It’s not that the Giants should have lost Sunday’s game. They scored eight runs and picked up 16 hits. They’ve lost only 17 of those kinds of games since moving to San Francisco.
It’s not that the Giants deserved to lose Sunday’s game. It’s like that old Yogi Berra quote, "Deserve’s got nothing to do with it."
It’s that if the Giants lost, there would have been a half-dozen moments to point at. They were moments of hubris, stupidity, and general silliness. And we would have argued with each other about which one was more responsible for one of the dumber Giants losses of the year.
Instead, we get to chuckle about one of the dumber wins of the year. Conor Gillaspie drove home Ramiro Peña for the winning run — a sentence I’ve been patiently waiting to use since February — and the Giants won another series. They’re tied for the most wins in baseball, and they’re just a game behind the Cubs for the best record in baseball. Yet all I want to talk about are all the moments that made me angry about a win, which is irrefutable proof that I’m a spoiled twit.
The only thing better than being a spoiled twit is enjoying whatever malfeasance makes you spoiled in the first place. It’s so great to be a spoiled twit.
But we’ll start with the happy things, of which there were several.
- Angel Pagan was 4-for-5, including a double that would have left 29 other parks. He has a hilarious, inimitable ability to remind everyone how indispensable he is the second he returns from the DL.
- Jarrett Parker was just 1-for-5, but his one hit was well-timed, and he’s continuing his string of recent success. Three weeks ago, he was hitting .194 with a million strikeouts, and now, even with the 1-for-5, he has a .369 OBP. One of my favorite statistical nuggets was that if you cut his Triple-A strikeout rate and pasted it into the majors, he would shatter the franchise record for strikeouts. Pretty damning. Except his strikeout rate has dropped a little in the majors. He just might have a shot.
- Buster Posey and Brandon Belt are still hot.
- Brandon Crawford continues to be excellent at most things related to baseball.
- The bullpen pitched three innings and allowed just a run. I’ll take it.
- And, of course, Conor Gillaspie had a walk-off hit, which really, really tickles the part of my brain that’s obsessed with the extras on the movie set of Giants history. He was drafted in the first round eight years ago, and he’s haunted the halls of baseball, looking to work, while watching the other Giants first-rounder win awards and championships. Well, who had the walk-off hit on June 26, 2016, huh? Not that other guy. They weren’t mobbing that guy and trying to punch him in the rosin bag between first and second.
This was the seventh walk-off win for the Giants this year, which is more than they had in the entire seasons of [deep breath] 1960, 1962, 1983, 1992, 1999, 2007, 2010, 2015, 1968, 1976, 1979, 1981, 1989, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2014, 1972, 1974, 1988, 1994, or 1991. There are four pennant-winning Giants teams, two championship winners, and five division winners mixed in there. This team has more walk-off wins than any of them, and it isn’t even the All-Star break yet.
I suppose the 2010 Giants get to add NLCS Game 4 if they want to, but I’m bringing that up only because I’m mad at the Phillies for no good reason right now. Why would I be mad at them? They played hard and never gave up. Being a sports fan is so weird.
The Giants almost lost back-to-back games started by Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto for the first time since April. Instead, they won improbably again. They have a knack for that, apparently. Celebrate.
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BUT NOT BEFORE WE COMPLAIN JUST A LITTLE. Think about all of the dumb portions of this game. Here, let’s rank them in reverse-order of dumbness:
3. Ramiro Peña not running on a double down the line that could have been a triple in the bottom of the freaking ninth inning of a tie game
After spending 2014 on the Braves’ bench, Peña was in the minor leagues for the entire 2015 season. He hit .302 in Triple-A, sure, but the Padres didn’t have room for him. The Padres. And at some point during that long, long season, he daydreamed about getting back to the majors. What he would do. How he would react.
I’m going to hustle like they’ve never seen. I’m going to make them remember my name. I’m going to be the best damned Ramiro Peña possible.
So here he is, a year later, representing the winning run for one of the better teams in baseball, with a chance to make sure he sticks around, and he hits a high fly ball in the bottom of the ninth. How did that go?
Ugh, got under it. I mean probably. That’s funny, I can’t tell. I mean, it’s a short porch out there. It could go foul, too. That’s always a possibility. But maybe it’ll go out, too! It’s carrying surprisingly far! Oh, this game is filled with possibilities. Also my manager is carrying me around the bases, screaming, "Run, you idiot" into my ear. What an odd profession I’ve chosen. This has been another day in the Adventures of Ramiro, signing off for now.
2. Angel Pagan literally not running hard until he rounded first base, then getting thrown out at third for the final out of an inning
Forget that he watched the ball out of the box. He crushed it, and it should have been a home run on general principle, so I’ll almost excuse the desire to check out the majestic parabola. I’ll never do anything that well in my life, so maybe I’m jealous.
At the same time, just eat the double. There are two outs. Don’t make the final out at third. Just eat the double. You screwed up. Wear it. Or eat it. Whatever you’re supposed to do with mistakes. Wear it, then eat it, like a pair of edible underwear.
1. Johnny Cueto hitting someone with a baseball on purpose
Why did he do it? Because those guys hit three of our guys, so even though he didn’t get specific instructions, he was scared that his teammates would notice if he didn’t hit one of their guys. This is part of the unwritten rules, see.
Also, baseball was invented before anesthesia was popular. So let’s make sure to carry on every single tradition from back then because there’s no way that it could possibly be dumb or antiquated.
After Cueto hit Maikel Franco with a baseball, both benches were warned. That means the next hit-by-pitch from either team could, and probably would, lead to an ejection.
Here’s how Cueto pitched Franco the next time up:
Is that to the scouting report? Possibly! It could be a simple matter of Cueto not wanting to come inside on a hitter with power, especially with runners in scoring position. But part of me wants to know if Cueto had to pitch differently because of the warning, because it was important to give the other team a free runner when they were down by four runs.
Either way, the Giants need to get used to life without the top of their rotation being perfect. Jeff Samardzija is going to have games where he gives up a home run for every consonant in his name. Cueto is going to lose his command and start grooving pitches out of nowhere. Bumgarner is going to make a mistake at just the wrong time. This happens because pitching is hard.
The Giants need to prove they can win games where their pitchers are imperfect. Right now, they’re winning just about everything, regardless. That’s the sign of a pretty good team, what with all the winning and such. Hopefully, though, this game gave them a little kick in the pants. They don’t have to win every game, and the next losing streak could start just like this, with a couple of bonehead baserunning plays and a pitcher who cares a little too much about the rules no one bothered to write down.
Until then, they have a winning streak to build on. Did we mention that since the last time the Giants were under .500, they’ve gone 32-10? That seems like something they should keep doing.