About 15 minutes into the final game of the series between the Dodgers and Giants, it was already time to move into the bargaining stage. The Giants were about to turn an unfathomably brilliant first two games into a series split, which meant damage control. At least they didn't lose three out of four, ha ha. At least they didn't get swept, ha ha. The Giants were down by five runs, and they had something like an eight-percent chance of winning the game.
A series split after winning the first two games is like winning on The Price Is Right, getting excited, and hearing Bob Barker say that you've won "a newly cleaned car!" The curtains part, and there's your car, still crappy, but clean. Very clean. It could have been much worse. It could have been much, much better. At least your car is clean?
At least they didn't lose Saturday's game after blowing a six-run lead in the ninth, ha ha.
And then there was magic. Or science. Specifically, dingers, which live at the crossroads between the two. The Giants stormed back and reminded everyone that they were supposed to be a hit-first team, dang it. The Giants signed Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija so they could have a chance to be an elite team, not so they could have a chance to win a bunch of 9-6 games. But, if all else should fail, they would certainly be okay with winning a bunch of 9-6 games.
Cueto was a Cy Young-type pitcher for six of his seven innings. If the Giants lost, that would be like being 85-percent not pregnant. Because the Giants won, we get to remark at how well he pitched during those six innings. And, really, if Brandon Belt is positioned in a normal spot on Trayce Thompson's grounder through the right side, it's possible that Cueto allows just two runs in seven innings, and he's still the star of the show. That's how fickle this miserable, beautiful sport is.
Here's the best way to describe my early impressions of Cueto, and I can't tell if it's gibberish or an uncontroversial truism: He's the kind of pitcher who can give up six runs early and stay in for seven innings, and it will seem natural the entire time. Is that damning with faint praise? Is it praising with faint damning? Not sure, but there's something about this kind of iffy outing that's different from something you might get from, say, a second-half Chris Heston or recovering Matt Cain. There's an off-the-rails quality that's missing from this kind of struggling start.
Maybe we'll find it in his next start, dunno. But for now, the early returns are still positive on Cueto, which I wouldn't have expected to write after a six-run outing. There's no tonic quite like a comeback win.
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After Cueto's first inning, I was sure that Scott Kazmir was going to show the Giants up, reminding us that he could have done a better job for $80 million less.
After Kazmir's first inning, I was pretty sure the correct answer to the 2015-16 offseason was "Nope."
Then Cueto finished seven innings after Kazmir shuffled off a couple innings earlier. Point: Giants.
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The Giants have scored nine runs or more in three of their seven games this season. Here are the dates of their third nine-run game in previous seasons:
- 2015 - May 17
- 2014 - May 4
- 2013 - April 14
- 2012 - June 23
- 2011 - June 28
- 2010 - April 17
- 2009 - May 11
- 2008 - June 2
- 2007 - May 7
- 2006 - April 20
The last time the Giants scored nine runs or more in three games quicker to start a season, they had Barry Bonds and won the pennant.
This team doesn't have Barry Bonds, but it's a mighty fine offensive unit. The best part is that it's exceptionally hard to figure out who's slumping. Apparently Matt Duffy and Denard Span have been in funks since Opening Day. Didn't really notice. And they both came through with big hits today, naturally.
The biggest wild card is, again, Angel Pagan, and it would be impossible for him to have a more encouraging start to his 2016 season. He hit an empty .300 for the first two months of last year, but give me this, every time. He whomped a homer from the right side, and he wrapped an impressive double from the left side. Both of them came on pitches that should have been humiliated. Both of them were swings that he just didn't have last year, even when he was hitting an empty .300.
Put it like this: Pagan has five extra-base hits this season so far. He didn't have five extra-base hits until his 19th game last year. From June 1 until he went on the DL on August 9 last season, he had six extra-base hits, all doubles, in 53 games. And without looking, I'll guess that at least one or two of those doubles was a doink or a dribble, as some doubles are. So far this year, he's driving the ball with much more authority than he had before going on the DL last year.
Maybe the real even-year magic is knowing when in the heck to put players on the disabled list.
I've been pretty hard on Pagan over the past year-plus, and it's probably time for some soul searching as to why. I've given Matt Cain the benefit of the doubt for the last three years, even though he hasn't been excellent since 2012. Sergio Romo still had my trust when his ERA was 5.00 and above last year, and I'd probably still be defensive about Andres Torres if he were on the team. What is it about Angel Pagan that makes it so hard to trust him.
There's no better way to remind yourself how spoiled Giants fans are than to think, "Well, he was only a major part of one championship, so I'll brow-furrow him until he does it again."
Really, it's because he was so bad, for so long, last year, right as the Giants were stumbling out of the race. Apparently, his body was all screwed up in the worst way. Which is a pretty fine excuse for someone who is underperforming.
He looks fine now, though. He looks more than fine. I'd like to think that he's pissed off at Internet nerds with every swing he takes. That would be more than fine with me.
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GIVE HIM ANOTHER EXTENSION.
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Yeah, sure, what the hell, give him another extension, too.
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I'm okay with this.