Teams that make the postseason have games like this every now and again, you know.
It doesn’t seem like a bold concept when you put it like that. But it’s entirely accurate. Maybe it’ll help to break the sentence down.
Teams (normal, everyday teams) that make the postseason (that win enough games to finish among the top third of MLB teams) have games like this (where they look like the better team from start to finish) every now and again (more than once every ******** half), you know (a writing tic).
Yes, they have games like this. The Braves started a pitcher I wasn’t familiar with, and, I mean, sure I’ve heard of him, ha ha, I’m a national baseball writer, so it’s kind of my job to know about pitchers like ... him. And when young, green pitchers start against a patient, contact-oriented team, it makes sense that the experienced team would have an advantage, right?
It feels like the Giants struggle against the green, inexperienced pitchers, though. More importantly, they’ve struggled against everyone after the All-Star break. The only pitcher they whomped was Jacob deGrom, and look at that, the Mets are skipping his next start because of fatigue. The Giants can hit fatigued pitchers who need a rest. End list.
Check out the list of margins of victory in the second half before this game:
7 runs: 1
6 runs: 1
4 runs: 2
3 runs: 1
2 runs: 3
1 run: 4
In the 37 games of the second half, there were exactly four games in which the Giants won without a save situation. The bigger story was that they had won just 12 games out of 37, of course, but even in the games they were winning, it was usually a tense affair.
Jeremy Irons was really good in A Tense Affair. But you’re getting me sidetracked. This was a game that was over from the moment Jeff Samardzija got out of a first inning jam by pitching his way through it. Not just chucking fastball after cutter after fastball and hoping the other team acted like dinguses in response. He deconstructed the atoms that made up Matt Kemp and reassembled them into something that resembled the same Matt Kemp, but with more regret. He used a changeup as a kill pitch, which I can’t remember. And he got out of it.
After that, the the Giants got a bunch of two-out hits to score runs, which is also something that normal teams do every now and again. Especially the ones that want to make the postseason. Then they hit a long home run, which is also something that ... you get the idea.
That isn’t to suggest that Samardzija was perfect. He got in trouble in the second inning, too, and he was saved by some good fortune, with a ball hit just close enough to Brandon Crawford to avoid calamity. But if you’re not at least a little more optimistic about Samardzija, you’re laying it on pretty thick. Every year we hear best-shape-of-his-lifeisms and learned-a-new-pitch excuses, so we have a callous. But if you had to diagnose Samardzija’s struggles, what would you have come back with?
- Too much stuff over the plate
- Nothing but hard stuff, so hitters could wait for that too much stuff over the plate
So while it’s not a given that this new curveball renaissance will last, but it sure makes sense. The final tally:
- 46 cutters
- 24 four-seamers
- 1 slider that was probably a mislabeled cutter or change-split
- 22 curveballs (!)
- 14 change-split-what-have-yous
I don’t know what the change-split really is. Remember, we just learned after a decade that Jason Schmidt’s famous change was really a screwy fastball with his fingers spread slightly apart. All I know is that Braves hitters swung and missed at four of the 14 what-have-yous. So keep it up, kid.
Here’s where you say, "Ugh, it was just the Braves. Get some perspective." And that’s valid! The Braves aren’t having a very good season. Except neither are the Padres (swept the Giants after the break). Neither are the Reds (lost 2 of 3) or the Phillies (lost 2 of 3). Yet you watched the Giants stumble against them over and over again. That’s three series against teams comfortably under .500, with the Giants winning exactly zero of them.
Which is why I’m going to be happy with this game. Because the Braves could sure win the next two. And all that stuff about the Giants having games where they look like the better team, where they get the hits and the homers and the et ceteras, that doesn’t have to last.
In this game, though, they made sure they matched their longest winning streak of the second half (two!) and put a game out of reach like they’ve avoided doing all month.
It felt good. It looked good. In the first half, they made a lot of teams look like the Braves. This was just a return to form. Against a very bad team, but WHO ARE YOU TO AWARD STYLE POINTS.
It was an easy win. There have been about four of them in the last 37 games, give or take.
* * *
Brandon Belt had the first two-out RBI. Joe Panik, the unluckiest player on the team, and the second two. But let’s take a moment to appreciate Angel Pagan, who hit a very long home run to extend the lead.
Angel Pagan is this year’s winner of the Player Taken For Granted Award. It’s like the Willie Mac Award, but for people that I take for granted. Pun most definitely intended. And because Pagan was so bad last year, it was easy to dismiss his hot start. When he slumped, it was easy to buy into it. When he got hot again, it was easy to dismiss again.
He’s probably pretty okay at what he does. His defense is ... unorthodox. And his arm is ... amusing. But he’s in there to hit. And he’s been just about the only thing good with the Giants while they’ve been floundering. "C’mon guys, this way!" Pagan shouts in the ‘80s teen-adult movie. "We can do it!"
And I’ve been mostly ignoring it in these recaps in favor of homegrown players or fancy new free agents. It’s time, though, to acknowledge that the Giants are getting way more out of Pagan than I expected. Heck, I traded him for Matt Garza in a mock offseason (don’t click that link) just to get him out of center field.
He’s probably pretty okay at what he does. And while I’m not sure if the Giants would be lost without him, they’d certainly be worse.
* * *
[stands on top of car with megaphone]
THE DODGERS LOST A GAME BECAUSE CARLOS RUIZ ALLOWED A PASSED BALL IN THE NINTH INNING.
[gets down from car]
[hi-fives my friend Chet]