even more than a single run. So I did a little research. The Giants hadn't lost a game in which they hit a leadoff triple since ...

triple

... the last one. The triple in that game didn't score, of course. Well. This was a fine start to the game. There was potential for a serious poke in the eye.

The Giants weren't jerks, though. There were a couple of seeing-eye singles mixed into the first inning, but that was all tempered by Stephen Strasburg missing with his location for the first three innings. He deserved to get hit, at least early. I'm not going to feel guilty for a few balls in play that found holes. This was the first time that I've watched Strasburg (out of maybe eight or nine starts) when he looked completely off. Fastballs going down the middle, complemented with unreliable offspeed stuff. It might be three years before we get to say, "They should have scored more against Strasburg," so revel in it now.

Vogelsong, for his part, missed bats after the first, getting swinging strikeout after swinging strikeout. I don't know if his future in the league is as a middle reliever, or if he even has a future in the league over the next couple years, but he's had some glimmering moments for the Giants this year. We'll always have May. And over the last month, it seems like he's helping more than hurting, figuring out whatever role he's supposed to have. In his last two starts -- remembering that the Giants gave up one of their best pitching prospects to ensure he didn't start either of those games -- the Giants are 1-1. That's about right. That's about what I would expect with Mike Leake, too.

Why do we get so worked up about the trade deadline again? What's wrong with us? There's fewer than six weeks left, everything's a crapshoot, why are we so worried about the eight or nine starts that a mercenary can make, dammit this is so stupid, and I fall for it every time. Vogelsong probably isn't that bad, certainly not in a pinch. He had a truncated, but effective, outing on Thursday, and it's about all we could have hoped for.

If a complete game with fewer than 100 pitches thrown is called a "Maddux", does that make a five-inning, 100-pitch start a "Peavy"? I'll take my answer off the air, but if so, Vogelsong was close to a Peavy on Thursday night. As long as it ends with a win, like I care.

★★★

After Vogelsong left, the Giants had to rely on their bullpen. Ha ha, you were actually wearing a handkerchief and now you're patting down your brow, just thinking about it. That's fine. It was my reaction, too. Except, pretend that you entered a cheat code before the game and got the following relievers:

  • A 97-mph goofball with gaudy minor-league statistics who looks every bit as good as the stats suggest

  • Sergio Romo from 2011, give or take

Say, that adds some spice to the bullpen. Especially if the 97-mph goofball is hitting his spots and efficient enough to throw two innings. Giants fans have been complaining about the bullpen for about a month now, if not longer. I've been honking that help-horn, too. Look at what those weirdos did tonight, though. Romo suddenly has the analog controller back for his slider, and he's making lefties and righties look silly. Hunter Strickland looks like the kind of guy who can have a 10 or 11 K/9, which he does, while having just enough control to make him dominant when it's all working.

Reminder that the Giants have Hunter Strickland because the Pirates removed him from their roster to add Jonathan Sanchez.

Even Santiago Casilla was normal. I don't know what the Giants' bullpen has in store for the rest of the season, but for a night against a good team (ostensibly, considering they've been even bigger bonerchins than the Giants lately), they looked workable. Better than workable, really. Desirable. Bring on the postseason because we have Strickland, Romo, and Casilla, you goons!

That doesn't inspire confidence right now, but with five or six more of these nights, I'm willing to listen.

★★★

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles:

/fans self

Whooo, well, I was going to compare this tweet to Gravity's Rainbow and write 2,000 words comparing the two, but ...

/fans self

It just got too hot in here, why, I don't know what's come over me, I feel flush.

/fans self

Did you know if you lick a computer screen, you can't really taste a tweet? I don't know why I bring that up. It's not like I've tried it. Tonight. With that tweet. Total non-sequitur, don't know why I'm not deleting it right now.

/fans self

★★★

It means nothing now, but Roberto Kelly had the worst send of the year in the third inning. We don't care for a couple of reasons, but it's still worth mentioning.

The first reason we don't care:

kelly

We don't notice him that much. At least, I don't mention him that much. Which is a good thing.

The second reason we don't care:

There's a reason we don't notice him that much. He's probably pretty okay.

That written, dude.

kelly

DUDE.

Bruh.

kelly

Come on, man.

kelly

Dude.

kelly

I'm over it. We've all learned something! Keep winning, Giants.