clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Giants lose, fall out of first place

New, 343 comments

For the first time since May, the Giants aren’t in first place. And, boy, did they work hard to get here!

Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

It’s certainly possible that the Giants are the worst team in baseball. That’s what they’ve been in the second half of the season, after all. The worst team in baseball. They’re dead last in runs scored in the NL for the second half, and only one team has allowed more home runs. When a team can’t hit or pitch very well, that’s a pretty solid head start to being the worst team in baseball. This just might be how awful they really are.

Because I’m an idiot, I’m choosing not to believe this. It’s too sudden. The players involved are too familiar, mostly. I’m willing to believe that they’re mediocre, or that they’re mediocre with a streak of bad luck that makes them look like the worst team in baseball. But I’m not willing to believe that they’re the least talented team of the 30 participating in Major League Baseball. Which is what they’ve been for the past 29 games.

So there’s a disconnect. The team that probably isn’t the worst team in baseball is playing like they are. Again. Which they’ve done for 29 games. Which is a substantial chunk of a full major league season. Which means, huh, maybe they are the worst team in baseball.

The other option is to grit your teeth and assume this, too, shall pass. That involves a lot of waiting. It’s been what I’ve been doing for the last month! Waiting. And waiting. And waiting. This is the game where Hunter Pence rediscovers his swing. This is the game where Buster Posey gets his power back. This is the game where they get the runners on, then get them in. This is the game where the lineup bails out the starting pitcher, unless it’s the starting pitcher who bails out the lineup. Except other than the occasional low-scoring game that the Giants squeak out, none of it happens.

And I think I’ve figured out why it’s so frustrating.

All the losing?

Yes. The losing. But there’s a way to get more granular than that. The Giants do a few baseball-related things well, but they’re little victories, incremental steps to a larger goal that isn’t guaranteed. Take the eighth inning, for example. Brandon Belt comes up. Looks at a pitch, takes a strike, looks at a pitch, looks at a pitch, fouls one off, draws the walk. It lasted about three minutes, with every pitch an attempt to deceive or overpower Belt. The last three pitches were 96 mph.

But he drew the walk. He battled and battled, and he set the inning up nicely.

Up comes Posey. Takes a pitch, fouls a pitch. Works the count into his favor, laying off tough pitches. Gets to a spot where he can look fastball. Gets the fastball. Hits the ball hard. Double play, and the boulder rolls down the hill. It all took so long to develop. It took milliseconds to end in tears.

Or take the ninth inning. Please! Ha ha ha. Anyway, the one-out rally started with a gift, an error that put the tying run on base. Then there was a quick double, and all the Giants needed was a fly ball if they wanted to lose in 14 innings. That’s all it took. A medium-deep fly ball. They got to that point by grinding out at-bats, by taking what the other pitcher gave them. And then they fell into an elevator shaft. As they do.

It’s like the Giants are forever playing slots, waiting for cherry-cherry-cherry. The other people in the casino are losing like normal people, winning a couple blackjack hands, losing a couple more, a back-and-forth that at least gives the illusion of control. The Giants keep pulling that lever and getting cherry-cherry-blueberry, cherry-cherry-asparagus, cherry-cherry-moose-intestines, just about every inning. The well-timed home run never happens.

Except in this analogy, the reels on the slot machine spin for several minutes at a time.

[puts in money]

[pulls lever]

[reels spin]

[checks phone]

[checks slot machine]

[reels spin]

[checks phone]

[checks slot machine]

[reels spin]

[answers texts]

[checks slot machine]

[reel stops on cherry]

"Hey, sweet, a cherry!"

[reels spin]

[checks phone]

[checks slot machine]

[reels spin]

[checks phone]

[checks slot machine]

[reels spin]

[checks phone]

[checks slot machine]

[reels spin]

[checks phone]

[checks slot machine]

[reel stops on cherry]

"Whoa, another cherry!"

[reels spin]

[checks phone]

[checks slot machine]

[reels spin]

[checks phone]

[checks slot machine]

[reels spin]

[checks phone]

[checks slot machine]

[reel stops on picture of Ehire Adrianza popping out]

"Aw, man."

[puts in money]

[pulls lever]

[reels spin]

[checks phone]

[checks slot machine]

The third cherry never comes. You wait so long. It never comes. Meanwhile, the other team is playing roulette, and they’re hooting and hollering, on a pretty good run, high-fiving each other. Their gratification isn’t instant, but it seems like it from the other side, where the slot machine reels just keep spinning and spinning without ever doing anything worth a damn.

This would be a sad tale, except we’ve seen the cherries come up. Please, remember the first half. The Giants might be in second place, but they’re still in line for a postseason spot because they’ve had the good fortune to match with better play. They had two separate eight-game winning streaks because the dumb stuff never happened. When it works, it’s elegant. The counts are worked, and the walks are taken. The doubles soar into the gap. There’s closure. There’s a cherry! Lots of them, really.

It’s worked before. The Giants have parlayed bat control and fortuitous sequencing into division titles and championships. It’s what made them the best team in baseball in the first half.

The absence of it all is what’s making them the worst team in baseball in the second half.

They’re probably not the worst team in baseball.

It’s games like this that sure make it feel possible, though.