The Giants lost to the Pirates on Monday night, 8-5, and the game was more meaningful than you think. The nine innings of dull pain contained several moments or stretches that could serve as a microcosm of the second half, if not the season. It was a metaphor game, a mess that served to explain everything wrong with the Giant right now.
Here, let me show you what I mean:
The bottom of the 8th inning as a microcosm of the second half
Trevor Brown checked his swing on a 3-2 pitch and started jogging to first. The first-base umpire motioned "safe" to indicate that it was indeed a check-swing. Except the home-plate umpire made the call himself, ringing Brown up.
That’s not to say that the umpires have been unfair to the Giants in the second half. But if there’s something dumb that can happen to the Giants in the second half, it will happen to them.
The next batter lined a 100-mph seed straight into the right fielder’s mitt. The final batter of the inning took a weak swing and popped out to third base. On one hand, it’s tempting to use the line drive to think the Giants are better than the results they’re showing us. On the other hand, it’s like the pop-up existed to remind us the Giants are bad now.
So to recap, the bottom of the eighth inning included dumb stuff, bad luck, and bad baseball. It was the second half of innings.
The Andrew McCutchen catch as a microcosm of the second half
Andrew McCutchen is one of my favorite players in the world, but I sure wish he locked himself in his hotel room this afternoon. Look at this brilliant play:
Well, trust me, it was a brilliant play. Here are some highlights from a competing sports league to tide you over.
The inning started so promisingly, as they often do. Brandons were on the bases with no outs, and then no one did anything good ever again. The microcosm extends to Hunter Pence and Joe Panik, formerly excellent ballplayers who will be excellent again one day, not being very excellent.
Nuñez roped his ball, though. He deserved a single. He deserved a double. I caught myself wondering if it was going to roll past a diving McCutchen and give him a triple or even something better.
Instead, that was the moment that McCutchen decided not to struggle. His season has been the San Diego Padres of individual seasons. Him catching that ball at that moment was like the Padres sweeping the Giants to start the second half. Way to pick that exact moment to be amazing, jerks.
The pitching matchup as a microcosm of the second half
There was an old guy, and he was pitching against the new guy. The old guy is one of the most improbable San Francisco Giants folk heroes in franchise history. The new guy is here for a while, so we want to like him.
The old guy gave up a couple runs but got the win. He tipped his cap as he left, soaking in the adulation and applause. "Thank you, fans! I, old guy, will never forget you," he probably said.
The new guy gave up more runs, pun intended. He did not get a standing ovation. And we’re left wondering if the Giants are going to regret this trade for years, if not decades. Because for some reason, Matt Moore is more far more likely to give bases away for free than he was with the Rays. And when a youngish left-hander starts walking people like he’s powerless to stop himself, well, there’s a comparison that pops into our heads immediately. Don’t say his name three times, or he’ll appear in your bathroom mirror. But if Moore starts yelling at Chase Utley, be very afraid.
Actually, that’s a lousy litmus test. We all want to yell at Utley. Still, keep an eye out.
Oh, right, the microcosm of the second half. Uh, let’s see, it was a reminder that the Giants’ made serious franchise-altering decisions that just might not work out, even if there’s still a lot of time to hope otherwise.
The good things that happened in the game as a microcosm of the second half
The Giants got a hit in two of their first three at-bats with a runner in scoring position!
Neither hit scored a run.
One of them led to an out at home plate.
The Giants had at least two runners on base at the same time in five different innings. They also hit two home runs!
The home runs were solo home runs.
They had 12 hits and five walks, with two homers. They’re 380-52 in franchise history when that happens!
Check that. 380-53.
Oh, there was more microcos-play in the game. There was a beautiful gift of a catcher’s interference that was bestowed upon us, only to be squandered immediately. There was a beautiful gift of a bases loaded walk that was immediately re-gifted. There were great at-bats without runners on base, and then everyone looked like they were pepper sprayed before they came up to bat with runners in scoring position. Their bullpen was mostly excellent; the Giants’ bullpen was a hot mess of inherited runners and inherited runs.
The Hunter Pence catch as a microcosm of the entire season
Started as strong as we could have hoped. Then there was a misstep. Then everything came crashing down. Then Pence, serving as a synecdoche of the Giants’ entire season, was on his butt, flailing around madly, screaming, "I CAN STILL DO THIS. I LOOK RIDICULOUS RIGHT NOW, BUT I WILL CONCENTRATE AND DO THIS THING."
Then he did the thing.
That’s what we can hope for with these first-place Giants, who are playing like the worst first-place team in the history of professional sports. We can hope that even though they’re flat on their backs, and we’re all expecting the ball to come down and hit them in the face, they still might make the catch after all.
But they’re 9-19 since the All-Star break, and I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sure the "9" is way too high. This isn’t fun. The Giants should try being fun again. If they were fun again, it would be a microcosm of when the Giants used to play baseball in a fun way that made you look forward to watching baseball.
Looking forward to that. Until then, the best part of Giants baseball is when an old friend comes in and helps humiliate them. That’s probably something that can improve.