Remember: You’re upset because you’re hoping the Giants can play in a postseason series against the Nationals. In a couple months, you want to come home from work or school early, pace around the room, and care about a do-or-die series between the Giants and Nationals. That is, the Giants, who are playing like a team lucky to crack .500, and the Nationals, who look like a pretty complete team.
You’re rooting for that. Why? What kind of monster are you?
Yet again in the second half, the Giants looked thoroughly outclassed in a loss. At least it wasn’t to the Padres, Reds, or Phillies, he uncomfortably offers, avoiding eye contact. The Nationals looked like a postseason team. The Giants looked like a team with Jeff Samardzija on the mound and Eduardo Nuñez hitting third. The Nationals used their shiny new closer in the ninth. The Giants didn’t really care what the bullpen did because the game was over by the top of the second.
For the 20th or 30th time since the All-Star break, I’m not sure if it’s more prudent to complain about the starting pitching or the lineup first. Maybe I should just start making stuff up.
Here are 2,000 words on Denard Span’s shoddy curveball and why he needs to fix it before the World Baseball Classic.
As is, whatever, let’s start with the pitching.
In the first inning, Jeff Samardzija was a victim of bad luck. He was inducing weak contact, but the balls were finding holes, or they were dropping, or they were against the shift in just the right way. The Nationals had two sacrifice flies in the game, while the Giants have had four sacrifice flies in the second half (with two coming in the last two games, too). Everything was getting sucked into the death spiral.
It was almost upsetting. And that’s when Samardzija started throwing the ball down the middle and allowing hard contact. Angel Pagan’s defensive stats probably jumped in this game because he spent the fifth inning chasing down line drives for all three outs. None of them had to be outs. None of them should have been outs. That bad luck from the first inning? Paid with interest.
Then there were two homers because of course there were. There were some gold folks on Twitter.com who were asking for Samardzija to move to the bullpen. Great idea, except you know when home runs really stink? When it’s the eighth inning of a 1-1 game. Or in the sixth inning, when you’re up 4-3. Or ... you get the idea. I’ve never understood the logic of "Ugh, this guy keeps allowing home runs. Let’s demote him so he pitches in the late innings."
Again, there’s no fix. You can make an impassioned argument why Jake Peavy has more upside than Samardzija, and I’ll wear glasses that make it look like my eyes are open. That seems like a fair deal. Until then, I’ll just wait for Samardzija to stop throwing the ball down the middle of the plate every 10th pitch of every fifth day.
Take the strike zone tonight: It was silly. It was wide, it was high, it was low, it was wide on the other side. Silly! But for both teams. That’s the important part. Both teams had the same silly zone, which made it a distinctly un-silly zone. It was something everyone needed to which both teams needed to adjust.
What’s your confidence level in Samardzija pitching in a way that takes advantage of a situation like that? If you rolled your eyes or shrugged while changing channels, you’re absolutely right. He can’t take advantage of that. He can’t work both sides of the plate with finesse. He can throw strikes, but a significant portion of those strikes are garbage strikes. He’s a reverse Jonathan Sanchez, and a wide zone just means there’s a bigger spot right in the middle for him.
But, fine, whatever, it’s not entirely Samardzija’s fault. He gave the Giants innings, which isn’t a small thing. Better to throw seven innings sprinkled with misery than to get bombed before getting out of the second inning. It wouldn’t have mattered if the Giants could have scored five or six runs.
Five or six runs is some serious science fiction, though. The Giants got one on a solo homer. At least they were only 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position. Progress!
It was a lot easier to watch these kinds of games in 2009, when there was at least a theoretical answer. "JUST START BUSTER POSEY, YOU FOOLS", we cried, because we were great at baseball analysis. "AND WHY ISN’T JOHN BOWKER PLAYING EVERY DAY," we screamed, because we weren’t great at baseball analysis. But at least it was an ethos. This second-half screwery is relentless, and there’s no answer. Wait for them to hit. Wait for them to hit. Wait for them to hit.
Prediction: There will be a two-week stretch where Buster Posey AND Hunter Pence AND Brandon Belt AND Joe Panik AND Brandon Crawford are all hitting as well as they’re capable of hitting, and it will seem so damned natural. That will be the team you were expecting. That will be the team you remembered.
Until then, it’s another head-down, shoulders-slumped, deep-sigh kind of game. This probably isn’t the worst team in baseball. This might even be a good team. But I’d sure like to start the second half over.