We’ll get to the Casilla conundrum in a bit. There will be Cueto kudos, Kershaw cussing, and maybe even a bit on Belt bunts. For right now, though, I would like to point out that the Dodgers used two pitchers in a one-run game. These two pitchers are the best in baseball at their respective jobs. Yet the Giants hit three different balls from the seventh inning on that were a couple of feet from being home runs.
And then the Dodgers hit a wall-scraper to win. We should be talking about the unlikely home runs to the deepest part of the yard, not the wall-scrapers.
My grandpappy used to sit me down decades ago and say, "Now, listen, boy. Sometimes the seagulls just aren't fartin’ your way. You hear me? The seagulls can’t fart in the right direction all the time. You gotta remember that" and then they would sedate him and I would eat the Jello cup. But now it makes sense. He was trying to warn us. Some coordinated seagull toots, and the Giants would have made this a much more exciting game. He saw this coming.
I’m so sorry, Grampy.
Yet another game in which it was worse to have loved the outcome you were expecting than to have never loved an outcome at all. If the Dodgers blow it open in the first, we’ve made our peace with the game hours ago. The game started in an incredibly dumb fashion, with Johnny Cueto hitting Chase Utley, a 30-foot dribble hit, a chintzy balk, and two runs before Clayton Kershaw even pitched. I ate a beer can out of pure rage just thinking about it. Oh, that’s gonna smart tomorrow. But if Adrian Gonzalez hit homer into the water, the grieving would have started immediately.
Note on how dumb this game was: Chase Utley was hit with baseballs twice, and neither of them hurt.
We had hope. That was the worst part. The Giants tied the game when their best player hit a long double against their best player, and everything seemed normal. All they had to do was hold the Dodgers scoreless in the top of the ninth, and Clayton Kershaw was about to be relieved by Joe Blanton.
Oh, man, he is such a gift to Giants lore. Unless I’m getting him confused with Jonathan Broxton. Look, the Giants do very well against Jon-tons. Keep that in mind.
And then Santiago Casilla blew the game.
Well, say there, I guess we should talk about that.
* * *
Santiago Casilla has given up runs in three of his four June outings. The Giants have lost all three games directly because of it. Do not adjust the settings on your rage. Everything’s coming in just as it should.
I’ve been defending Casilla all over the place. I defended him on TV on Thursday night. I defended him on the radio on Friday afternoon. I defended him on the Internet from 2010-2016. Whenever the grumblebunnies get too loud, I’m always there with a well-actually from the heart.
Here’s why: He’s technically having his best season as a Giant. You know he allowed two runs in May, right? Of the 14 games he appeared in last month, the Giants won 14 of them. That’s after two runs in April, too. So for his first 22 games of the season, he was scoreless in 18 of them, and the Giants won 20 of them. That’s what Trevor Hoffman did, basically, except he did it for 15 years and now he’s getting Hall of Fame votes.
Casilla is missing more bats than ever. He’s walking fewer batters than has in any season but 2014, which was the only season out of the last six that his WHIP was lower, too. You don’t want to make snap judgments based on three or four bad outings in a row. That makes you less than a smart baseball fan. It makes you a rookie blackjack player, who keeps betting because you don’t understand the law of averages.
But, mmmm-hmmm, he’s in between useful periods right now. He’s been awful, and the Giants need to explore a change.
With whom, though? I guess they could go with the reliever with the highest strikeout rate ... nope, that’s Casilla. They could go with the reliever with the lowest WHIP, which would be Cory Gearrin, but can you really guarantee that he’s a better option? So move to the next best, which is Casilla. If you’re tired of him, just wait until you’re digging Hunter Strickland against left-handed hitters without a Javier Lopez safety valve.
Maybe the correct answer is someone from outside the organization. But the Giants would probably have to start a package for Andrew Miller with Matt Duffy at this point. They don’t have the prospect ammunition to elbow their way into the conversation. They’re ordering burgers at the Fernando Rodney café. And if you think that will be less frustrating than watching Casilla over the last few games, you don't know Fernando Rodney. Call it the Giants Bullpen Calvary Paradox: If they can afford a reliever, he’s probably not going to lower your blood pressure in late-and-close situations.
But, mmmm-hmmm, Casilla’s killing the Giants right now. Call it bad timing or bad luck. Call it a lack of focus, or a lack of stuff, or a lack of youth, whatever. His pockets are full of June swoon, though, and he’s passing the stuff out like they’re hard candies. That’s three gut punches over his last four appearances. That’s like the Mike Trout of closers, just in the wrong way.
Casilla’s start to June probably cost the Giants some of their best prospects. Don’t sleep on how clever these swoons can be. They’re playing chess, and you have your finger stuck in the Connect Four board. June swoons will take your prospects, too.
* * *
I appreciate that Brandon Belt doesn’t want to capitulate fully to Clayton Kershaw. There’s pride involved. It’s a Texas high school pride thing. One minute Belt has his first career hit against Kershaw, and the next he’s 3-for-45 against him with a squillion strikeouts. The pendulum just has to swing back the other way, and he’ll be 9-for-12, and then that will be a thing. Baseball, man.
Except, no. The Dodgers were shifting against Belt all night with a one-run lead. Just bunt. JUST BUNT. TAKE THE SINGLE AGAINST CLAYTON KERSHAW.
There was an at-bat where Belt didn’t strike out. He hit a ball into the shift. The Dodgers were saying, "Here, take this single" and he was like, "No, that’s okay, I’m going to hit a single! Aw, bananas, you took my single away."
Bunt. Practice it. Go home and get some bunts in. Bunt.
* * *
And then there was the inning where the Giants had a runner on third base with one out. All it would take was a fly ball. All it would take was a slowly hit chopper. All it would take was a broken bat, a grounder deep in the hole, a wild pitch, a balk, a double play that couldn’t be turned. All it would take was a little luck and a ball put in play.
That’s when Jarrett Parker stepped to the plate against Clayton Freaking Kershaw.
This isn't to slam Parker. He has a bright future in some capacity, and he’s not within a parsec of the starting lineup if the Giants are healthy. He was put in a horrible position. It’s like someone throwing me a wrench and yelling, "FIX THIS MUSTANG, THE TRANSMISSION IS SCREWED, HURRY." That transmission isn't getting fixed. And Parker isn't hitting Kershaw.
Reminder: If you extrapolated Parker’s Triple-A strikeout rate over a full 162-game season, he would shatter the Giants’ single-season strikeout record. That’s his Triple-A rate. There aren’t a lot of Kershaws in Triple-A.
That meant you had the best strikeout pitcher in baseball against one of the sketchiest contact hitters in baseball in a situation where a strikeout was murder.
Kershaw is basically a murderer. You read it here first.
Valued Twitter user Michael Erler wondered why the Giants didn’t squeeze. I’ll admit, I didn’t think of it. But, yeah, why didn’t they squeeze? It’s not like anyone was holding out hope for a Parker splash hit in that situation. Team Squeeze in that situation, now and forever.
* * *
Deep breaths. Johnny Cueto is still a beautiful man. He pitched fantastically. He deserved to win, deserved some sort of reward for matching Kershaw inning-for-inning like that.
He’s still on the team. He’s still on our side. Deep breaths.
You know, if the Royals drafted Kershaw instead of Luke Hochevar, maybe the Giants don't win in 2014. Think about it. And now think about how glad you are to have Cueto.