In the eighth inning of a close September game, with the tying run on first base, against the hardest-throwing pitcher in major league history, the Giants used a pitcher to pinch-hit.
Forget whatever you think you know about Madison Bumgarner's silver bat, forget how excellent he's been this season. He's still a pitcher. It's September. The benches should be overflowing with rookies and old friends, all eager to get an at-bat in that situation. The Giants, bruised and emaciated, don't even have the luxury of a full bench. They used a pitcher because that's all they had.
It worked. The pitcher drew a walk. He fouled off a 100-mph fastball, and then he took a danged walk.
In the eighth inning of a close September game, et cetera, et cetera, the Giants sent Ehire Adrianza to the plate with the bases loaded, against the hardest-throwing pitcher in major league history. Before the at-bat, Adrianza had faced exactly 75 major league left-handers, against whom he had hit .179/247/.254. The Giants were trying to pick a lock with uncooked spaghetti because they had no choice.
Don't nitpick. It worked. The Giants got closer, and the tying run moved into scoring position. Now, a miserable strike call cost the Giants a chance to keep the inning alive, but the inning was absolutely a success. They scrapped and fidgeted and clambered, and they got that much closer.
They put themselves in a position to win, and they eventually staged a thrilling comeback in the ninth, tying the game. Aroldis Chapman is more of an end-of-level boss than a closer, a freakish monster with a glowing button on his back that you're supposed to jump on three times if you want to defeat him. He's mostly invincible, but occasionally he'll show an opening if you're paying attention. The Giants had no business being in the game, and suddenly they were in a position to win it.
It didn't work. The Giants lost a heart-melter of a game. We can talk about the reasons they lost -- from Chris Heston's wonky command, to Brandon Belt's wonky glove, to Sergio Romo's unfortunate fastball -- but here's what I take from the game:
- The Giants started slowly, but they put themselves in a great position to win. Just like this season.
- There was bumblefuckery and general horror at the end of the second act. Just like this season.
- The Giants used nonsense, subterfuge, and crossed fingers because they were dinged up and desperate. Just like this season.
- It almost worked. Just like this season.
- It most certainly didn't work. Just like, well, you know.
You might be tired of my extended metaphors. Except I promise that most of them are forced. This one actually fits, dammit. The Giants were supposed to win. Then they screwed up. Then they rallied! Then they screwed up even worse. Then they rallied! Then they gasped and tripped about 20 yards from the finish line. So close, yet so dispiriting, as the saying goes.
The Giants making the postseason this year, using a win like that to vault them into contention, would be as ridiculous as expecting Madison Bumgarner to hit a game-tying home run against Aroldis Chapman. Yet it almost happened. All of it almost happened. You don't deserve a Bumgarner homer in that situation, you spoiled twit. None of us do. Just like none of us deserve a fourth World Series in six years. But we can still root for it. And we can still know exactly how rapturous it all would be, because we would take the most rapturous moment we can think of and double it.
It almost worked. It didn't work. But it almost worked, and it would have been so very amazing.
So it goes.
* * *
If that game can stand in as a proxy for the season, with the ups and downs and eventual disappointment, then this at-bat can stand in for the brilliant discoveries of the season, too.
That at-bat was the Matt Duffy rookie season of the game, the pleasant, compelling surprise. That would mean the entire game was the 2015 season of games. And if the game was the 2015 season of games, then that would mean there was a little Matt Duffy inside, playing the game inside the game. And inside that Matt Duffy was a smaller Matt Duffy, which ... it makes sense in my head. We'll keep going.
The Giants lost the game with the Bonds/Gagne duel, too. Years later, we still remember titan v. titan, possibly the defining moment of the Steroid Era, because it was so compelling and dynamic. But the Giants lost the game. Feels like that comes up a quarter of the time the actual at-bat between Gagne and Bonds comes up. The Giants lost. Just like that stupid J.T. Snow homer against Armando Benitez. The Giants lost ,and then they signed Benitez. And then they lost even more! Everything is awful.
Sometimes, though, the result of the game shouldn't overshadow the best parts of it. Just like the result of a season shouldn't overshadow the best parts of it. There can be brilliance in the chaos, things to remember. That at-bat will forever be a classic, regardless of the result.
* * *
Oh, good, a place for me to get something off my chest. Hi, my name is Grant. I write about baseball, which isn't even real life. It's fun! For whatever reason, people take this stuff very seriously, and they get very angry when I jinx things. Most of y'all are joking, and that's hilarious. But some people actually get mad about jinxes. Maybe the leeches on their privates make them irritable.
This was a headline from today:
The Giants' bullpen has been great since August 1
The Giants' bullpen was sure crappy on Tuesday night. It was very, very un-great. That is one of the worst-timed, awful headlines in the history of the site, I promise you. Maybe I did jinx them.
But I'll make you a deal. If you think I can jinx the Giants' entire bullpen with whatever my fingers fart out of their finger-butts as they fart-glide across the keys, then I get the credit for all three championships, too. Whatever I wrote then, whatever I was predicting and hoping for, it was enough to help the Giants win. They literally forced all three championships. My words. Mine. This is all mine. All of them are mine because of whatever I did.
I'm sorry about tonight. But all those other parts were nice, right? Those were all mine. Because I can do everything.
You'll understand my plan in time. This season wasn't to be, though. It wasn't to be.