Before you read this, a recap of another miserable Giants loss in a season of mostly happy Giants moments, please consider the context. On July 10, Madison Bumgarner threw a shutout. It was a brilliant performance, the perfect way to end the first half. The Giants had the best record in baseball, and they had the pitcher who was going to start the freaking All-Star Game.
That was the last time I watched the Giants win a baseball game. It was just over two weeks ago.
That’s mostly my fault, as I ducked out on Saturday, so I didn’t see the lone second-half win. The extended All-Star break, of course, plays a part in that gap. But that doesn’t mean the 15 days without a win isn’t going to mess with me. It’s been so very long since my favorite baseball squadron has done anything of note. They even screwed up the All-Star Game. I didn’t watch the Celebrity Softball Challenge, but I’ll bet that Rob Schneider or Benjamin Bratt made an error at the worst possible time.
Do you even remember when Bumgarner threw that shutout? It was before the talkies were big, I know that. My grampapa would tell me stories about it while we harvested turnips on the farm.
So if this reads weary or bitter or salty or surly, I can’t apologize enough. That’s not what I’m going for. Just trying to recap a 7-5 loss to one of the worst teams in baseball.
The thing is that I’m not sure Jake Peavy can pitch better. That isn’t to say that he’s good for six earned runs every time he pitches. But that whenever he has his best stuff, it’ll look like that. Cutters that cut. Two-seamers that snap over the back door to right-handers. The occasional offspeed pitch at the right time. The top of the first inning was over before the National Anthem singer got to his or her seat. When Peavy got back to the dugout, he was probably thinking, "I can’t pitch better."
He was right. Which is the problem. Even when he’s cutting and two-seaming at will, he can’t help but catch too much of the strike zone with a few pitches. Sometimes the mistakes will get popped out of play, Sometimes they’ll surprise the hitter for some reason, and they’ll be taken for strikes. Sometimes they’ll get hit 430 feet. It adds up to an ERA over 5.00, if you’re looking for an "average" of how many earned runs he allows every nine innings.
The 430-feet mistakes get the press, and they probably should. Jake Peavy faced a power-hitting team, and they hit for power against him. Home runs allowed have been the problem of the second half, and I’m just as curious as you to see how they get out of it. This is probably the real Jeff Samardzija. This is probably the real Jake Peavy. Tomorrow night, we’ll get to watch the real Matt Cain. Those three pitchers will make as much as the entire Rays 25-man roster this year, and they will never ever stop allowing home runs.
I don’t even know why I’m including that factoid. I’m not even mad. Actually, I find this funny.
Here we are again, then, with the Giants still in first place somehow, figuring out how to fix this team with transactional pixie dust. The easiest scab to pick has been the bullpen, and look at that, Hunter Strickland was imperfect tonight. But the point still stands that Jeremy Jeffress also has innings like that. Just as often as Strickland, really. So that isn’t a white horse under the lower torso of a Brewers reliever slowly appearing over the horizon.
What about an outfielder, then? We haven’t seen Hunter Pence in months, so it’s easy to forget just how good he can be, and the Reds have this guy, Jay Bruce. Apparently, he can hit home runs at AT&T Park. It has to make the Giants curious, at least.
Except he would take Angel Pagan’s job. And Bruce hasn’t played an inning in left field since he was 21. The last time Jay Bruce played left field, Jose Castillo was the starting third baseman for the Giants and Pablo Sandoval was in San Jose. That’s how long ago it was. Also, there’s the money and the inconsistency and the prospects and the blah blah blah.
That leaves the rotation. There are at least two soft spots, but probably three altogether. This is probably the real nectar, the real place where improvements can be made. Except that solution would be Ervin Santana or something, and I guarantee you that you wouldn’t be any happier with him than Peavy after 10 starts. He would just be more expensive.
The real answer is that Matt Duffy, Joe Panik, and Hunter Pence need to come back, and Peavy, Cain, and Samardzija need to start mixing in the starts that they brag about on their LinkedIn work histories. They don’t need to change the paradigm of pitching in North America; they just need to give the Giants an occasional quality start or two. And the healthy hitters will help them out.
Until then, all we have is Angel Pagan hitting a moonshot in the cool summer night, which I would embed if it didn’t get you excited about baseball, and Brandon Belt breaking out of his slump. Both were fantastic, come-from-behind moments for a team that sorely needed them. They hint at good things — that the Giants don’t need to spend prospect capital on extra offensive help, or that the team needs to focus on pitching.
But the Giants still lost. To a bad team. At home. After one of the worst road trips in franchise history.
And what was Raisel Iglesias doing as a setup man in the eighth inning? A shoulder thing? Can the Giants just have him?
Things will get better, Giants fans. You might be dead and the oceans will swell above where you live now, but things will eventually get better. They have to, really.