Whatever has been frustrating you about the 2016 Giants, it’s been frustrating the Dodgers just a little bit more. You’re worried about the back of the Giants’ rotation? Well, the Dodgers are just a little more worried about the back of their rotation. Worried about the lineup? Well, they’re just a little more worried. Worried about the bullpen? You get the idea.
The evidence supporting this hypothesis is that the Dodgers are five games behind the Giants in the National League West.
The Giants won their first series of June, defeating the Dodgers, 2-1, in front of a national audience. It was an ESPN game, which is usually death. It was a Jake Peavy game, which was death earlier in the season, for sure. The combination of the two made it seem like a foregone conclusion. If you put licorice and cilantro into the blender, you probably aren’t getting a delicious smoothie on the other side.
Well, look at that. Jake Peavy wasn’t exactly dominant, but he allowed exactly zero runs and five runners over six innings, despite having a neck that was stiff enough to keep Albert Suarez on standby. It's now possible to move the goalposts wherever you want and allow your predetermined analysis to sail through. Over his last seven starts, he has a 3.36 ERA. Once his BABIP came down to normal levels, he stopped getting chased after two innings. If you take out the back-to-back starts where he allowed a combined 13 runs, why, he’s having a marvelous season.
The counterargument is that Peavy's ERA for the season is still 5.83.
That's not good, no, but the FIP is down to 4.14, which at leasts suggests that the Peavy we’re seeing right now isn't a mirage. He’ll get hit at times, like he did against the Cardinals. He’ll have games like this, where teams want to go back to the hotel room and defenestrate everything that isn’t screwed into the furniture. There won’t be a lot of seven- or eight-inning outings mixed in. Or any at all.
It’s the Peavy the Giants enjoyed in the last four months of the 2015 season. It’s the Peavy they were hoping for this year. He’s probably here to help, even if you’ll still grumble when the ineffective starts sprout up like crabgrass. We can all live with and love this Peavy.
Two important assists stand out. First, from Mac Williamson:
That was a very bad left fielder away from being 1-0. It was a below-average left fielder away from being first and third, one out. I don’t know if Peavy hears the peavygrumbles cascading down from the stands, but they would have been there if he chose to notice. The here-we-go-again would have been palpable in the first inning of a rubber match against the Dodgers, who are objectively dumb.
The second important assist came from A.J. Ellis, who grounded into his second brutal double play in as many games. Joc Pederson ripped the first pitch he saw in the inning for a single. Howie Kendrick worked a six-pitch walk. There was no way the score was going to remain 0-0. We’re too Peavy-wizened to be that optimistic.
But do you know who’s having a rougher season than Peavy? Ellis. He’s one of the Dodgers I respect the most, don't get me wrong, but he’s been the Peavy of backup catchers this season, right down to part where they just turned 35 and you can’t expect everything to fix itself. Here’s the pitch he grounded to second:
It was a 1-1 curveball, but still. If you’re not looking breaking ball, you’re taking it. If you’re looking breaking ball, you’re crushing it. If you’re caught in the middle because you're making it up as you go along, you nudge it to second base. It almost made me feel bad for him.
But it’s silly to credit Williamson too much for what he did, or blame Dodgers hitters too much for what they didn’t do. The end result is that Peavy pitched well, the Giants won, and we get to appreciate efforts like this:
Wait, have we noticed that Jake Peavy looks like Jason Newsted, former Metallica bassist?
Pretty sure I’m the first person to notice this.
Okay, Mancrushes.com was there first, but I was there second. At least the top 27,222 or so. You gotta believe me. Either way, it was a great game. Peavy pitched well, and the Giants gained a game on the Dodgers.
They’re five games up, you know.
* * *
Hello. I am the person who once wrote this:
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.
It would seem as if I would be the wrong person to laugh at Adrian Gonzalez for bunting in the ninth inning against Javier Lopez. Except there are very important differences!
- Clayton Kershaw is Clayton Kershaw, and he is forever picking bits of Brandon Belt in his teeth.
- Javier Lopez is struggling this season. Evidence supporting this is that he walked Adrian Gonzalez in a high-leverage situation 24 hours ago.
- There was no shift on.
- Belt has average speed. Gonzalez has average speed for a baseball player who’s dragging a teammate who fell down during a three-legged race.
Add it up, and it was absolutely hilarious that Gonzalez was trying to bunt in the ninth inning of a one-run game. Please, try that again! If it works, and the Dodgers get the tying run on base, that’s a good ol’ fashioned aw-shucks. There are about six dozen ways it doesn’t work, though, and all of them are funny.
* * *
The Giants just took a series against the Dodgers in which they faced three left-handed pitchers. One of those pitchers was Clayton Kershaw. In all three games, they had five left-handed starters.
Five! If Bruce Bochy is ever audited by a left-handed IRS agent, he’s firing his right-handed tax attorney to hire a left-handed one, so you know it has to kill him to put that many left-handed hitters in a starting lineup against tough lefties.
Except, who are you going to sit? Brandon Belt? Nah, he’s pretty solid against lefties not named Kershaw. Brandon Crawford? Same. Joe Panik? Same. Denard Span? Same.
This is the Giants. They have left-handed hitters. You probably shouldn’t mess with them. It’s how they're built. And while it’s tough to call a two-run night a roaring success, the win was built on the backs of two left-handers. Panik hit a solid single against Julio Urias. Brandon Belt hit a bomb. Two left-handers beat a left-hander, just like two wrongs make a right.
Or how Jake Peavy and Sunday night make for a nice, calm Giants victory.
And now we’ve come full circle.
Regardless, my point was that the Giants are a lineup that makes platoons mostly irrelevant, especially when Hunter Pence is healthy, even as they’re featuring a bullpen where platoons are the most important thing in the world. It’s a weird dynamic.
The Giants beat LA, and they're five games up. Just yesterday, in the bottom of the 10th inning, it looked like they were in danger of being swept. Thank you for being gentle in this series, June. Much obliged.