There’s a possibility that this is just setting Giants fans up for a greater even-year heartbreak, a moment where the magic and the nonsense stop working because that’s not how the world actually works. With greater expectations comes greater disappointment, and there are still three rounds of postseason left. There are an infinite number of ways for this postseason to end poorly for the Giants, and plenty of them are horribly uncomfortable.
And yet it’s already worth it, right? This whole mess, this whole second half. Getting to a Wild Card Game, limping in, facing one of the best pitchers in baseball, it was already worth it, even before the first pitch was thrown.
Getting Madison Bumgarner pitching as well as he can? That already made it a special postseason, something the Giants could feel proud of. My worst August hallucination was something like the Giants making the Wild Card Game, only to face the modern-day Bobby Jones and looking like buffoons. The fear was that they would play poorly in the second half, embarrass themselves on the national stage, and flush themselves out of the postseason.
In these feverish nightmare sessions, Bumgarner pitches poorly. That’s the mark of pure fantasy, I know, but it would have seemed like the cherry on the it-will-never-happen-again sundae.
As the game was progressing, and Noah Syndergaard was pitching like an alien, with Curtis Granderson shedding nine years off his age to make a brilliant catch, it was easy to think, “Well, if you’re going to go, go like this. They’re playing their best. The Giants are playing their best.” They weren’t going to go out like buffoons. They were going to give everyone a classic postseason game.
That’s when Conor Gillaspie hit a three-run homer to send the Giants to the Division Series. Literally Conor Gillaspie. Again the Giants went to the ex-prospect shelter, walked from cage to cage, and said, “Aw, I remember that li’l guy. Let’s bring him home.” For the second postseason in a row, that ex-prospect is all growns up and hitting three-run homers to send the Giants to the next round.
As someone who grew up with exactly one (1) positive postseason experience until I was an adult — and with parents who reminded me they had exactly zero (0) positive postseason experiences until 1989 -- I’m still not sure what to do with myself. How is this happening? How did the Giants uncover a pitcher like this, a minotaur made out of obsidian and snot who became a postseason legend before he left his mid-20s?
How did the Giants get another former prospect to come back as a utility player and hit a home run at just the right time?
The Fates are making a sweater on their skein right now, and the embroidered words on the front read, clear as can be, “LOL WE DON’T KNOW.” We’ll get to wear that sweater. In our minds. It will be a brain sweater to keep our memories warm. And we’ll give the brain sweater to our kids, and they’ll think we’re weird. Give them the brain sweater.
Sorry, I don’t know, I think I just snapped. Did you see that it was Madison Bumgarner throwing a shutout again? Did you see that it was literally Conor Gillaspie hitting the three-run homer? If you tried as hard as you could over the last two years, scouring the entire baseball universe, in an effort to find the Kirstie Alley to Travis Ishikawa’s Shelly Long, could you have come up with anyone better than Gillaspie?
The Giants face the best team in baseball next. The odds are against them. There’s a possibility of a deeper, more meaningful heartbreak. You see the Dodgers on the other side of the postseason, right? They’re lurking. That would qualify.
Yet there’s no way you would trade this in. It happened. It happened just like they said it would. Somehow the Giants became the most spoiled team in baseball.
The most spoiled team in baseball will face the least spoiled team in baseball. But they also happen to be the best team in baseball. Come along with your 2016 Giants as you get nauseous all over again.
* * *
* * *
I mean ... I remember being excited when they drafted that guy. He was going to combine with Buster Posey, and the Giants were going to be unstoppable!
Which is what happened.
Where am I?
My, that pipe organ sounds nice.
Guess I’ll just float over and grab a Werther’s from the receptionist’s desk made out of clouds.
Oh, hey, baseball’s on.
* * *
From the New Yorker:
Nah, we’re good. Thanks, though. It makes sense, really, but it’s probably better if you didn’t.
* * *
The thing about Jeurys Familia is that he’s not that much different than Santiago Casilla. Hear me out, hold on. Familia’s sinker is filthy, and he keeps more balls in the park when the normal laws of the universe apply, but there’s a similar sense of erratic effectiveness about them.
Consider that Casilla’s WHIP was lower than Familia’s before you close the tab.
This isn’t to say that Casilla is unfairly maligned, or that Familia is secretly awful. It’s that Casilla probably didn’t deserve all of his misfortunes, just like the Giants deserved to score some runs against a normal closer.
It wasn’t the comeback we were pining for. But it was still the Giants being happy a ninth inning happened for once. Not even going to feel guilty about that part.
The rest of it, sure, yeah, I have some guilt, but it’s not like I can do anything about it, so did you see that Madison Bumgarner pitch the ol’ rock? He’s something, alright.
* * *
Via Brooks Baseball, it’s the foul ball that I’ll think about until the brain sweater can’t keep those memories warm anymore:
That’s from the catcher’s perspective, and that little red square at the bottom was a 2-2 pitch that Panik had no business making contact with. He had struck out twice against Syndergaard, the first time he’d struck out twice against the same pitcher since Brandon Morrow in May, 2015. But he wasn’t going to get the first hat trick of his career. Not in the Wild Card Game.
The walk kept the rally going.
Panik scored on the home run.
Which was hit by Conor Gillaspie.
The one that won the game and allowed Bumgarner to finish another postseason shutout.
There’s that pipe organ again. It’s lovely here.
* * *
From Doug on Tuesday:
What did we learn? The system expects Madison Bumgarner to be very, very good, Conor Gillaspie to hit like an MVP
From me just before the game:
Point of order: The lineup does contain a former Giants prospect who left to backpack through Europe for years, playing for various teams and solving crimes until he was ready to return and help the Giants win a World Series. In 2012, it was Ryan Vogelsong. In 2014, it was Travis Ishikawa. In 2016, it will be Conor Gillaspie.
It’s not even funny the more I type it out. Now it’s just creepy.
* * *
Just kidding. Still funny! The Giants have won five games in a row after having just one three-game winning streak in the entire second half. Onward, buffoons! Onward!