The Giants needed that. There’s no such thing as a must-win game in August, and there should be shock collars for people who insist that there are. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t important wins that feel like a must-win. That there aren’t games where another loss sends everyone into a shame fugue, where they might stay for another month.
Maybe the way to put it is "If must-win games exist in August, we’ll never be able to identify them ... but that sure looked like one."
Matt Moore was a bloop away from the Giants’ annual no-hitter. He was a batter away from doing what Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux were never able to do. He walked into Dodger Stadium feeling like he was in the bottom of the Marianas Trench in a foil submersible, getting crushed on all sides. He was the new guy. He hadn’t done much. The Giants needed a win. He was the new guy. He hadn’t done much. The Giants needed a win.
He allowed a hit with two outs in the ninth. The Dodgers never had a runner on second base. And light bulbs turned on above the head of thousands, nay, millions of Giants fans, as they cried ...
Dang. I guess this Matt Moore guy is pretty good.
He certainly can be! It used to be that his name was something baseball nerds would mutter in their wildest rosterbatory fantasies. He was one of baseball’s best young arms. He was locked up for years at middle-reliever prices. He was so very excellent in so many ways.
Then he was hurt before he was ineffective before he was erratic. I’d say perception changes quickly, but that process took nearly three years. That ain’t quick. It’s how he became a guy available at the deadline, even though he still had years left on his contract.
You can’t extrapolate anything from one start, of course. About 400 days ago, it seemed like Chris Heston was a lock to be a huge part of the 2016-2020 Giants. But you get it now. Maybe you did before, but you certainly do now. That’s what the Giants were salivating over. That’s the opportunity they couldn’t pass up. We can argue about the trade another day, but it was never without its cold, razor-sharp logic. Dude can be good.
The story of the night was the changeup, a pitch that Moore hadn’t thrown much of in his first four starts with the Giants. Also, the curveball. Also, the fastball. All of the pitches, really. The Dodgers were supposed to have troubles against lefties, and there was a lefty with the stuff pulled from his private stock. I don’t know if the Giants targeted Moore specifically because of the Dodgers’ roster construction (I suspect it’s a happy coincidence), but he was sure the right pitcher at the right time.
The Giants needed that. Matt Moore needed that. It was almost one of the most memorable nights in franchise history. It will just have to do as one of the best games of the 2016 season.
I’m more than okay with that.
* * *
Curmudgeon that I am, this is the spot where I point out that Moore never should have gone out for the ninth inning. I’m not a pitch-count zealot, promise. Individual achievements are important. Team achievements are important. The line between the two is blurry, and it gets blurrier when no one has a proper answer for exactly how many pitches are too many pitches.
Ask Chris Heston if he would trade his no-hitter in for 1⅓ innings of mop-up work in a World Series that the Giants won. Actually, don’t. You know the answer. But we’re not talking about a straight swap like that. We’re talking about the potential of a couple dozen pitches affecting the rest of Matt Moore’s future contributions.
We don’t know exactly how many pitches the guy throws warming up, but suddenly an extra 20 pitches over nine innings is going to doom him? If he leaves after six innings and 111 pitches, no one gives a rip. But get to 133 in nine, and I’m freaking out with you. Even though it seems extraordinarily unlikely that those next 22 pitches are going to doom him, even if they were high stress pitches with a fatigued pitcher.
No, it’s not the number that got me. It was the missed locations in the last two innings, the effortlessness that evaporated. A no-hitter lasts forever, so I’m generous with the leeway, just like Bochy. But I’m not sure if the no-hit stuff was still there. Or, at least, the no-hit command.
I’d check his release points and his spin rates and if they were normal I’d send him back out there.— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) August 26, 2016
Yeah, sure, that seems like at least evidence either way. Eno, you’re hired. I can’t pay you, but tell the Giants when that stuff happens. That stuff right there. That you just mentioned.
Of course, if the Dodgers could plan it, they would take the extra workload and the spoiled no-hitter because they are malignant hell-wraiths from under the Earth’s crust. So that’s extra salt on the Seager-scented wound.
But while I wouldn’t have kept Moore in, I’m not grumbling about Bochy’s decision. What a miserable decision to make. What a jumbled mess of hazy risks and concrete rewards. I would have done it differently, but I’m not going to worry too much about the way it was done.
* * *
Corey Seager is someone we’re going to hate for so long, everyone. Not just because of this. This is but a chapter in a 40-hour audiobook. He’s the right mix of outstanding, Dodger, and not going anywhere, and we’re going to hate him like Dodgers fans hate Buster Posey.
The trick is to keep him at the hate-hate level. Because this hate-love thing I have with Clayton Kershaw pays for my therapist’s timeshare in Donner. He can’t be so good that he’s transcendent, like Sandy Koufax or Vin Scully. Like Buster Posey should be to Dodgers fans if they weren’t malignant hell-wraiths from under the Earth’s crust. I’m already tired of him, which is probably good news for the Dodgers.
He joins the list. Paul O’Neill. Eric Chavez. Corey Seager. All you dummies had to do was make one more out. What did you have to lose, other than your dignity? Selfish.
* * *
Santiago Casilla threw one pitch to secure a Giants win. That seems almost as amazing as Moore’s outing, and we’ll remember it just as long.
* * *
KERSHAW: Yes! Ha ha, attaway Corey!
KERSHAW: I told you Corey was gonna do it! Look at that, he’s all growns up, ha ha. I told you he was going to do it.
KERSHAW: Way to go, Corey. Told you he was gonna do it, A.J.. I told you.
KERSHAW: [is talking to Powerade cooler with a hat on it]
KERSHAW: Two bloops and a blast. That’s all we need, A.J., you with me? Two bloops and a blast.
* * *
A turning point? A statement game? I dunno, man. We’ve been burned before. Madison Bumgarner hit a freaking home run off Jacob deGrom to take a lead the Giants wouldn’t give up, and that seemed like a turning point. It wasn’t.
But on a day when the Dodgers traded a popular clubhouse veteran away — maybe the most popular clubhouse veteran — they got a hit and lost because they couldn’t get at least two hits.
That doesn't have to mean nothing.