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Giants end no-hitter with unlikely homer, then homer their way to unlikely win against Dodgers

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It was the guaranteed worst game of the season until it was the best. The Giants took their second straight game against the Dodgers, and they did it in a way you can't possibly forget.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants might win their fourth World Series in seven years. Confetti might fall from the skyscrapers above Market Street, and the even-year mythology will be strong enough for the NSA to get involved. Or the season might end like most seasons end, with a bucket of perfect hindsight where a championship should be.

And yet if you watched this game, you'll remember it. You'll smile. In the middle of a December storm, in the middle of a suffocating 13-inning game against the Padres, while you're in hour two of a three-hour dental repair, you'll think about the time the Giants were getting no-hit until they weren't. You'll think about Dave Roberts making the completely impossible, damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't decision to pull a recent Tommy John survivor in the middle of a no-hitter. You'll think about Trevor Brown -- Trevor Brown -- hitting his first major league home run at the absolutely perfect time, breaking up a no-hitter and tying the game.

And you'll think about Brandon Crawford getting a walk-off homer against Joe Blanton, friend of the program.

It doesn't matter what happened before or what will happen after. You'll remember this game. It was that transcendent. It was the Easter egg that you usually have to dig through an entire season to find, and that's if you're lucky enough to find one at all. Here, then, is a third-act twist that makes sense, a no-hitter that wasn't, and a walk-off homer against the Dodgers.

The last time the Giants hit a walk-off homer, it was in the National League Championship Series, don't you know. I'm not drunk enough on hyperbole to draw a comparison to that one, but it's hard to imagine a regular season home run that was more satisfying than this. The best part might be that Brown's homer will be the one that sticks in the collective consciousness, even though it wasn't even the walk-off homer that won the game. It was just the homer that said, nope, the Dodgers aren't getting the no-hitter. Nope, the Giants can still win. And, nope, no one in Los Angeles will be allowed to talk about anything else other than Dave Roberts pulling a rookie in the middle of a no-hitter.

Then Brandon Crawford hit the first walk-off homer against the Dodgers since Guillermo Quiroz. That was also quite joyous.

While I enjoyed poking fun at poor Ross Stripling's fate because of the hat he was wearing, there's no shame in acknowledging just how well he pitched. Jeff Kellogg was giving Stripling an inch and he was taking it expertly. That's not a complaint; that's a tip of the cap. His curveball made a lineup filled with excellent hitters look foolish. And every so often, he'd mix in a change at the perfect time.

I guess if you're going to get no-hit, make it a story. No one cares about the Kevin Millwood no-hitter except the Millwood family, but a rookie making his major league debut? It's like giving up a 500-foot homer. Way better than one that bounces off the top of the fence.

Or, alternatively, don't get no-hit at all.

The last homer Brown hit in professional baseball was also a doozy -- a walk-off homer with two outs -- and I'll bet that felt mighty good. But this probably feels a teensy bit better. The Giants didn't have a hit, and then Trevor Brown got his first major league home run. It's a good story if they're losing 10-0. It's one of the best stories you'll ever see, read, or hear when it leads to the entire Dodgers universe wondering what in the hell just happened.

* * *

I wouldn't have pulled Stripling. But I'm also a fool. There's a health-related argument to make for pulling him (he's a recent TJ patient, he was at 100 pitches after not going longer than five innings in spring training). There's a strategic argument for pulling him. He absolutely did not look sharp on the walk to Angel Pagan before the Brown homer. A tired, wet pitcher who hadn't been stretched out in the spring, coming down on the back end of an adrenaline high after his first major league start? Yeah, I'm skeptical, too.

Part of me keeps Stripling in the game just because this might be his best chance at something special. A bigger part of me keeps him in because I know what decision is going to make me look sillier if it backfires.

So say this about Dave Roberts: He might or might not be an improvement on Don Mattingly, but he's not afraid to look silly if it means doing what he thinks is the right thing.

The most important part is that it happened to the Dodgers.

* * *

The Dodgers' night, in one Vine:

* * *

My favorite part about the Brown homer is that he stumbled out of the box.

No, hold on, my favorite parts were that it tied the game, broke up a no-hitter, and led to an improbable Giants win. My fourth favorite part was that it was his first major league homer. My fifth favorite part is that it was so danged unlikely. My sixth favorite part was that the Dodgers are probably worried about their bullpen right now. My ...

Okay, it's a top-20 component of the dinger. He slipped. You wait a lifetime for that moment, and you slip. I can relate. You can relate. Sports are fun.

I like sports!

* * *

Matt Cain was the biggest story heading into the game, a human-interest story obvious enough to make me consider a prewritten all-purpose lede about how much I'm rooting for him this year. Like almost no Giants player in recent memory, I'm pulling for Cain. He was around in the dark years. He was around in the darker years. And he was very much around and involved in the bright, sparkly years. I want him to succeed this season more than I want Barry Bonds to come back and hit 74 home runs as a 50-something.

Yeah, we're not messing around. Matt Cain doing swell things would make us all very happy.

The early returns: good. Quite good. There was an iffy inning, where fastballs stayed up and balls were hit hard, but the Dodgers rarely looked comfortable at the plate. There were swings and check swings. The hump in the breaking ball was gone, and the fastball went where it was supposed to more often than not.

There's work to do. But Cain -- still two games under .500 for his career, which is a stat that makes me want to punch a camel right in the nose out of pure rage -- didn't get the loss. He didn't deserve the loss. On another night, he would have deserved that old-timey win.

He'll have to settle for looking pretty okay after a slow start to the spring. The funny thing is that it's almost like he's learning how to pitch again. The kid with the rosy cheeks who arrived fully formed in the majors as a 20-year-old, who did things we never could have dreamed, is trying to rewire the pitching part of his brain to adjust to the surgeries. So far, so good.

* * *

I still can't feel my toes.

* * *

This wasn't the first time the Giants won a game by scoring three or more runs on two hits or fewer:

Date Tm Opp Rslt
1983-09-05 SFG CIN W 3-2
1974-04-19 SFG LAD W 5-4
1914-06-20 NYG CIN W 7-2

It was just the best time.

* * *

A complete list of walk-off homers against the Dodgers, not including Brandon Crawford*.

Date Batter Opp Pitcher Score
1959-05-26 Leon Wagner LAD Art Fowler down 4-2
1961-08-18 Orlando Cepeda LAD Larry Sherry tied 1-1
1970-05-28 Dick Dietz LAD Jim Brewer tied 3-3
1973-08-04 Tito Fuentes LAD Jim Brewer tied 2-2
1973-09-03 Bobby Bonds LAD Jim Brewer down 8-7
1992-07-28 Will Clark LAD Roger McDowell tied 3-3
1997-09-18 Brian Johnson LAD Mark Guthrie tied 5-5
2000-07-02 Marvin Benard LAD Mike Fetters tied 5-5
2007-09-07 Daniel Ortmeier LAD Jonathan Broxton tied 4-4
2009-08-12 Juan Uribe LAD Guillermo Mota tied 2-2
2013-05-03 Buster Posey LAD Ronald Belisario tied 1-1
2013-05-04 Guillermo Quiroz LAD Brandon League tied 9-9

* 4/8/2016