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Giants allow three solo homers, lose 3-2 to Pirates

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Better than three grand slams, I guess.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants didn't trade for Gerrit Cole at the deadline. They traded for Mike Leake because the Gerrit Cole store was sold out. It was a move that made sense, but it came with some restrictions. One of them was that when Leake started against a pitcher like Cole, it was logical to mumble ruh-roh under your breath and expect the Giants to lose. Leake is someone who helps his team play better, but not someone who's supposed to lock horns with the other team's ace.

And yet, for six glorious innings, that's exactly what happened. Heck, Leake looked better than Cole. Whereas Cole gave up the near-dinger to Brandon Crawford and allowed a smattering of hard contact throughout the game, Leake was working on a perfect game for four innings, and a no-hitter after that.

The center-field camera allowed for a look at Leake that explained why he was gainfully employed and will be a multimillionaire several times over by this time next year. The slider broke, the fastball snuck into the zone, and the camera gave everyone a look at exactly what he was doing. The result was basically an infomercial.

Excitable British guy: How much would you pay for this cutter? Would you pay *Andrew Susac* for that kind of movement?

Crowd: YES

Excitable British guy: I'll bet you would, you pukes. I mean, no, wait, what if I told you this genuine Mike Leake only cost *Keury Mella*?

Crowd: /claps politely

Excitable British dude: And if you pay just the cost of a Double-A reliever, we'll send you this *Marlon Byrd* for free!

Crowd: But that's not f

Excitable British guy: For free!

Crowd: /claps politely

Then, after just 77 pitches ... he was gone. Lifted for a pinch-hitter after just six innings. On the one hand, Leake just returned from the DL, so it's probably not a good idea to run him into the ground in his first start back. On the other hand, 77 pitches! Jake Peavy calls that "the first inning." Leake was dealing in a way that makes you actually use the "dealing" description without shame.

I'll trust Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti more than Captain Hindsight, especially since it was certainly possible for Leake to allow another violent dinger. Still, there's something about watching a game where you think "They're taking him out"" followed by the bullpen losing the game.

At the risk of being too much of a Pollyanna after a tough loss, at least Leake showed us all how excellent he could be. Pitchers who can put baseballs where they want with their mind? I'm for 'em. They seem to do good things. Really, if Bumgarner isn't starting for the Giants, I'm expecting a loss against Cole. That the Giants made it close and frustrating is a feature, not a bug.

★★★

Twitter had fun with Hunter Strickland after he allowed a homer to Jung-Ho Kang on a 1-2 pitch. It wasn't a total meatball -- toward the inside, at 98 mph -- but it was a curious pitch after Kang looked completely befuddled with the slurve three times.

Still, here's the scoop on Strickland:

  • 38 IP
  • 3 HR
  • Still one of the best relievers on the team

That's statistically and scoutistically. The FIP is low because Strickland misses more bats than anyone else in the Giants' bullpen, other than Sergio Romo.  He misses that many bats because his stuff is nasty. Because his stuff is that nasty, he ... well, you get the point.

He's allowed fewer homers per nine innings pitched this year than Craig Kimbrel or Kenley Jansen. Fewer homers per nine innings pitched than David Price or Corey Kluber. Which is all to say, yeah, har har, we get it. Strickland had a death-spiral of a postseason in 2014. But he's probably better than that? He's probably just a solid-to-excellent reliever, and those weirdos seem to allow a dinger every so often?

Sure wish he had thrown another slurve, though.

★★★

This is the seventh time the Giants have lost a game in which the other team hit three solo homers and did nothing else. The last time? 2007. Barry Zito and Randy Messenger combined to allow the dingers, and David Wells started for the Padres, even though he was never on the Padres and there's no way you can make me believe that. Three different seasons, you say? Well, we'll see what the Berenstain/Berenstein Bears have to say about that.

After some contemplation, I believe I would have rather the Giants hit those home runs.

★★★

Good news! Tomorrow is an ESPN game! The last time the Giants won an ESPN game, it was 1912, when ESPN was known as Yessepean the Baseball Horse, a docile beast of burden that stood motionless in the middle of Times Square as his handlers read telegraph updates from the park and wrote them in chalk on his side.

You should have been there. Lots of fun.

So the Giants won't win tomorrow, and they'll be further away from a postseason spot, but did you see how Mike Leake pitched? He was really, really good, everyone. For six innings. For some reason.