That was one of the worst games in franchise history, and please do not mistake that for hyperbole. If you watched the game, you understand. If you didn’t watch the game, my job is to make you understand. While I don’t vividly remember when Glinch Tannentack blew an eight-run lead against the Superbas in 1911, I do have some statistics to support the claim.
For example, this was the 20th game in the last 100 years in which the Giants scored 11 runs and lost. It was the 13th since the team moved to San Francisco. And not all 11-runs-scored losses are created equal. The last time this happened, why, we felt proud of them for almost catching up. No, this was a wretched, unforgivable loss even within this subset of twice-a-decade losses.
Consider that Albert Suarez had allowed one run through 5⅔ innings when he was pulled. There were two outs with a runner on first in the sixth inning, and Suarez was chased after giving up a two-strike single. The A’s had just one run at that point. The Giants would score 11 runs in the game, including seven more after the bullpen entered the game.
The Giants still lost.
Sometimes your kid gets suspended for getting in a scuffle, and you get mad. Sometimes your kid gets suspended for plagiarism, and you get really mad. And then there are the times when your kid gets suspended for lighting the principal’s car on fire and standing on top of it, burning, while challenging the principal to an axe fight, and you don’t get mad. You get concerned, so concerned, with a million thoughts racing through your mind as you think, "How can I help? How can this be fixed? Where did this all go wrong?" You’re not mad. You’re terrified.
This is the axe-fight-challenge-on-the-principal’s-burning-car of losses, with a bullpen collapse so complete and unsettling that it will shape the entire 2016 season. The best historical comparison is 2012, when the Giants went into a three-game series against the Dodgers with a three-game lead in the NL West, and they lost all three games. The division was tied, and the taste of doom — pure licorice and bile — was in everyone’s mouth. The final loss of that series felt so very decisive.
I think there's a chance -- a chance -- that this sweep burrows deep into the brains of important front-office types and starts chewing on some wires. Not in a conscious way. But as the deadline approaches, and they receive a counteroffer to a proposal they made for Hunter Pence, and they start adding up the pros and cons and risks and rewards and costs and benefits, this sweep could directly influence the team into making a move, even if they wouldn't admit it. The answer to the question of "Do we really *need* Hunter Pence?" sure seems like it'd be different today than it was on Thursday.
That was the sweep that made it so clear that the Giants were going to load their muskets with prospects and start shooting at the big game. They weren’t going to worry about getting burned in a big trade the season before. The creepy Field of Dreams voice whispered "Trade all your prospects for the guy with the wild eyes, you jackass" into Brian Sabean’s ear, and he listened.
This game was like that one, and in five years, we’ll either have a lot of brilliant memories of the 2016 season, or we’ll think back to this game as the reason Phil Bickford is winning 20 games for the Yankees instead of the Giants. This loss didn’t feel like the beginning of the end — the Giants are still six games up, et cetera, et cetera — but it felt like an omen that no front office could possibly ignore.
The Giants are going to trade for a reliever. It will be expensive, and it will reshape their long-term plans and organizational depth. If they can’t afford Andrew Miller, and they can’t, then they’ll pay through the nose for a reliever who may or may not have helped them in this game.
And it might work. Or it might not. But the only thing worse than acquiring the wrong reliever would be to get no one at all, watch another game like this in September, and think, "Whoops. Probably should have done something about this."
That won’t happen. This game, one of the worst in franchise history in a very literal and verifiable sense, will guarantee it.
It could go Marco Scutaro. It could go Ryan Garko. But everyone in the front office melted into a little puddle while watching this game, and now they’re reforming like a T-1000, pissed off and tradey. This game changed everything.
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A power ranking of relievers to be angry with, in reverse order:
7. Josh Osich
He pitched a scoreless inning. He gets to ride on Dave Righetti’s shoulders and make car noises for the next week if he wants to.
6. Hunter Strickland
He pitched a scoreless third of an inning, which makes him one of the co-heroes of the game. Proud.
5. Derek Law
He also pitched a scoreless third of an inning. It’s possible that Law and Strickland are the two best relievers the Giants have right now, and they combined for two-thirds of an inning. That kind of says a lot.
4. Cory Gearrin
Oh, now we’re getting into the goats. Gearrin was entrusted with a three-run lead, and he walked the first two batters. Then he gave up a hit and a run, and he was out of the game. It’s not fair to trash him thoroughly for a single game — he’s been mostly great all year — but walking two batters with a three-run lead is completely inexcusable.
3. Santiago Casilla
Casilla entered the game with a one-run deficit, and the Giants scored two runs after he left. That should have been a happy sentence. Instead Casilla had a total meltdown on the mound, walking two, allowing three hits, and committing a balk.
Don’t take my word for it. Watch the video:
It was so bad that Bruce Bochy was forced to warm Chris Stratton up, even though he threw more than 50 pitches over three ineffective innings on Monday night. What a swamp fire.
2. Javier Lopez
On one hand, it’s unfair to criticize him for being put in a position to face right-handed batters, especially when two of the Giants’ best right-handed relievers pitched just a third of an inning each. That seems like the manager getting a chess piece stuck in his nose more than an individual failure from Lopez.
On the other hand, Lopez has been irredeemably awful this year. He’s walked 10 batters in 12 innings, and he’s been completely ineffective against left-handers. That’s computer without a monitor, and keeping him in to face right-handed hitters is like yelling "CALL MOM" at the computer and trying to make it into a smart phone. Do it all you want, but it’s not going to help.
Yonder Alonso against Derek Law, or Javier Lopez against Jake Smolinski? How is that even a question at this point of the season.
1. George Kontos
Conor Gillaspie’s error didn’t help, but my stars, what an abysmal outing. After two perfect, perfect sliders, Kontos never threw another one to Stephen Vogt. Then came the error, then two more line drives, and just like that, the reliever who was supposed to pitch multiple innings (remember the double switch) was gone.
Kontos is a pleasant, well-respected person, and I wish him 30 scoreless outings after this, but he’s not missing bats, and FIP is in the corner, laughing. Neither scouts nor stats can give us a single reason to be optimistic about Kontos right now, and it’s hard to watch.
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Brandon Crawford had five RBI and three legs of the cycle, and Denard Span made one of the best catches of the year, and it’s impossible to care.