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Giants take series opener, 5-3

Tim Hudson couldn't go five, but the bullpen picked up most of the slack.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

On a drizzly Monday night in September, against a struggling team, in a game with almost zero playoff implications, opposite the 49ers' season opener, tens of thousands of people went to a Giants game on purpose. Expectations were simple, modest. Don't screw this up, they asked. Don't screw this up, and let us see a peek of what might make the 2016 Giants good.

The Giants did not disappoint.

In February, you would vandalize cars to watch a game like this. In March, you'll go out of your way to watch two innings of the sixth starter in a split-squad game. In September, it's kind of adorable and easy to take for granted. The Giants played a fine, clean game, with crowd-pleasing defense and timely hitting. It makes me feel so ghoulish to describe that game as meaningless. It was a pretty swell way to kill three hours, all things considered.

Maybe there are true believers out there. I admire you. This is for you.

If the Cubs go … The Giants' record will need to be at least this to catch them
20-0 N/A
19-1 N/A
18-2 N/A
17-3 N/A
16-4 N/A
15-5 N/A
14-6 N/A
13-7 N/A
12-8 18-0
11-9 17-1
10-10 16-2
9-11 15-3
8-12 14-4
7-13 13-5
6-14 12-6
5-15 11-7
4-16 10-8
3-17 9-9
2-18 8-10
1-19 7-11
0-20 6-12

Yeah, I used Cubs instead of Dodgers, don't yell. The Giants are a half-game closer to the wild card now, which gives them incrementally better odds. Both races are almost certainly over.

Except the Cubs going 7-13 over a 20-game stretch wouldn't exactly be the top story on SportsCenter. It would just be one of those funky, sluggish stretches that even good teams can suffer through. And the Giants playing well at the same time wouldn't be surprising, either. Hey, baseball teams are streaky, especially these wacky Giants.

I don't not believe. The Giants' schedule is soft enough to make it not uninteresting. The Cubs would have to suffer a painful collapse, and that's a tune they've covered before.

Whatever. We'll see if there's any fancy comeback dust whipping around in the breeze, and the answer is there probably isn't. All I know is this beats a losing streak.

* * *

Can I interest you in a pair of Matt Duffy doubles? This swing was my favorite:


Duffy doesn't go to the opposite field because he's late. He does it because it's a tool on his little hitter's belt, and it gives him a little fraction of a second extra to figure out what the ball is doing. He's a rookie, remember. A rookie.

If you'll sit through a screening of Hypothetical Theater, please join me in wondering what would have happened if Casey McGehee hit an empty .280 at the start of this year. It wouldn't have taken much, considering he had a gift for hitting ground balls right at someone. Just change the "at someone" to "in the hole," and suddenly you have a hitter doing just well enough to be confusing. He probably wouldn't have lost his job.

Which would have meant that Duffy would have had to wait. The at-bats would have been there as a bench bat, most likely. At least, they would have when everyone broke. There was talk of Duffy fooling around with an outfielder's glove at some point. If he was going to contribute, he was going to need to play seven different positions.

But McGehee didn't hit .280. And now instead of a compelling enigma wowing us with his fill-in appearances for Panik, we've seen a full season of Duffy. He looks like a building block, someone who can help the Giants for a long, long time.

We'd have no idea what Duffy would have been asked to do if McGehee got a little lucky in April. He's be a super-utility type, I'd imagine. That's weird and terrifying. It's also just speculative fiction .

* * *

Brandon Belt hit a booming triple, was robbed of another one, and made a sparkling play at the plate with the bases loaded. Santiago Casilla ended a laborious ninth-inning at-bat with one of the better curveballs he's ever thrown. Sergio Romo is funky, and his slider is weird. There were fun times to be had. All of those players and/or events deserve their own songs and poems.

But I'm falling asleep at the keyboard -- quite literally -- with an entire football game left to watch on the DVR. So I'm clocking out early here, and I'll make it up to you tomorrow. Until then, root for the Giants to keep winning and for the Cubs to humiliate themselves in a painful, historically significant fashion.

When you put it like that, suddenly it doesn't seem impossible..