I would like to think that I’m an experienced baseball fan. Someone who’s seen the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. Someone who realizes there are an infinite number of paths, detours, and misdirections on the way to both. Someone who knows better than to panic over a single game, being careful not to read too much into anything without enough evidence.
I would like to think that. However, I’m also aware that if Matt Moore gave up three homers and six earned runs over four innings, I would have panicked. Maybe not on this very website, where I would have pretended to abide by the rules laid out in the first paragraph. But internally. I would have silently screamed for the rest of the night. My wife would have shook me awake in the middle of the night.
You were screaming that thing about the Curse of the Mosquito or whatever again.
No! The Curse of Skeeter! The oppressive fog that keeps thine eyes from the sun’s kiss! It shall never lift, and we are all doomed. Doooooomed.
Which is a long-winded way to say: Thanks for not giving up six runs, Matt Moore. Thanks for pitching well and giving us reasons for hope. The clankmittery of Eduardo Nuñez and unfortunate debut of Will Smith were a sour early return on the deadline. This game helped on that front. Oh, how it helped.
That’s not to suggest that Moore was dominant. He walked six, tying his career high from 2013, and he struggled with a tight strike zone from Dan Iassogna. It was a vintage Jonathan Sanchez-like performance, and that’s a comparison made with the utmost respect. Never forget just how important Sanchez was to the 2010 Giants, even if you don’t include the triple.
The good news is that Moore isn’t Sanchez, and that the comparison works only for a single game. We have hundreds of innings that suggest Moore can throw strikes just fine. This game was an outlier, and while it was happening, we got to watch why the Giants traded for him in the first place. His fastball averaged 94.5 mph, touching 96. His curveball was sharp and nasty, with seven swings and misses out of 21 swings against it. We didn’t even get to see the change, which was one of the reasons we’re supposed to believe in the rebirth of his last 10 starts.
He lasted six innings, and surely the Giants would like to see seven or even eight innings out of him in the future, but this was a fine, if imperfect, introduction. Matt Moore throws hard. He makes hitters look uncomfortable when all of his pitches are working. You can see how he’ll be a problem for the other team when he’s throwing strikes, and if he’s really a pitcher trending in the right direction, the Giants bought at the right time.
I’ll go on record as saying that I wouldn’t have made the trade, even if I understand why it was made. But it’s done, so at least we got to watch a hard-throwing befuddler throw hard and befuddle in a Giants win. The idea is that we’re supposed to watch it over the next few years, too.
So far, so good.
* * *
The Giants faced the Phillies’ bullpen for 16 innings this series, scoring just three runs and getting 11 hits. They were lucky to escape with a win, really.
This is worth noting because the Phillies’ bullpen isn’t very good. One of the two consistently productive pitchers missed the last two games on paternity leave, too. So while it’s great that Matt Moore looked okay and the Giants avoided the sweep, the lineup is still stressing me out. This is the 10th time since the second half started that they’ve scored three runs or fewer, which is a problem, considering they’ve faced three of the worst pitching staffs in baseball.
I don’t have any answers. It’s not like they can field a better lineup than this, other than Buster Posey being in there. Just pointing it out. For whatever reason, they’re looking like a team that can be shut down by the Padres, Reds, or Phillies. Because they are a team that can be shut down by them.
Of course, the Giants are 1-3 in the games where they score six runs or more in the second half, so maybe there’s a sweet spot right in the middle.
* * *
Not included in the above complaints: Denard Span. He’s having his worst season statistically since he was a 27-year-old with the Twins, except he’s not running or fielding as well as he was back in 2011. Combine all that with the two more years left on his deal, and he’s been a substantial disappointment so far.
This helps. Span was hitting all series, and he slapped a leadoff single to start the game, came back with a sac fly to give the Giants the lead, and won the game with a long home run in extra innings. They were all fantastic at-bats, and it was Span’s ninth two-hit game in 15 second-half starts. He’s hitting .343/.382/.457 since the All-Star break, and he’s also stolen three bases without getting caught.
The Giants have some work to do if they want to beat the Padres, Reds, and Phillies of the world, and they’ll need Span’s continued help. Because a Span who hits like this, followed by a Joe Panik who doesn’t get every line drive caught, followed by Buster Posey, et cetera, still has a chance to be the unquestioned strength of this team. It’s what the strength of the team was supposed to be, after all.
They just need to hit. Here’s a sign that Span is a gonna be the spark plug he was supposed to be. I would be for this new development.
* * *
Also, now that I’ve thanked Matt Moore, it’s time to thank Eduardo Nuñez for not booting the ball in the 10th inning:
What makes it a great play? Not the range, really. You want your third baseman to get to that, and most major leaguers would. But the ball was going faster than he expected, I think, which meant that he had to catch the ball when it was almost by him:
So instead of his momentum heading toward second base (or first, ideally), he was suddenly going the wrong way.
At that moment, what odds would you have given for a clean, calm Santiago Casilla inning? You knew what was going to happen. Leadoff runner reaches. Then a single, or maybe a walk. Followed by a long double into the gap. Or several consecutive balks. It was going to end horribly, and it was partially going to be Nuñez’s fault, again. What a bad look that would have been.
Instead, a clean, calm throw and a clean, calm inning. I think we all knew that Nuñez wasn’t going to win a Gold Glove at third, but I was expecting shaky, not apocalyptic. The first couple games in the post-Duffy era have been apocalyptic.
That, though, was a nice play in the perfect situation. The Giants are playing .600 ball over their last five games you know. Maybe they’ll climb out of this death spiral yet. Maybe they have already.