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Giants blow another lead, lose again

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The Giants were leading 4-0 in the seventh inning, and Johnny Cueto was cruising. You'll never believe what happened next.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s think for a moment why we care about these games, why we’re paying attention to the score of the Dodgers game. What’s the goal of the Giants’ 2016 regular season?

Reach the postseason.

Sure. And what would the Giants do in this "post" season?

Play against the very best teams.

Okay.

Face the very best pitchers. The best lineups. The best bullpens. The best benches. Engage them, and play better baseball.

Right, right. You see where this is going. That’s what you want? You want that to happen on purpose? Oh, friend, I love your spirit, but you can see how that’s a problem. The Giants were swept by the Padres to start the second half. They lost a series to the Reds. They’ve lost a series to the Phillies, and they’re lucky if they don’t get swept.

This is the team you want in the postseason to face the Cubs. The Nationals.

The Dodgers.

Maybe we’ll feel differently in a month. A six-game winning streak would do wonders, and for as much as I want to eat my wristwatch right now, we know this is a team that’s capable of good things. They stuffed so many good things under the mattress last month that they’re still in first place, despite being the worst team in baseball history. That’s Guinness verified, by the way. Probably.

But right now, I can’t imagine this team in the postseason. They can’t win a Madison Bumgarner start. They can’t win a Johnny Cueto start. Jeff Samardzija could allow a homer in Bases Loaded with the controller unplugged, and Matt Cain still has to climb out from under four seasons of disappointment.

No pressure, new guy. But you should probably pick up two wins on Thursday.

There’s a part of me that wants to rage at everything that happened after the ninth inning. George Kontos — a fair, kindly soul for whom I desperately want to root — hangs several sliders in every outing, and it’s absolutely heart-stopping. This game was lost with an HBP that squirted out of his hands, so progress? Eduardo Nuñez is PICKING A BAD TIME TO BE WEIRD AT THIRD BASE considering the lasting heartbreak over Matt Duffy leaving.

But that’s not fair. Kontos shouldn’t have been in the game. Nuñez shouldn’t have had a chance to boot a ball in the bottom of the 12th. It was a 4-0 game entering the bottom of the 7th. The Giants had one of their best pitchers on the mound, and he was rolling. It would take a serious blue shell to screw this up, Bruce Bochy said, as only Hunter Pence understood the reference behind him.

Is it time to drag this out? Every year, man.

Cueto after the first homer: Fine. Happens. The Giants were 96-percent favorites to win before the homer, and they were knocked back to 91-percent favorites after. Still overwhelming favorites.

Cueto after the second homer: Ha ha, well, shoot, that’s uncomfortable. The Giants are now just 83-percent favorites, but there’s just two innings left. What could possibly go wrong?

After watching two homers in the top of the seventh, what’s your leash for Johnny Cueto in the eighth? He started the inning with 96 pitches, so you might have figured he had an inning left in him, but there has to be some limit.

With one out, Cueto walked a batter to bring the tying run to the plate. That’s it. That’s the sign. That is a flashing neon sign. It was the only walk from Cueto on the night, and it brought the tying run up with one out. That is Cueto yelling to the dugout, "SKIP. NOT PUTTING THE BALL WHERE I WANT TO. COME GET ME. HEY, SKIP."

Cueto started Jimmy Paredes with two balls, and then he lost him. Read that sentence again and give me the argument for Cueto staying in past 100 pitches.

Okay, okay, but then you’re leaving him in to face one more hitter — just one more hitter, you promise, for real this time! And that hitter lines a single.

Give me the justification for leaving him in at that point. Ask the hard questions.

Who’s on the mound?
Johnny Cueto, very good pitcher, but he's over 100 pitches.

What’s the score and situation?
4-2, but the tying run is on first base with one out.

What’s going on with the bullpen?
Well, four relievers pitched the night before, but there was a day off before that. Hunter Strickland pitched an inning. Derek Law threw 11 pitches in his inning. Will Smith pitched a third of an inning, and Sergio Romo threw 19 pitches in two-thirds of an inning. Maybe take it easy on Romo, and avoid Strickland if you can help it.

Do you have Andrew Miller?
Oh, that’s right, yeah!

Wait, really?
No, sorry. I was thinking about Jake Peavy, who’s in the bullpen now. No, actually, Andrew Miller is not on this particular baseball team.

Please justify your decision to keep Cueto in the game, specifically referencing one of the ideas or themes we’ve discussed this semester (10 pts)
Oh, uh, with American reconstruction being of primary paramount importance, the issue among the lips of many different people at the time was to consider the ramifacations of leaving Cueto into pitch his final inning in totality, and, uh ...

Screw this. No reason. I can’t imagine it, not with Derek Law being the best reliever on the team all year and relatively rested. It’s possible that there’s something we don’t know about Law or another reliever, which made Bruce Bochy act like he had the world’s thinnest bullpen in the inning after Cueto allowed two very long home runs. That’s the problem with armchair analysis, and I’m sorry if I’m being unfair.

All things being equal, though: Nope. That was weird. Will Smith is here, and he cost the best pitching prospect in the system. You cannot be serious about using him to throw six pitches Carlos Gonzalez in August and little else. Law was rested. Santiago Casilla — who was magnificent in a thankless outing, unfortunately — was rested. Why push it with Cueto?

Results-based analysis. You’ve dragged me down here, second-half Giants. But it’s nothing we all weren’t screaming at the time.

Then you get to the perfect symmetry of Eduardo Nuñez booting a potential double play ball (probably just a fielder’s choice, but still) and noob reliever Jake Peavy futzing up the last inning of the game. The Giants didn’t score in the final nine innings of the game, which seems like the most important point, but it’s still amusing that the Matt Duffy trade looks like a disaster for the second game in a row. You might use a different word. I’m sticking with amusing.

Also, the Giants didn’t score in the final nine innings of the game. Did you notice all of the home runs that weren’t in this game? At least three warning-track outs. That’s because when you’re in a death spiral the wind blows in.

The Giants are 4-13 in the second half. It feels more like a 2-15 team, though. It could feel like a 1-16 team, though. Don't forget that part. Things could be worse.