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Giants break losing streak with unlikely comeback, Eduardo Nuñez, strong bullpen

The Giants were down, and then they ... came back? Is that allowed?

WELCOME BACK HUNTER PENCE
WELCOME BACK HUNTER PENCE
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Hunter Pence was in the starting lineup, and the Giants won. Hunter Pence was in the starting lineup, and the Giants came back against long odds. Hunter Pence was in the starting lineup, and the Giants didn’t hit into a triple play.

You might not think there’s a way to prove Pence is responsible for everything good on Saturday. I agree. But the burden of proof is on you to prove he isn’t responsible. At least, I think that’s how logic works. And all I know is that the Giants are undefeated with Pence in the lineup since the All-Star break, but they’re 2-12 when he doesn’t start. Seems pretty conclusive to me.

Unless the key is Eduardo Nuñez being in the starting lineup. Man, baseball analysis is hard.

All I know is that I was about 87-percent sure the Giants were going to lose this game. I promise that pulled that number out of my nether regions — just a total guess. Let’s look at FanGraphs’ win expectancy:

Ugh, I should have been 88-percent sure. That fanboy optimism stung me. But you felt it, too. There was no way the Giants were going to win. Jake Peavy was pitching well enough, but he wasn’t catching any breaks. A Peavy without breaks is unfair to everyone. Except the other team.

It was a strike, by the way:

That’s Bryce Harper, in the middle of a career-worst slump, catching a break against a team in the middle of a season-worst slump. It was a head-to-head battle of recent crapulence. Very exciting! And it turned out that the Giants’ crapulence was much stronger, so they won easily. By which I mean they easily won the right to lose.

The next batter, Anthony Rendon, walloped a hanging cutter into the 18th row, and you knew. You just knew. To that point, here’s what had happened for the Giants in the game:

  • Run-scoring triple taken away by Ben Revere, who executed a nearly perfect route to catch the ball because of course he did.
  • Two leadoff runners wasted, including a two-on, no-out situation in the second that ultimately ended with the new guy popping out to the catcher
  • A dropped third strike leading to a leadoff runner for the Nationals

Even if the score was 0-0 at that point, you had a feeling that baseball was lurching after the Giants like one of the infected. It was coming, and when you nailed the doors shut, it came in through the windows, and when you boarded the windows up, it started chewing through the exterior. It was going to get it, and all you could do was scream.

Instead, there was a comeback. An actual comeback! This was my favorite/least favorite stat of the day:

That blew my mind. Teams don’t usually load the bases an average of once per game, right? The Giants had 15 plate appearances with the bases loaded since the All-Star break. They had 17 plate appearances with the bases loaded in May. That should be a good factlet. Instead, here’s how those 15 plate appearances went before Eduardo Nuñez came up:

  • Double play
  • Pop out
  • Strikeout
  • Pop out
  • Ground out
  • Single (two runs score)
  • Ground out
  • Strikeout
  • Pop fly
  • Strikeout
  • Ground out
  • Error (run scores)
  • Strikeout
  • Strikeout
  • TRIPLE PLAY

That’s three bases loaded, no-out situations without a single run scoring. It’s nine bases loaded situations with fewer than two outs, and the only time the Giants scored was on an error. And in those two situations in which the Giants actually scored up there, they lost both of the games.

They just won, and I’m still just seething over this second half.

Anyway, the comeback! Nuñez was up with the bases loaded for the third time in his first four plate appearances with the Giants. ESPN Stats and Info dug up that he had six plate appearances with the bases loaded in his entire season with the Twins. He came to the Giants, was bitten by the bases loaded fleas. Those things itch.

He worked the count in his favor, like that matters for Giants hitters in the second half, but it was still nice to see.

And then ... my stars ...

It was a fastball count, and the baseball man looked for the fastball and, lo, he got the fastball. My favorite part was that he didn’t try to hit it 488 feet. Just nice and simple, up the middle. It was the biggest hit of the second half, and I’m not sure if it’s particularly close. Considering it kept the Dodgers out of a first-place tie for at least another night, it might have been the most important hit of the year.

Eduardo Nuñez: 1 WAR with the Giants in 2016.

That’s exactly how statistics work. That’s how logic works! Man, baseball analysis is easy.

* * *

The bullpen was fantastic. Javier Lopez did that thing where he walked a left-handed hitter on four pitches to bring the tying run to the plate, but everyone else was fantastic. Roll call!

Matt Reynolds gave up a ground ball single to Ben Revere, but then he made Bryce Harper look like a fool. In the game, I mean. Job well done.

Hunter Strickland came in — again, this is the fifth inning — and got Rendon out. The next inning was clean.

Derek Law gave up a hit to Trea Turner, and then he was saved by Angel Pagan’s defense, which, wait, what did I just type? It’s true! I’d embed the video, but that would make sure you saw the baseball highlight, and we need to make sure that only a select few of you click through to see it because that’s definitely going to make more money for Major League Baseball in the long term.

Anywho, after Lopez’s stumble, Sergio Romo was delightful. It’s amazing how much he stretches the bullpen out. To the point where, oh, Hunter Strickland can come into the fifth inning and keep the peace.

Finally, Santiago Casilla had a quiet, unnoticed ninth inning. Just like always!

This was the kind of bullpen that would make me think it’s a strength with one more reliever, not just something that was papered over with a deadline acquisition. Alas, sweet Mark Melancon, we hardly knew thee.

We’ll get to complain shortly, I’m sure. For now, though, good work, bullpen. Good work.

* * *

Yadier Molina is 57 years old, and Buster Posey is finally going to win the Gold Glove he’s deserved for a couple years.

I can’t embed those videos, either, so here’s a compilation of exciting plays from a competing sports league:

Anyway, both of those throws from Posey were stunning, just perfect throws without a lot of margin for error. The Giants really aren’t very good at holding runners on, which might be the amazing part. Posey has still thrown out 20 runners this year, good for a 48.7 percentage.

Or, to put it another way, fewer runners have attempted a stolen base against Posey this year than have been successful against Derek Norris, Jonathan Lucroy, and Brian McCann. The deterrence of Posey is almost as important as his success in throwing runners out.

What I’m getting at here is that Buster Posey is good, and you should probably appreciate him. Giants win. Thank you.