It's rare for a team to win a 1-0 game. Even in a pitcher's park, even if the team has a rotation of the gods, it's just hard to limit the other team to absolutely nothing while stumbling into just a single run in your at-bats. Evidence: In the Giants' championship season of 2014, they didn't have a single 1-0 win. Either they scored too many runs, or the other team could at least get a single runner across the plate. It's hard.
So it might not surprise you that it's rare for a team to win 1-0 with the starting pitcher driving in the only run. The last time the Giants won like this, it was 2000, and they were the best team in baseball. Russ Ortiz pitched seven strong, walking just one (!), and he also drove in J.T. Snow for the only run of the game. He drove the run in against Jamey Wright, and please don't tell me if Wright isn't on a team right now. I'm happier assuming he is, forever and always.
That's what Madison Bumgarner just did. He did an every-two-decades kind of thing, where he supplied the entire offense of the game and pitched his septums out at the same time. Except he did it with more aplomb. Instead of seven strong, he went 7⅔ strong. Instead of a single with two strikes, he roped a double with two strikes. Instead of everyone thinking, golly, look what Russ Ortiz just did, everyone thought, yep, that's Madison Bumgarner, destroyer of hearts. He'll double every now and again. Just like that.
The Giants weren't supposed to win the series against the Cubs. They had the 4-5-1 lined up against their 1-2-3, and it seemed plausible that the Cubs would abscond with the Arrieta and Lester games, while leaving the crumbs of the Bumgarner/Hendricks game for us paupers to fight over. Except Matt Cain out-pitched Jon Lester, which led to a rubber match that was sproingier than most rubber matches. The Giants had their ace on the mound. The Cubs had a solid pitcher. It seemed like, inexplicably after the Peavy/Cain start to the series, that the Giants had the advantage. They were actually going to take the series.
And then Madison Bumgarner was in the top of the first, 25 pitches deep, with the bases loaded and in trouble.
Show of hands, how many of you were confident in the Giants taking the series at that point? Even if Bumgarner wriggled his way out of the jam, he would have been around 30 pitches, which gave him five, maaaaybe six innings, tops. It would have been George Kontos in the fifth or sixth, a mish-mash of matchup pitchers after that, maybe with some Albert Suarez mixed in. Is that how you expect the Giants to win a one-run game? A low-scoring game? Any game at all?
No, you do not.
That's when Bumgarner found his arm slot or his rhythm or mechanics or, heck, make up your own euphemism. That's when Bumgarner wrassled his gecko or squarked his superego. It's all the same from here. He was an ace again, and suddenly it was the Cubs who were in trouble. The Cubs have won all of the games this season, give or take. Do you know how rare it is for them to lose a series this year? I'll tell you. Here are the only times the Cubs have lost a series in 2016:
- Rockies, at Wrigley
- Padres, at Wrigley
- Brewers, at Miller Park
- Giants, at AT&T Park
Oh. Well, that's not the Murderer's Row that I was expecting. Still, look at that last team. The Giants! The Giants have won 10 of 11, even though they haven't scored more than five runs in three weeks. The Giants hosted the best team in baseball with their respective rotations all cattywampus, and they still took two games. It was an obstacle to overcome that they haven't been presented with in a while, and they fared remarkably well.
Just imagine if they had to face Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, he scoffed, real cocky-like.
I'm not sure if this series really proved anything, but it certainly didn't disprove anything. The Giants were rolling coming into their series with the Cubs, and it was easy for the cynical mind to think, pfft, well it all stops here.
Instead, the Giants won the series. They've won their last three series, starting with a seven-game sweep of a road trip and moving on to a series win against the hottest team in baseball.
It's been 15 games since the Giants scored more than five runs, which shouldn't be that hard to do, but it doesn't matter. Ever since the Blue Jays sent the Giants a baseball-game gift card, which allowed them to have a free game, the Giants have been the hottest team in baseball.
The Giants have been the hottest team in baseball for weeks, now. At least two weeks, that is. And even though the Dodgers salvaged a game against the Padres, they needed 17 innings to do it.
I'm not sure if this is the high point of the season. It's not overly cynical to consider the possibility, at least. Just consider that it might be, and appreciate this win that much more. The Giants were winning before the Cubs came into town. They're still winning when the Cubs are leaving town.
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In a game where the starting pitcher drives in the only run, there aren't a lot of offensive heroes to call out. The pitcher was awesome. The rest of the team was [flat-palmed shaky hand] ehhhh, but the pitcher was awesome.
Except those players all caught the ball mighty fine. Here's Matt Duffy, magnificent defender:
Here's Brandon Crawford, Gold Glover:
Here's Buster Posey, should-be Gold Glover:
Here's Denard Span, ingratiating himself to the AT&T faithful:
It was one of the cleanest defensive games in recent memory. No, it was more than that. It was a clean defensive game, multiplied by the unlikely above-average plays, divided by squeeeeeeee. The Giants can't field any better than that. The game started with Madison Bumgarner making the worst play of any Giants fielder, and that play ended with one of the best plays of any Giants fielder. Brandon Belt scooped out the save, and the tone was set.
* * *
When the game started, I was so annoyed with the ESPN ticker at the bottom of the screen, which was guaranteed to ruin the Warriors game I was trying to record.
When the game was over, I made out with the ESPN ticker for several reasons. Thank you, ESPN ticker. I have a night to myself, now.
* * *
The Giants have won 10 games out of their last 11. That seems like a lot.