You know the look. A team is losing by 10 or 11, and the camera cuts to a fan in the stands making that face. Making that face. It's a face that says, "This is garbage, my team is garbage, and my choice of hobbies is garbage, but I'm not leaving." Maybe rain is falling, and maybe that makes it an extra sad and hilarious face. But the face is fixed, unchanging until the camera cuts to something else. Nothing but pure sourness.
That was the face you had for four games. Fourteen hours. You sat down, hopeful to watch the Giants play well against another postseason hopeful, and then Chris Heston threw 40 pitches in the first inning of Thursday's game. You made that face, and it didn't change for the entire series. Every first inning was a nightmare, and then you woke up to find out that the real nightmare was nibbling on your toes. If there was hope, it existed only to set up a larger disappointment.
The odd-year Giants are a critically acclaimed TV series that thrives on taking risks and going off the rails, just to mess with the audience. The first season had the shocking Buster Posey twist -- like, even George R.R. Martin isn't that screwed up -- and the sad Carlos Beltran finish. The next season was Jeff Francoeur's show, even if he was supposed to be a minor, supporting character, and the general blanket of failure over the whole season was bleak and oppressive and compelling.
This season is fresh, it's inventive. What if the Giants play well for the most part, but every month there's a stretch of plague in which the team can't do a single thing right? Bam, now there's a twist! You get comfortable with the excellent team, and then there's an extended losing streak of pure misery that crushes spirits and minds. The odd year will not manifest itself in an obvious, devastating injury. It will not be a dark descent into the shadow hell of baseball. It will be a carrot on a stick, leading you along merrily, before it's used as a weapon against your person. Carrots on sticks hurt, dammit. Every month, you'll get one across the nose.
There are probably Cubs fans, a lot of them, who focus mainly on their own team and had no idea what was going on with the Giants this year, other than the standings. All of those poor people are so confused. How can this Giants team be a threat? How can this team even be close to contending? The Giants' best start in a four-game series came from someone who left after five innings. They looked like the worst team in the world, or at least a team with the worst starting pitching in the world.
That's the way it was against the Nationals earlier this season. It's the way they looked against the Pirates, too. Basically, the Giants have problems with good teams hoping to make the postseason. As long as they don't face any of those teams for the rest of this month, and as long as none of those teams make the postseason, everything should be just fine.
The game started with Dexter Fowler fouling off a dozen or so pitches, a two-out run-scoring bloop, and a 38-pitch inning. Why didn't you turn the game off? Why didn't you, right then, scream "I HAVE TO GO TO WORK TOMORROW" and do something, anything, that would have been more spiritually fulfilling? That first inning was a gift, and you ignored it.
I did, too.
The Giants were desperate for a starting pitcher to give them innings. They have a 13-man pitching staff -- absurd! -- and everyone is still gassed. They needed a 14- or 15-man pitching staff this weekend. Jake Peavy didn't pitch poorly, he just didn't miss enough bats. Part of that seems like a flawed design -- as in, Peavy just isn't going to miss a lot of bats these days, so these games are going to happen. Part of that seems like a fluke -- if Fowler were looking for an offspeed pitch here instead of there, the entire inning and game go much differently.
Instead, it went the way you just watched. Why did you watch? That first inning was a clue. The good news is that the Giants know their rotation is shaky, so they traded for Mike Leake. Who is now broken.
Hope you're enjoying this stretch of plague as much as I am.
The Cubs fouled off an astounding 37 pitches against Peavy in five innings. Dexter Fowler had 13 (!!) while seeing 25 pitches in 3 at-bats.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) August 9, 2015
Yeah, more like Dexter Foul ... oh, no, that's pretty much perfect. That's how he pronounces it. Carry on.
At the risk of being that hyper-partisan doofus, please note that the Cubs were responsible for Hunter Pence missing months of the season, which helped them substantially. They knocked Norichika Aoki out of the game with a beanball (he might be okay, but brains can be jerks), which put Angel Pagan in. Which helped the Cubs substantially, again. I don't know if Aoki would have clobbered a ball into the gap in his at-bat, and the odds suggest that he would have made an out, but the general point stands:
Boy, the Cubs have sure benefitted from hitting Giants players with baseballs.
It's a fluke, not a strategy, but it's still frustrating. Angel Pagan could have tied the game with a single, but he had an uncomfortable-looking eight-pitch at-bat, instead. Would Aoki have done better? Seems unfair to assume so, but this was supposed to be the Giants' day off from Pagan in center. So jump to conclusions. Heck, it's all we got. The Cubs gained yet another game on the Giants in the wild card standings because one of their pitchers had awful command for a split-second.
Just give us that Kyle Schwarber kid, and we'll call it even. It's only fair.
I'm not sure if there's a way to have an honest Worst At-Bat of the Year competition without going back and reviewing every single at-bat, which isn't going to happen. So I'll nominate Hector Sanchez's ninth-inning at-bat, in which he hit with the bases loaded and no outs, and swung at three straight bouncing sliders, as if the pitch were just developed in a secret NSA bunker the night before.
It was a garbage at-bat, and it was almost certainly the worst of the year.
Come back, Andrew Susac. Come back, Joe Panik.
Come back 2009 Tim Lincecum. Come back 2012 Matt Cain.
Come back, Giants from about eight days ago. Come baaaaaack.