And it all started with a ninth-inning single from Conor Gillaspie.
We'll get to Jake Peavy's best start of the season. Buster Posey is a hero and a write-in candidate for every election until you die. Hunter Pence's homer was unexpected and completely welcome. Denard Span had four hits and got on base in every one of his plate appearances. But it's been awhile since we could ride around on our unicycles and honk the even-year horn. Nothing makes me want to do that more than Conor Gillaspie getting the pinch-hit in the ninth inning that leads to a Giants win in 2016.
Eight years ago, Gillaspie was a first-round pick who fell into the Giants' lap. The Giants drafted a catcher or something with their first-round pick in 2008, but with their compensatory first-rounder (for losing Pedro Feliz!), they picked up a polished left-handed hitter who wasn't supposed to need a lot of development. It felt like a metaphor. The wild, powerful, hacking Feliz out; the controlled, professional, beyond-his-years hitter in.
Gillaspie was so polished that when the negotiations grew a little contentious, the Giants were fine adding him to the 40-man roster as a concession. Whatever. It's not like he wasn't going to be there in a year or two.
And then he wasn't. He stalled and stumbled and stalled, and the Giants eventually traded him for a random, 95-mph lottery ticket when he was out of options. Gillaspie had a nice season for the White Sox once, but there was a reason he was available to the Giants as a minor-league free agent.
What I'm getting at is here's Gillaspie and Travis Ishikawa appearing in the same game in 2008, okay? This stuff is like Game of Thrones and you have to keep up with all the minor characters, you fool. You don't care about the Freys until you're forced to.
I don't know if Gillaspie is a left-handed bat that deserves to be on any bench in baseball, or if he's just a guy with five hits in 19 at-bats, which can happen to anyone, pitchers included. But I do know he's a former forgotten Giant who came back and reminded us he existed. The Giants have had good luck with those types.
* * *
Okay, now back to Jake Peavy, who threw six innings and allowed four baserunners (not including errors). Let's check in with all of Peavy's games in 2016 to see when the fourth baserunner reached:
- 1st start, second inning (7th batter of the game)
- 2nd start, second inning (8th batter)
- 3rd start, second inning (6th batter)
- 4th start, third inning (11th batter)
- 5th start, third inning (10th batter)
- 6th start, second inning (7th batter)
- 7th start, first inning (6th batter)
That's not an encouraging start to a baseball season. The worst on-base percentage up there was the .363 mark to the first 11 batters in Peavy's fourth start. Runners were getting on early and often, even in the best starts of his season.
Here, we have a paucity of runners. Most of the damage on Saturday was done by a Matt Duffy error that could have been an inning-ending double play. I'm pretty sure that Peavy could go to Nick Ahmed's house and strike him out right now. There were hurdles, and Peavy overcame them. So is he back? Are the Giants officially calling off the search for help?
Also, that's Bobby Evans in that suit in this metaphor. Just so you know.
Anyway, let's not get nutty with Peavy just yet. He was excellent for the Giants in 2014. He was excellent for the Giants in the second half of 2015. But let's not allow one start out of eight color our thinking. The ERA is still at 7.43, which reminds me of just how many horrors we had to sit through to get here. Even in Saturday night's game, I felt like there were a lot of pitches without hope or meaning -- 0-1 sliders thrown a foot outside, wasting the advantage of being ahead in the count.
It's possible, if not likely, that I'm being too hard on him. There are still cells in my brain that remember him being annoying with the Padres. I blame those cells.
But, for now, it was nothing more than a nice start from an unexpected source. Peavy wasn't quite as bad as this at the start of last season, but he found a rhythm that would be more than welcome this season. It's still possible that he can find it again, and we'll all be in the six-inning-quality-start jackpot.
* * *
Think of all the things going against the Giants with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth. The Giants had scored only two runs all year in the ninth -- one when they were leading by two against the worst bullpen of all-time, and one when they were down by three against the worst bullpen of all-time. They don't do dramatic comebacks in the ninth.
Now add that to Buster Posey's recent struggles. Posey has been a Chris Stewart clone for the last two weeks or so, where there are several things to appreciate, and several more that make you say, damn, I wish this cat could hit. So we have Posey struggling in the ninth, when the Giants don't score a lot.
Oh, and also, Posey didn't have a hit in five plate appearances with the bases loaded this year.
Oh, and also, Daniel Hudson hadn't allowed a hit to a right-handed batter in 27 at-bats this year.
Add it all up, and you have the baseball gods saying, okay, this is just too much ridiculous to handle. There are too many fluky things happening at once. Tilt. So the baseball gods did the only thing they knew how to do. They sent a baseball into the pool people.
I'm not sure what I love most. Is it the oblivious bartender, who was behind the bar looking for ... things ... to avoid the crowd of pool people who weren't there? Is it the inexplicable high-five, as if to say, "I hella got off that stool, did you see that?" Is it the tank-topped wizard who tells the ball to stay where it is with a demonstrative hand gesture? Is it the fact that there's a pool in a ballpark in the first place?
Whenever I get mad at the pool, I think, "I'll bet that would have really pissed Ty Cobb off." And then I'm totally okay with it.
Regardless, Buster Posey was due to win a game for the Giants. So he did it. Yeah, that's how this stupid game is supposed to work.
* * *
I can't embed Hunter Pence's 200th career homer in here because that would allow you to watch a baseball highlight, and Major League Baseball can't just have highlights flying around the Internet, all willy-nilly. That's not how you get people interested in things these days. I totally get it.
So trust me, it was a delightful home run. Pence reached down and hooked an awkwardly beautiful swing, just like we've watched him do so many times in the past.
It was his 69th career home run with the Giants, mind you. It was nice timing. From a nice player. In a nice game.