Something you can remember is that you hated those other Giants teams, too. You hated them in 2010 when they couldn’t beat the Padres. You hated them in 2012 when they couldn’t beat the Reds for two games, and you really hated them when they blew a 10-game lead in 24 games in 2014.
But the reason you hated those teams is the same reason you hate this team right now. It’s because you know that there are no guarantees that the clouds will break this time. There doesn’t have to be another division title or postseason run toward the end of the third act. Baseball seasons are long enough to give you a sense of urgency, even when you’re spoiled. If you’ve invested 100s of hours in this team, it’s games/weeks/months like this that make you realize that you might have made a huge mistake.
You probably made a huge mistake. This team is unwatchable.
Point of clarification: I know you don’t really "hate" this team. Bryan does, but you probably don’t. But this is something beyond frustration, and our common language has failed us so far, so I’m sticking with hate for the hyperbolic value.
We can probably agree, though, that even if we don’t hate the Giants, it’s certainly possible to hate watching them right now. They’re completely unwatchable. They were 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position, mixing in a two-out RBI, a pinch-hit to drive in a run, and even a home run. Except this was a pitching-screws-up game. The next time they have a starting pitcher throw seven solid innings, there won’t be any of that. It'll be a lineup-screws-up game. There will be a 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, with the runner getting thrown out at the plate after the one hit. The pinch-hitter will misapply the pine tar and have the bat stick to his lips before a fastball is thrown down the middle in a 2-0 count. The home run will go just foul, and it will hit a small child in the knee.
The Dodgers scored in every half-inning after the Giants scored, with the exception of the ninth inning, when they didn’t get the chance. But I don’t care, just tack the run on for symmetry’s sake. Dodgers win, 10-5. It’s not like the bullpen wouldn’t have held them scoreless, so it’s only fair. That’s unwatchable, defined. Tie game, nope. Tie game, nope. Getting closer, nope. Every pitch is a nose hair just waiting to be pulled out, and you don’t know if I’m writing about the pitching or the hitting.
Here’s what the Dodgers have that the Giants don’t right now: Hitters who scare you.
Brandon Belt scares me.
Be nice. He had a well-timed double tonight, you jerk.
No, let’s see if I can explain it. The art of hitting is simple if it’s dumbed down enough. There’s an invisible box hovering over a pentagon embedded into the earth, and if the baseball travels through the invisible box, either the hitter is going to hit it well, hit it poorly, or be punished for not swinging the bat. There are nuances and shades of gray, of course. Pitches with movement that snap back into the strike zone at the last second. Pitches that are thrown too hard to catch up to.
Still, pitchers have to throw the baseball in that invisible box if they want to win. And the hitter knows this, so he’s looking for baseballs in the invisible box. It’s like a game of Stratego, but nothing like that because we're talking about baseballs and invisible boxes, please keep up.
When Corey Seager is batting, I have no idea how a pitcher is expected to throw a baseball in the invisible box. It doesn’t matter if the pitch is up or down, in or out, I’m pretty sure he has an answer for everything. That goes for Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez right now, too. The sport is rigged in their favor because the pitcher is supposed to throw the baseball in the invisible box, which is exactly what the hitter is expecting.
Madison Bumgarner sure caught a lot of that invisible box all game, and it was messy. That’s part of the problem. He did what he wasn’t supposed to do, and it got messy. When the team gives up nine runs, the pitching gets the biggest cut of the blame, and Bumgarner was as off as he’s been all year. The curve was sharp, but the slutter was never buried on the hands of the right-handers. He couldn’t do anything but chuck it down the middle against left-handers.
He looked tired, in other words. No idea if he is, at least to a greater degree than most starting pitchers in August, but he looked it.
But another part of the problem is that the Giants aren’t making the other teams feel like there’s any penalty for tip-toeing through the invisible box. Hunter Pence couldn’t hit the pitches down the middle tonight. Right now, it’s only Denard Span and Angel Pagan who can do that. And if you spin the wheel next week, it’ll be Joe Panik and, oh, Trevor Brown who can do it, but Span and Pagan will have cooled off. The Dodgers have those hitters in the middle of their order right now, and the Giants will forever have just one or two guys going at the same time.
We’ll all laugh about this when the Giants beat the Dodgers in the NLCS. Just throw our heads back and laaaaugh.
No, I don’t know what Cory Gearrin was doing in a one-run game before anyone had seen him throw like a healthy, trustworthy pitcher, but that’s almost incidental. The Dodgers probably should have scored more against Bumgarner. And they were going to score off someone in the Giants bullpen, regardless. So I’m comfortable blaming the starting pitcher, rolling my eyes at the bullpen, and wondering when the lineup is going to scare teams like they did last year.
I’ll leave you with this: The Giants are 2-6 in Madison Bumgarner’s starts in the second half this season. The Angels were 3-6 in Tim Lincecum’s starts this year. It takes a lot of chainsaw juggling for the Giants to be this unable to win in Bumgarner’s starts, but I’m almost proud of them by this point.
Like, if your hobby is knitting and you spend three hours on it every night, you have a bunch of sweaters. You can give them away, sell them, keep a few, make some for the capybaras in the zoo, whatever. With this hobby, all you get is a team that you seem to hate a lot, even in the good years.
The worst part is you’ll probably watch this unwatchable team tomorrow night.
I’ll see you back here.