Zack Greinke was coming off an atrocious start against his former team. Matt Moore was coming off an atrocious start in Coors Field. The former was certainly more illustrative in terms of how one pitcher's season has been going than the latter, but given the Giants' fortunes in the second half, it would not have been too surprising if Matt Moore followed up a bad start with a bad start against another team the Giants couldn't afford to lose to; and, Greinke could've just as easily turned around his woeful (for him) season by buttoning it up against the Giants, a team against which he has historically performed rather well.
But that didn't happen today. Instead, that thing where a good team beat a bad team happened and the Giants leave Arizona tonight having won 3 games in a row for the first time since the first half (July 8-10). They were riding high, the tops in baseball. They've since fallen to near-laughingstock status, but apparently, that is a notch above the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that is now 25-46 at home. So, perhaps a modicum of perspective concerning the Giants' historic collapse in this second half is warranted.
Matt Moore was fantastic. 7 innings, 11 strikeouts, and perhaps only "really" responsible for one of the earned runs of the 2 charged to his ledger. You see, Angel Pagan's outfield defense has been a running joke for many years now, and today on a hard hit liner to the warning track, he managed to put a glove on it but couldn't catch it all the same. Now, perhaps that's a tough play for the majority of outfielders, but perhaps it won't be for someone like Mac Williamson next year.
And it's not like Angel Pagan didn't make amends for his misplay on Chris Owings' liner in the fifth inning; he also worked out a 10-pitch walk against Greinke in an inning that saw the would-be ace throw 40 pitches. That started the rally that gave the Giants a lead they'd never relinquish.
Moore's fastball looked sharp and seemed to explode up in the zone. He and Buster Posey worked well together hitting corners and stealing borderline pitches, and even some of his mistakes were simply missed. He and the Giants faced the right team to "get healthy" against and it was a commanding performance of 93-95 mph and diving changeups. You can not only see why the Giants traded for him, but also how his performance down the stretch will be absolutely crucial; the Giants will need at least another sweep somewhere in September. Getting three strong starting pitching performances in a row will be the best way to accomplish this, especially if the offense continues to turn the corner at this glacial pace.
* * *
It's hard to tell if Denard Span is coming out of his "funk", because he's had spurts here and there all season of hitting like a major league baseball player. But he hasn't been taking many walks or playing great defense, either, so the entire Span package has been... lackluster... at best. But a leadoff home run against Zack Greinke to back up two strong at bats to end last night's game is positive enough that we should just be thankful and "take it". Congrats, Denard Span. You're back.
* * *
Brandon Belt's RBI single in the sixth represented one of Belt's best plate appearances in the second half. It showed dynamic zone judgment and bat handling -- two visual skills that had been sorely lacking, as far as I could tell. Putting atypical swings on tough pitches to me signals a relaxed player, who's reacting and not pressing. This speaks to Hunter Pence's flare up of hitting prowess, too: he's not chasing bad pitches. And it doesn't look like he's lunging at the ones he likes, either.
It's hard to take away from a couple of instances here and there and say THIS FORESHADOWS THE NEXT 3 WEEKS, but it's baseball and the Giants have had very little entertainment value for nearly 60 days now, so, let's get wild and crazy of these final 21 or so and dream big, okay?
Someone on the Giants might actually hit 18 home runs this season.
* * *
Matt Moore was the platonic ideal of Matt Moore today and it should be pointed out that everyone's favorite lion, Hunter Strickland, was the platonic ideal of Hunter Strickland, too. Bruce Bochy left him in to close the game after seeing his incredible command of his 95 mph+ two-seam fastball settle down a slowly unraveling situation in the 8th inning. It was the closer by committee in action and it totally worked.
It's impossible to ask a baseball player to *be* the best version of himself every time he runs onto the field, but if that best version of himself just so happens to cluster through the last month of the regular season when there's a playoff spot on the line... well, that's how legends are made.
* * *
Jake Lamb hit a triple today, but he did NOT hit a home run.
* * *
Tomorrow, another crucial series begins, this time against the Padres, the team that effectively knocked the Giants from first place by using their shin or other hex-like powers in the second half opening series in San Diego way back on July 15. They ruined Santiago Casilla somehow and Sacramento room serviced Buster Posey or something to sap him of his All-Starryness, so the Giants will have to deploy their wizards and bishops well in advance of their charter flight landing.
That's right: the Padres are no longer a lacrosse team; they're demons.
The Giants hold a 2-game lead over the Cardinals, who just lost their Wild Card spot to the Mets, who now trail the Giants by 1.5 games.