You’ll never believe this, but at one point during Sunday’s game, the Giants were overwhelming favorites to win.
The Giants were 99.4-percent favorites to win after the Orioles made the final out of the sixth inning. They were leading 7-1, and all they had to do was get nine outs without allowing six runs. It’s possible that we can go the rest of the season without watching the Giants or their opponents score six runs within any nine-out stretch of a game. And if two average teams play 1,000 versions of this same game over again, starting from the bottom of the sixth inning, the team leading 7-1 will win 994 of them.
In the other six games, someone will have screwed up.
In this game, someone screwed up. Someones, even.
Heck, just focus on the 96.8 win expectancy with two outs in the top of the ninth. A pop fly would have ended the game. A single and a pop fly would have ended the game. A walk and a walk and a pop fly would have ended the game. A double into the gap would have tied the game, which might have allowed the Giants to come back in the bottom of the 27th inning. There are so many ways the Giants could have still won, even if Santiago Casilla screwed up his battle with Jonathan Schoop.
Instead, there was the one thing that couldn’t happen. Computer, let’s take a look at the curveball that ruined everything:
Good lord. That is not where 0-1 curveballs are supposed to go. Okay, computer, you can get that off my screen, now.
Okay, computer. Cut it out.
OKAY COMPUTER CUT IT OUT
I mean ... how is a pitch that awful even possible? I’ve watched the video 12 times, and I still don’t get it. It is an implausibly horrible way to screw up.
Head chef: Okay, as long as you don’t dumb this canister of cloves into the the stew, I’m pretty sure this is just about the perfect meal.
Santiago Casilla, sous chef: [dumps canister of cloves into stew]
Santiago Casilla, sous chef: wait
Santiago Casilla, sous chef: aw, man
It works in every analogy.
Launch technician: And 10 ... 9 ... 8 ... 7 ... as long as no one pushes the "DO NOT SPACE" button, the first manned mission to Mars is a go. ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
Santiago Casilla, other, much worse launch technician: [pushes "DO NOT SPACE" button]
Santiago Casilla, other, much worse launch technician: wait
Santiago Casilla, other, much worse launch technician: aw, man
Surprisingly, this is just the second blown save for Casilla this season that’s come with two outs. That’s not praising with faint damn — he’s clearly blown too many saves this season — but I’m just stunned that there haven’t been more wedgies quite like this, where the underwear was pulled through our noses, right when everything was about to be over and happy.
The Giants were about to win a series against a good team. They were about to win their second straight series after a second half filled with series losses. And then.
It took a village of awful, of course. Johnny Cueto couldn’t close out his own seventh inning, allowing a walk and a thunderous double, which prompted Bruce Bochy to go to the bullpen. Hunter Strickland allowed a long, long home run to Mark Trumbo, and then he gave up two singles, which isn’t an ideal appearance. Derek Law gave up a single after falling behind, scoring another run, and that’s something he’d want to take back.
And yet that curveball. With two outs. In the ninth inning. Ahead in the count. With a two-run lead. Where a double could merely tie the game. Where a single would pass the buck to the next poor slob. Where the only thing you can’t do is hang a curveball at the belt.
The Dodgers also lost on Sunday. It was a laugher, 11-3, where the Pirates led early and never looked back. I’ll bet that wasn’t a fun game to watch. And yet it was infinitely preferable to this mess, a game in which you were absolutely positive the Giants were going to win. They were 6-for-17 with runners in scoring position! Can you even imagine? That’s a .353 batting average. They were prime Tony Gwynn with runners in scoring position on Sunday, and that’s how they scored seven runs. Remarkable.
Sorry, I can’t help it. What a spectacularly destructive pitch. Do you think catchers think "Oh, no no no no" when pitches like that are floating to the plate? They probably do. That’s funny to me, a person who isn’t even mad and actually finds this funny.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s that there’s always a new closer in the even years. Brian Wilson gave way to Sergio Romo, who gave way to Santiago Casilla. And thankful we are for all of them. This kind of game makes it easier for the Giants to make a decision that’s not as tough as it used to be. Derek Law is nails. Santiago Casilla is ... the ... uh ... curvy part of the hammer that removes nails. There’s at least a non-zero chance that Buster is hugging Law after something beautiful in October.
For now, though, the Giants have to deal with a loss after leading 7-1. After leading 7-5 in the ninth inning. We aren’t talking about Trevor Brown making us forget that Buster Posey wasn’t in the lineup. We aren’t talking about a series win and how a powerful Orioles lineup was quieted. We aren’t talking about Hunter Pence’s awkward, dynamic, pure Pence home run. We aren’t even talking about the perverse joy we all get from watching a starting pitcher drive in a run against an American League team.
We’re talking about another improbably blown save.
Can’t stop looking at it, sorry. Can you imagine doing anything that horribly at your own job?
First-time kindergarten teacher: ...
First-time kindergarten teacher: [whispers to self] just don’t curse, just don’t curse, just don’t curse
First-time kindergarten teacher: [takes deep breath]
First-time kindergarten teacher: FFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU
The Giants are still in first place, somehow. They could be the Diamondbacks, a last-place team that used to have hope, but instead has a trillion-dollar pitcher who keeps screwing up. They could be the Rockies, a team with a sprinkling of hope and a brighter future than teams give them credit for. They could be the Padres, who are literally the Padres.
Still, they had a win wrapped up. It was theirs. The divisional lead was bigger. The mood was happier. The trend was shooting in an upward trajectory.
The Giants lost.
And it was spectacular. Just in all the wrong ways.