It seems so simple on the surface. The Giants hit the ball. Their starting pitcher got out of jams. The bullpen didn’t allow a hit. This is what postseason teams do more often than not. And, looking at this here internet, the Giants would be in line for a postseason spot if the season ended today.
It’s so easy to get sucked back in. Their lies, their promises ... except you remember how it was, the way it used to be!
Here’s the difference between a six-run Giants win and a 2-2 game that’s still going on, possibly for the rest of existence, as we turn into ash:
That was a run-scoring single that was reviewed into an out. The umpires were right to overturn it, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an impossibly close play. There’s no shame in an umpire blowing that call. It’s the kind of call that makes you glad that replay exists.
This play has not gone in the Giants’ favor from July 15 on. It has gone distinctly against them. And I’m not talking about a close call at first, or replays in general. They say in "the business" that baseball is a game of inches. But that’s poppycock. You can’t squeeze an inch under Aledmys Diaz’s foot there. It’s a game of millimeters, and the millimeters have been absolute jerks to the Giants in the second half.
In the ninth inning, the millimeters have been screaming "pop up" while you scream "just get a hit please please i will sacrifice the family pet in tribute i’m so sorry mr windchime but you will catch flies in heaven with other geckos now just GET ONE HIT WITH RUNNERS IN SCORING POSITION IN THE NINTH INNING." Pick any of the near-misses in August, when the Giants were masterful at getting the tying run to the plate against every closer in baseball, but unable to score enough runs to prevent a loss.
In the ninth inning, the millimeters have changed pop-ups to home runs, just for the other guys. Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Schimpf didn’t hit home runs tonight because the millimeters weren’t in their favor. They probably popped a couple balls up and into the stands. Because of the millimeters.
The millimeters of a borked double play ball. The millimeters of a hanging slider. They were all going against the Giants in the second half.
That play up there? Diaz was a millimeter too slow, even though he hustled admirably. Which happens.
The next inning, this kept a rally going:
Logically, if Brandon Belt doesn’t score there, it’s still 5-0, and the Giants are still heavy, heavy favorites to win the game.
Instinctively, you know that if the Giants don’t score that run, something get screwed up. When Jhonny Peralta is up in the fifth inning with the bases loaded, down by three, something changes with Matt Moore. He becomes hyper-aware of how a mistake doesn’t just give the Cardinals a chance, but how it gives them a lead. He starts gripping the ball tighter. Mom’s spaghetti. You know how it is.
So Moore walks in another run, and Bruce Bochy turns to Daphne Fanders for the last out of the fifth.
DAPHNE FANDERS: Wait, but I’m not a real p
Too late! Runs score! Doubles, careening all over the place! Boy, the Giants sure could have used that run of Belt’s alright.
It sounds silly, and maybe those plays weren’t the actual turning points of the game, but you get the idea. It feels like in every loss in this second half, there’s been an Aledmys Diaz moment, where the right split-nanosecond decision/action/reaction would have led to a more desirable result. A reminder: The Cardinals were outscored by five more runs in the second half than the Giants entering this series, yet they had five more wins. That’s a millimeter thing.
You know that a Yadier Molina throwing error started the whole thing, right? Could have been a double play. Ended up being a six-run rally.
Here, then, are the millimeters. At any point, Matt Moore could have broke, not bent. A week ago, he would have broken. He was solid for four innings and iffy after that. And a whole bunch of other good stuff happened in the meantime. The most transcendent of these good stuffs might have been Buster Posey hitting a home run for the first time since Bengie Molina was on the team:
What if Buster Posey — the one we remember, the one we adore — joined the cast of the 2016 Giants?
Why, it would be a treat. Your job here is to imagine yourself as a fan of another team. The Mariners, perhaps. They’re a weird sort. Smell like turmeric and dejection. But try your best. Now you’re a fan of the Mariners, and you’re watching the postseason, and Buster Posey is hitting the ball all over the place. To left, to right, up the middle. He’s punishing lefties, and he’s pumping home runs over the fence. What do you say to this, Mariners fan who hasn’t watched a lot of Giants baseball this year?
Yep. That’s Buster Posey. He’s pretty good.
It makes complete sense to that person. To us, all we know is the homerless streak, the aches and the pains, the back, the wincing after the foul balls back to the screen. Oh, goodness, what has happened to our star player, we gasp, clutching our pearls.
To them, it’s completely sensible. Now Gorkys Hernandez hitting a ninth-inning homer in the NLCS? That will weird them out. But Posey doing Posey things ... not so weird.
The same goes up and down the roster. Crawford, Belt, Panik, whomever. They should be good. THAT’S WHAT WE’VE BEEN SAYING FOR THE LAST TWO MONTHS.
And maybe we’ll still get a pie in the face. But at least we have little oases like these to remember just how things were supposed to be. The plan is beautiful when it works.
The plan ... why, it’s beautiful when it works.