The first thing to remember is that the Brewers aren’t really that bad. They were over .500 in May, and they were riding a mini-winning streak when they came into AT&T Park. Jonathan Villar, Ryan Braun, and Jonathan Lucroy are all hitting better than any non-Belt on the Giants. They’ve been enjoying some calm, steady seasons from a couple starters, including Jimmy Nelson before Wednesday. If you were expecting the Braves with vertigo, you were expecting the wrong team.
The second thing to remember is, boy, the Brewers sure played awful baseball while they were in San Francisco. They had four errors in the finale, and that doesn’t include the plays they just couldn’t quite make all series. The bare-handers that weren’t, the feet that just came off first base. The Giants won the series fair and diamond-shaped, don’t get me wrong. But the Brewers made sure it wasn’t very close most of the time.
The third thing to remember is that the Giants were supposed to hit. That was supposed to be their strength, their path to the NL West. They were well above average last year, he wrote for the 40th time, and even if you weren’t expecting Joe Panik to be an All-Star while Matt Duffy contended for yet another award, they were still supposed to be a functional, cohesive bunch that didn’t let the opposing pitchers rest.
The last month or so has, even with a winning stretch mixed in, made us forget that. It’s so easy to get used to Matt Duffy as a glove-first slider-chaser, or Buster Posey as Just Another Guy. That’s because a) we’re spoiled and b) the fangs of recency bias pierce deep into our brains. And maybe that’s all the case. It’s possible that this is a below-average lineup that needs Ryan Braun to ride in on a white horse and save us all.
Computer, show me Ryan Braun on a white horse.
I ... that’s oddly prescient. Thank you, computer.
But it’s also possible that this is a lineup that doesn't need a lot of help. Wednesday’s game was the perfect evidence for the lineup isolationists among us, the folks who think that the hitters will come around. Consider ...
Joe Panik had three hits, a walk, and a sacrifice, swinging as well as we’re used to, spraying the balls to all fields. Would you believe his batting average on balls in play was .270 coming into the game, a cool 60 points below his career mark and below the modest projections of ZiPS and steamer? Of course you would. You watched it happen. Well, now he’s ticked off. In a very polite, Joe Panik way.
Buster Posey is in the middle of one of those stretches where pitchers sigh deeply when they see him come up. Jimmy Nelson walked the bases loaded before Posey came up in the third. He sighed deeply, then attempted to figure out what he was supposed to do.
Matt Duffy had three hits, bouncing back from a forgettable Tuesday, and one of his outs was loud, too. When his OPS gets to .800, you get a free pizza from Mountain Mike’s. Call them, they’ll tell you.
Angel Pagan is back, and apparently there isn’t a player who likes to announce "I’M HEALLLLLTHY" quite like him. His swing from the left side was purty, and that’s important, considering that most of his damage over the last two years has been from the right side.
Jarrett Parker had a hit and two walks, boosting his overall numbers dramatically. It’s easy to look at the raw numbers for him (and Mac Williamson) and say "Meh," but don't forget it’s basically April 25 for them from a statistical standpoint. Do you remember how much you didn’t care about a player’s season stats on April 25, except in the most extreme examples? Exactly.
Ramiro Peña roped an RBI single, and his OPS is now .666. You might not think that’s notable, but it allows me to embed an Iron Maiden video, so I beg to differ.
Maybe Peña and, to a lesser extent, Parker don't count. But you get the idea. Don’t think of the Brewers as some sort of subterranean team that’s never heard of baseball before. Think of the Giants of a team that was supposed to hit, and are actually getting around to it, if a month or so later than hoped.
On that note, the 2016 Giants have scored 10 runs or more in as many games (6) as the 2012 Giants. The 2014 Giants are one away.
Coming for you, 2014.
* * *
The fifth thing you have to remember is that Johnny Cueto is an incomparable badass. It honestly makes me sicker and sicker to think about how against his signing you were.
Cueto struck out nine, allowed a walk, scattered some hits, and generally reaffirmed that the Giants don't necessarily have a #1 and a #2. They have a pair of #1s, and the Brewers are right to be disgruntled that they had to see them both.
At some point, Cueto will go into his full windup, and when he reaches the point where he’s supposed to released the ball, he’ll have a bouquet of flowers in his hand instead. You’ll clap and titter, and then he’ll reach through the screen or into the stands to give you the bouquet. You’ll be speechless, but that’s okay. Johnny Cueto doesn’t need to hear your gratitude; he can read it on your face.
Until then, this is the next best thing:
Has he ever practiced that? Maybe. Did he know that he was doing it when he stepped back to start his motion? Maybe. I prefer to think of him just making crap up as he goes along, a jazz musician who doesn't care about what his peers are doing. If he’s not the funnest pitcher to watch on the team, he’s at least tied.
The Giants are 12-2 in Johnny Cueto starts. If that colors your thinking, well, good. That’s supposed to happen.