Start with the obvious: The Nationals are in a waking nightmare right now. Someone offered them a homemade cigarette sprinkled with odd-year dust, and they're somewhere else at the moment. They were supposed to get to the postseason by flashing their ID at the door, maybe even sneaking right though to the second round. They're at .500 now. The last time the Giants saw them, they were 4½: up and 10 games over .500. They swept the Giants and looked like a super-team. They're hanging out with the Twins, Rangers, and Diamondbacks right now, winning as many as they're losing.
That's not to take away from what the Giants are doing, but do you know that feeling when the Giants allow a first-inning run? That here-we-go-again moment that colors the way you watch baseball for the next hour? The Nationals have weaponized that feeling, and it's twice as strong. They've actually had the first-inning lead in all three games, only to watch it slip away quickly and fatally.
I noticed this, too:
Weird vibe in Nats dugout. Nobody seemed to care that Harper was hurt ... looked like he noticed. Not a lot of urgency from that group.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) August 16, 2015
Harper fouled a ball off his ankle, and the slow-motion replay showed the ankle doing something that sounded like this: wubba wubba ... wubba wubba wubba ... wubba. In which the wubbas are describing someone's bones and flesh moving violently back and forth. Everyone in the dugout was like, eh, shake it off. It's a sleepwalking team, and that's being generous.
Now that we've mentioned the Nationals playing like a bunch of weirdos, we can talk about the Giants hitting. And hitting and hitting and hitting. Don't forget that the last time the Giants played the Nationals, they scored five runs in a three-game series. It would have been lot cooler if they could have stuffed some of these runs in some dry ice and sent them back to that series, but we're not here to quibble. The Nationals have started Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Gio Gonzalez in the series -- with Doug Fister and Tanner Roark in relief -- and the Giants have treated them like the David Buchanans of the league.
It was one of those games that warrants a spot-by-spot recap. Everyone did good things, for the most part. Let us celebrate them.
Gregor Blanco is apparently Kenny Lofton now. Slapping the ball hither and thither. Occasionally getting into one. Creating havoc on the bases, sometimes in a good way. Catching the ball real fancy-like, but not in a Gold Glove kind of way. Alex Pavlovic investigated the changes in Blanco's swing, and the results are overwhelmingly positive at the moment.
Matt Duffy is the Rookie of the Year, leader of men, slayer of false prospects. He's been the best part of the season so far, and I'm not sure what second place is. After his bases-clearing, bases loaded double, the scoreboard flashed this:
Now, as some of you know, I'm also the former guardian of a 30+ pound cat. Rest in peace, Vader.
As such, I feel a special kinship to Duffy. I also hit a bunch of doubles when I was eight or nine -- they couldn't stop me -- so we're basically twins. Right now, Nationals fans are completely flummoxed. Who is this waif, and why does he keep hitting doubles and dingers? To which I answer: I don't know, man. I don't know.
Brandon Belt sure keeps hitting the ball the other way with authority. FanGraphs keeps track of a statistic called "Hard%", in which they purport to tally the balls categorized as "hard hit." Belt leads the National League in this stat. He's second in all baseball. He keeps hitting the ball hard, and he keeps using the whole field.
Buster Posey hasn't had the best series, but he still went 2-for-5 with two RBI. That was the afterthought of the night -- the cleanup hitter getting a lousy two runs batted in.
Hunter Pence had a dreadful game at the plate and in the field. This included him swinging at a ball that Pablo Sandoval would have laughed at. Let's see where Brooks Baseball had it.
Right, right. The good thing is that it doesn't matter. Giants scored a billion runs, and they won their third straight. This is an example of Pence's brilliant timing, really. Just like the three-hit hit against the Cardinals.
Brandon Crawford was walked intentionally. That's not a new feeling for him -- he'd been intentionally walked 27 times before that. But those came when he was an eighth-place hitter, with a pitcher coming up. This was a respect walk, something ordered by an opposing manager declaring, "Rather have the dork with the glasses beat me instead of the dork with the hair." Can you imagine such a scene during the Orlando Cabrera Era? Can you imagine?
Kelby Tomlinson can run, boy. I'll hold off on the Krukowism of he-can-hit until the sample size gets bigger, but he-can-probably-hit. And he can run. There are so, so many Giants in the past decade without a noteworthy skill -- there's no point naming them, you probably have 10 off the top of your head -- that the combo of contact/speed makes you take a second to wonder if this cat can really play.
Maybe? Probably. I'll order the shirsey tomorrow.
Hector Sanchez took a crucial walk. Look at this walk!
At no point did he ruin the at-bat with the stupid pitches the other team was offering him. It would have been so easy and natural for him to chase a high one, but he didn't. A six-run inning was the reward.
Reminder that Sanchez was initially interesting to prospect hounds because of his freakish K/BB and OBP numbers in different rookie leagues. That doesn't mean anything. I just wanted to remind you. It was a good plate appearance, though. It was the linchpin of the inning, really.
Unless you count Jake Peavy's walk. That walk was probably when you realized that Gio Gonzalez was not long for the game. Gonzalez wanted the call because, c'mon, it's Jake Peavy, but it was clearly a ball, and the game was essentially ruined for him.
Just don't bring up the Peavy outing on the mound, which was questionable-to-dreadful, at best. He's been steady for a while now, so it's not right to make sweeping conclusions about a single outing. It looked okay at times, unforgivable at others. He's probably fine, probably an asset.
Giants win. They can repay the sweep on Sunday. Here's hoping ...