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Giants waste ferocious comeback, lose late

The Giants can't beat the Reds or the Phillies, but at least they just traded away one of your favorite players!

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tempting to look up the Giants’ record in their post-blockbuster games. Look for the game played immediately after trading for Hunter Pence, Carlos Beltran, Wilson Alvarez, and Jose Guillen, and see if there’s something extrapolate.

My guess: There’s nothing to extrapolate. Some wins, some losses. Just one game out of 162 that couldn’t tell you much about the other 161.

On the other hand, the Giants ditched prospects and a fan favorite to acquire three players at the trade deadline. Of those three, Eduardo Nuñez made an error that led to four unearned runs, and he did it after he made his new team feel comfortable enough to trade away a Gold Glove finalist. Will Smith allowed two hits and two runs, and he picked up the loss. And Matt Moore didn’t get a single hit.

Now, that’s not entirely fair. Madison Bumgarner allowed plenty of runs on his own, and his pitching was flat and hittable all night. It wasn’t Nuñez who hung the slider to Maikel Franco. And Smith looked great for a batter. Then he gave up a dribbler for an infield hit, and that was followed by a fly ball that Hunter Pence catches if it’s the postseason. I’d rather have this loss than the 10-percent chance that he could have screwed up his wrist by banging into the wall, so there are levels of regret, but it was a ball that’s he’s kicking himself over.

It wasn’t all Nuñez and Smith, in other words. It wasn’t mostly them. But the baseball gods made the correlation for us because they are 17 years old and high. That’s the secret of the baseball gods. Everyone thinks that they’re old, grumbly dudes who yalp about tradition and the right way, but that’s just what they want you to think. They are 17 years old and high. They like crank calls and flaming bags. And the day after the Giants make their most jarring trade in nearly 20 years, they would like to remind you that trades don’t fix anything.

BASEBALL GODS: [dials number]

BASEBALL GODS: Hello, is this fan? Oh, well, uh, one of your favorite players is gone, and he’s not coming back, and, uh, the guy who’s replacing him can’t field. And, uh, the bullpen is still a mess, and there’s nothing you can do about it. G’night!

BASEBALL GODS: [Hangs up the phone, giggling]

If you think this is a joke, I will repeat: 17 and high. You wouldn’t let them drive, and you wouldn’t let them hang out in front of your house. And yet they’re in charge of this beautiful game we love so dearly. Sometimes I just don’t understand it.

The Giants lost because Bumgarner pitched horribly, though. Don’t gloss over that part. The first homer he allowed was on an outside cutter:

It wasn’t a bad pitch. If it were taken for strike two, no one would have grimaced and mumbled, "Ugh that was your pitch!" And the second homer came after there should have been three outs. It was still an unfortunate pitch, but without Schrödinger’s error, we might never have seen it. This wasn’t that far away from being a quality start. If you cherry pick and fudge some minor details.

Still, the slutter was flat. When it’s working, right-handers either line it foul, take it, or liquidate their thumbs, and they’re usually not happy with any of the decisions. In this game, they looked comfortable taking ball after ball up the middle, and when they pulled it, it stayed quite fair.

We’ll go back to that point about the (hopefully temporary) death spiral. When a team isn’t in one of them, a pitcher like Bumgarner will allow eight runs and lose, and then he’ll allow two runs in seven innings and win. Because that’s how baseball works.

Instead, before this game, the Giants were 2-6 in Bumgarner’s last eight starts. That’s even though his ERA was 2.38 in those starts, and he walked 10 and struck out 63 in 56 innings. If the Giants had scored eight runs in any of those starts, they would have been rolllllling. More specifically, the Giants hadn’t allowed more than seven runs in any of Bumgarner’s 22 starts prior to this. So of course they lost the game with eight runs of run support in the death spiral. Not during one of the two eight-game winning streaks earlier this year. Not when you might have thought, "Eh, can’t win ‘em all!"

No, it happens during the death spiral. By definition.

It’s a shame, too, considering how the Giants clawed back. This could have been a 13-1 loss of pure self-flagellation, but there were two-out rallies and well-timed dingers. The Brandons did well. Brandon Belt found his All-Star bat in San Francisco, and he packed it for this road trip. Angel Pagan reminded us that his raw numbers would probably look a little cooler in a different home park. It was so very close to being a hand reaching out of the spiral at the last second, pulling the Giants up, with the other hand extending a middle finger.

Instead, the death spiral sucked them all in. It sucked us all in. It sucked the new guys in, and it sucked the old guys in. It really, really, really just, you know.


Also, a fan was kicked out by an umpire. I’ve never seen that! Let’s see what happened!

This game had a theme.

This game most certainly had a theme.