And in the 143rd game of the 2016 baseball season, the San Francisco Giants played their dullest game of the year. I do not have irrefutable evidence for this claim yet. But the night is young, and we can compile this evidence together.
The Giants have played 142 games this season that were more exciting than this 4-0 loss to the Padres. How was this game more boring than all of the ones that will come before or after? Let us count the ways.
1. The score
It can’t be a 1-0 loss, obviously. Those can be some of the very best baseball games. One swing could turn the whole thing around. That goes for a 2-0 game, to a lesser extent. A bloop and a blast. That’s all it takes.
But it can’t be a 10-0 game, either. Your team can’t lose by 10 without you being livid at something or someone(s). Being livid is an underrated form of entertainment. You get to grumble about (Bochy/starting pitcher/reliever) when you watch a 10-run loss, and that makes you feel better about yourself for some reason. There are endorphins in a 10-0 game.
Four, though. That’s the sweet spot. Just enough to keep you hanging around as you watch your local baseball squadron ground into out after out, but only if they’re popping into out after out. Just enough to make you half-heartedly wait for the four-run rally that never comes. But not close enough to qualify as a save situation.
I’ll also accept 5-0. But there’s something about a 4-0 loss that treads the line between futility and apathy so marvelously.
This was the 11th time the Giants were shut out this year, and two of those were 4-0 losses. So we have work to do.
2. The opponent
Oh, Padres. The only baseball team in league history that comes with a warning about operating heavy machinery. They aren’t a bad team with Mike Trout. They aren’t a mediocre team with A.J. Pierzynski or Shane Victorino. They’re just the test pattern of baseball, even when they win. Jon Jay had the game winning motion to compel, unless he didn’t, unless he’s not on the team anymore. I can’t remember if he was on the lineup, and I just watched that whole game.
The last two games the Giants lost 4-0 were against the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. Say, now those are some fresh faces. No Jon Jays there. Nary an Alexi Amarista to be found. At least we got to watch David Ortiz and Jose Bautista act all scary in those games.
This was the lineup that just beat the Giants.
Hey, there’s Jon Jay! He’s on the active roster all right. Now, it’s my job to know most of those players, so I can’t pretend to be ignorant of Alex Dickerson and/or Ryan Schimpf.
You, however, carry no such burden. You might not know more than a couple of these guys. This is the team that put the pillow over your face, and the only remarkable thing about them is that you can arrange the lineup like this:
And that would make a DJ Ass Ass lineup. But Bud Black can’t even do that right.
Bud Black is still managing the Padres, right? Well, he is for this recap.
3. The opposing pitcher
Paul Clemens has appeared in 63 games in his career, split over three seasons. His 5.22 ERA coming into this game was the lowest of his career. He’s 28, with a walk rate of 4.0 per nine innings and a strikeout rate of 6.3. He is the monster under the bed of everyone who thinks that baseball is too boring.
So of course he dulled things up expertly. He didn’t blow the Giants away. He didn’t make the Giants look silly. He allowed a couple hard-hit balls, but mostly weak contact. Rolled over to second, popped into the outfield. Rolled over to second, popped into ...
Andy Green said Paul Clemens was throwing up between innings. Clemens said he feels "fine."— Dennis Lin (@sdutdennislin) September 13, 2016
Most of us have an immunity to Padres/Giants games that we’ve built up over the years. This poor guy didn’t have a chance.
4. The warning-track outs
There were at least three of them, including one from Jeff Samardzija. That’s almost exciting! Except it was the kind of thick night where you knew nothing was going out unless it was hit just perfectly. You could usually read the expression of the hitters before the camera cut to the flyball shot, and everyone knew their would-be Coors homers were going to come back to sea level wet and disappointing.
And that made you feel like even more of a dingus. Getting half-excited about a warning-track out like a damned rookie. It only served to remind you how sad your expectations really were.
5. The Giants were coming off a winning streak, so you couldn’t even be super mad at them for crimes committed in the last couple days
Again, being irate is a kind of entertainment. And when the Giants are in the middle of a 1-8 stretch, you’re secretly having fun as you shake your head in disgust. Or, if not fun, at least it’s the absence of nihilism.
Not so in a 4-0 loss at the end of a surprising winning streak. You can’t even be as annoyed as usual.
6. I was planning on doing 20 of these, but I’ve already lost interest and want to sleep
Yeah, that was overly ambitious. Besides, I’m already questioning my thesis because Hector Sanchez hit a home run. Could a game with a Hector homer really be the dullest game of the season?
Probably. Because I just watched it, and it didn’t move the needle for me at all. The Giants had five hits, and their pitcher hit the only double. They were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and it’s remarkable that they had six at-bats with runners in scoring position. Felt like two, tops.
How did Jeff Samardzija do? Ehhhhhhhnnnnhhhhh, [makes so-so motion with hand]. Neither good nor bad. Made some good pitches. Made some bad ones. Pitched well enough to win on another night. Pitched poorly enough to lose on this one. Which is what a pitcher does in a dull, dull game.
The Giants and Padres played the dullest game of the season, and you got to watch. Or if you didn’t get to watch, at least you get to live through it the first time right now. I don’t know if the Giants will win another game this season, but there’s a chance that we’ve seen the apex of boring baseball for the 2016 season.