After Tuesday night, there will have been 1,063 baseball games in the 2016 Major League Baseball season. One of them had a no-hitter. One of them featured one of the unlikeliest comebacks in baseball history. One of them featured a pitcher hitting a home run against Clayton Kershaw. All sorts of unlikely things can happen in a sample of 1,063 baseball games. In this particular contest, the Giants got 22 hits, which is more than any other team has had in a game this season.
Or, to put it another way, the last time the Giants had more hits in a game, Ryan Jensen pitched a complete game in Coors Field and Tsuyoshi Shinjo was 5-for-6.
Or, to put it another way, wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee! That was fun, let’s go again, can we go again, that was fun. I usually don’t buy the picture they take right as the rollie coaster is dropping, but look at the face I’m making, that was so much fun, let’s go again.
Last night’s hero was a random backup catcher who hit a half-court shot just over the outstretched arms of Angel Pagan. He pitched an inning — an incredibly entertaining inning — in this game. Every Giants starter had a hit. Jarrett Parker and Ramiro Pena came in to give the starters a rest, and they were a combined 4-for-4. Everything worked, and the team was 9-for-22 with runners with scoring position.
I see a hand up. You, in the back!
Hi, thanks for taking my call. Long-time scroll-straight-to-the-commentser, first-time caller. Anyways, uh, I don’t see why you should be entirely, 100-percent happy. Wouldn’t the Giants have been better off if they could have put a few of those runs in a .ZIP file and emailed it back to last night? Seems like a waste to get all of those two-out hits in a game like this.
Good question! On the surface, yes, there should be a little eye roll when you think about the Giants losing 1-0 the night before they set an MLB season high in hits. Oh, baseball.
However, the baseball gods are striking a hard bargain. In exchange for four runs and eight hits from this game going into Monday night’s game, the Giants will also have to accept Conor Gillaspie’s dadaist error and a meltdown from an eighth-inning reliever.
Also, Javier Lopez will come in and face three lefties in Monday night’s game, except when he walks those first two, it’s a tie game, and there’s a different home plate umpire, one who might not be suffering from snow blindness when Gregory Polanco comes up.
I withdraw the question.
Don’t woulda-coulda this away because they lost 1-0 on Monday night. The Giants won a game so handily, the other team said screw it and let their backup catcher pitch. They scored more runs than they did all season — really, they can go years without scoring 15 runs — and they got more hits than any team has this year.
The Giants have won 9 of their last 10 games. In their last win, they annihilated the other team. That was fun. Can we go again?
* * *
I have an untestable theory that in every game, there’s a game like this ready to break out. It just takes the right sequence — guessing a five-character password, really. Not likely, but not impossible. In a 0-0 game, Brandon Crawford came up with the bases loaded and no outs. With a strikeout and a ground ball from Angel Pagan, I would have had to learn the name of the pitcher for the Pirates.
Can you imagine? I mean, he seems like a nice guy, but that wasn’t on my to-do list before the game, and I sure as heck didn’t want to adapt to a new situation.
Instead, Brandon Crawford had an 11-pitch at-bat that felt like a 17-pitch at-bat. Let’s take a gander at the pitch sequence:
Exactly one clear strike, but Crawford wasn’t necessarily picking up Pirates Pitcher that well. It was a heroic struggle, the kind of battle that bards would have sang about in 100 years if it weren’t just a June game against the Pirates. It led to a walk, and you could feel the pitcher deflate.
Here, as long as we have the ol’ GIFs folder open, let’s just make a GIF of what that must have felt like:
The next pitch was a 90-mile-per-hour sinker right at the bottom of the strike zone — almost a perfect pitch for the situation, really! — but Angel Pagan was able to sit one speed and a general location. Something fast, something down the middle. Within two pitches, a 0-0 struggle became a 5-0 game, and with Johnny Cueto on the mound, that’s basically a blowout.
Pagan gets most of the credit because he’s the dude who hit the ball over the fence, which was certainly the biggest hit of the game. Here, watch a grand slam:
Stay healthy, shaggy-haired dynamo. And check that perfect call from Duane Kuiper! Don’t forget that because Pagan hit a Papa Slam, everybody gets 40 percent off a Papa John’s pizza tomorrow if they use the code "PAPASLAM." This remind me of one of my favorite paragraphs of all time, from David Roth:
Let's leave aside the quality of the product that Papa John is selling, if only because it's easy to get sidetracked discussing things like The Big Wheezer Family Deal or specialty pizzas like the Nature's Mistake or the Buffalo Chicken Weep Machine. It is possible to spend hours sobbing and digressing about the ways in which Schnatter has taken one of the best and most enjoyable things to eat on earth and turned it into a thing that tastes like a long layover at a bus station.
I honestly think I love that paragraph more than grand slams. But I’m also enamored of Brandon Crawford’s 11-pitch at-bat. With a lousy at-bat, the entire game might have had a much different flavor.
It’s a game of inches, everybody. Remember that I coined that phrase first. It’s a game of inches.
* * *
The last position player to pitch against the Giants was Steve Finley in 2001. I didn’t remember that, either. But at least we’re all thinking about Steve Finley right now.
The last position player to pitch for the Giants was Greg Litton in 1991. The Giants easily have the longest position-player-pitching drought in the majors, and it’s probably why Bruce Bochy shouldn’t go into the Hall of Fame, in my totally-not-irrational opinion. Give us a position player pitching. Give us just one!
The player on the Giants with the most impressive pitching pedigree, at least as a draft prospect out of high school, is Brandon Belt. He got a chance to hit against a position player instead. How did that go?
That’s a very tall man shrinking down to about my size. His bones compressed like a Hoberman sphere before he walked to the plate. Here's another angle:
Position players pitching are the best. Why don’t you love your fans, Bruce Bochy?
* * *
A valued Twitter user alerted me to this: The Giants had 15 runs, 22 hits, and one error. That looks like this on a box score:
Now, what happens if you enter "15221" into Google?
[takes off glasses]
Get me the president. Of coincidences. It’s going to be a long night.
* * *
Last year, if a Giants starter threw 6⅔ innings of one-run ball, striking out six and walking just one, this entire recap would have been been dedicated to him. Instead, here we are at the end, and we’re including Johnny Cueto, who was marvelous, because it’s the right thing to do.
I just wish there were a way to honor him. Give him his own day or something.
That’ll do. That will do.
Cueto is so effortless, so fun, that a game like this feels almost like a disappointment. Just 6⅔ innings? Where’s the complete game? Do you realize the strain this puts on a bullpen?
He had to grind through the first couple innings because he was in that mode where a single run could ruin the night, just like it did on Monday. When the game opened up, so did he. And even though the night belongs to the lineup, don’t forget that Johnny Cueto is 11-1 with a 2.06 ERA.
And to think, you were more interested in Zack Greinke.
* * *
Conor Gillaspie’s batting average raised 65 points on Tuesday night. His OPS raised 166 points. I didn’t want to be a jerk and leave him out of this. Matt Duffy is gone for at least 13 more games, so we’re going to see a lot of the former first-rounder.
I’ll take all of the four-RBI nights he can give the Giants, if we’re being quite honest.