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Giants lose, 4-3

Johnny Cueto had four brilliant innings and two-thirds of a bad one. Guess which one mattered more.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants lost by a run at home to a team with one of the worst records in baseball. All of the other team’s runs scored in the same inning. The crucial hit came with two out because of course it did.

That’s all you really need to know. Save some time, find an animal, and pet it. Preferably domesticated, but I don’t know, maybe this is the night you experience something new. Make an anecdote. Don’t read about this game.

But if you’re here, I’m not going to kick you out, and I’d like to rant a little. This has been a good season with a lot of high points. Wait, come back, it’s true. It’s a fishy season in that most of those high points were stuffed in the first half, but that first half was wonderful.

And yet even in the first half, there was something lacking. It’s been bugging me for a while, but now I have the data to back up what I was suspecting: This team has expertly avoided ninth-inning comebacks. Freakishly so.

A breakdown of the 28 runs the Giants have scored in the ninth inning this year:

Ahead by 3+ runs: 5
Ahead by 2 runs: 1
Ahead by 1 run: 1
Tied: 5
Behind by 1 run: 0
Behind by 2 runs: 1
Behind by 3+ runs: 10

Now there’s some selection bias here, as when a team is down by more than three runs, they’re likelier to see Alvin Morman than Aroldis Chapman. But it’s still a remarkable distribution. That behind-by-2-runs entry was from this game, by the way. In case you were wondering if that rare run led to a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

It did not.

Credit to the Giants for being there with some ninth-inning runs to break up the occasional tie. Brandon Crawford most certainly did hit a walk-off homer against the Dodgers after the team was almost no-hit. They’ve done swell things, alright.

But to not have one come-from-behind moment? To not walk into a ninth inning with a closer sent by the temp agency who screws the whole thing up? To not get a run or two in any of the one-run losses? It’s impressive. It takes a team-wide effort.

Take this game. Buster Posey was up with two outs in the ninth. A single or a walk puts the tying run in scoring position. A double or a triple ties it. A home run wins it. Daniel Hudson fell behind, 2-0, and I was the guy alone in his living room, mumbling, "look out for the get-it-in changeup." I’ve seen Hudson enough to know he trusts that pitch, and Hudson’s seen Posey enough to know he can hit a fastball, even if his back is still bothering him.

Hudson threw the change. He left it up. In the movie version of Buster Posey’s life, the scene shifted to Posey 50 years in the future. He’s discombobulated and confused, remembering the pitch he just missed 50 years ago, not quite sure where he is because he was just there, fouling the garbage changeup back instead of sending it to the Coke bottle and being carried away by his teammates.

In real life, he just fouled the pitch off. Then he hit a ball hard, right at the second baseman, and, well, that’s the second half for you. More specifically, that’s the ninth inning for the Giants. They’ll tease. They’ll always get that tying run up. But the comeback will fall just short.

Baseball has a way of making these posts look silly — see: me complaining about the Giants not walking off in the postseason at the start of the 2014 NLCS — but not if you’re expecting it. So stop expecting it. Even if we should probably get a comeback bone thrown to us, so it’s hard not to expect to kick the football just ONE OF THESE STUPID NINTH INNINGS.

My word, how Buster Posey just missed that changeup. The one floating up in the zone to a hitter who was looking for that exact mistake. A fully healthy Posey swallows that pitch and spits it over the fence.

As is, the Giants scored one run in the ninth when they needed two. That’s apparently a new bit that 2016 is working on. Pretty tired of it, really.

* * *

Johnny Cueto was nearly perfect through four innings, allowing a walk and two painfully slow bleeders that were exactly where the defense wasn’t. He was mixing and befuddling, befuddling and mixing, doing what he does best when he’s the platonic ideal of a great Johnny Cueto start.

Then the fifth inning started, and the fog took over. Literal, metaphorical, dunno, wasn’t there. But the fog turned Cueto into a pitcher who could walk Yasmany Tomas, verified hackmaster, to lead off the inning. It made him leave the ball in the middle of the plate for the game-tying triple. It made him walk Zack Greinke, and you know I’m adamantly for the rules of baseball changing to make walks to pitchers count the same as a home run. It’s the same things to the baseball gods, so just save us all some time. Let him jog around the bases and everything.

And that was it. What should have been a classic duel between Greinke and Cueto was over in six batters of concentrated screw-up.

You’ll never believe this, but the Giants are 4-10 in one-run games since the All-Star break.

I’m not sure if it feels worse or better that a legitimate pitcher shut the Giants down. On one hand, you get it. Greinke’s good. On the other hand, if it were Skip Dunplin up for his first major league start, the anger would be more cathartic than whatever this dull, sticky feeling is.

I’ll probably take Greinke. At least he isn’t on the Dodgers anymore, and, yes, I know what his season line looks like. He’s still good, and the Giants did well to keep him from going seven innings.

* * *

In the second half, former Giants prospect Edwin Escobar is on the Diamondbacks for some reason, and he gets Brandon Crawford to hit into a double play with two on and one out.

Should have seen that one coming. Didn’t see that one coming. That is one rascally second half, alright.