This was not the game where the Giants needed their bullpen to throw several shutout innings. That’s what happened, even if the relievers took a circuitous path to get there, but it’s not what they needed. Last night. Last night is when the Giants needed that. They got it in this game.
This was not the game where the Giants needed a competent starting pitcher to limit the damage, holding the opposing team to just a couple runs. That’s what happened, but it’s not what they needed. They needed that last night. They needed it in games against the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Mets, Pirates, Orioles, Nationals, Phillies, Reds, Yankees, and Padres in the second half. They got it in this game.
This was not the game where the home run was hit at the right time. Those games do not exist. This was not the game where the balls found holes. This was not the game where line drives went for hits. This was not the game where the Giants got hits with runners in scoring position. They were 0-for-3, which, if you want to look at the bright side, is just a hit away from being a .250 average.
This was not the game where Hunter Pence got the hit at the right time. Neither was last night. Oh, he got the hits alright, long and beautiful home runs, and it’s great to watch him climb out of the thorny bush he was stuck in. But the Giants couldn’t use those homers today. They needed one of those homers when Ryan Vogelsong loaded the bases in the first inning of his return to AT&T Park. They needed one of them against Jameson Taillon when there were runners in scoring position, two outs, and a one-run deficit. In the last two games, they were nothing but pleasant distractions on the road to another loss.
This was not the game where the Giants got that one break they were looking for, the kind that can turn a one-run loss into a one-run win, the broken-bat hit at the right time, the passed ball, the grounder that was just out of reach. The Giants are 4-11 in one-run games since the All-Star break, which is a running total that I’ll keep including as long as they’re relevant. Feels like we should appreciate those four wins even more.
This was the game that made you remember what you’re rooting for: You’re rooting for the Giants to make the postseason, where they can play games against good teams with everyone watching. Where they can step up to the podium in front of the whole world, clear their throat, and demand everyone’s attention. They’re 27-34 now against over-.500 teams, in case you were wondering. More specifically, they’re 10-21 since the break.
This was the game that made you wonder what we’ll think if the Giants actually do it. If they actually shame us again for losing our faith, come back, and somehow win the World Series. There’s about a one-percent chance of that happening, of course, but like a shipwrecked person dreaming about a juicy hamburger, it’s fun to ponder, even when it’s impossible. Especially when it’s impossible.
And if the Giants actually do it, here’s what I’ll think: I don’t want to see 2018. I will not enjoy what the writers will think they have to do to raise the stakes. After Jack Bauer saved a senator, he had to save a president, then save a city from a deadly virus, then save a city from a nuclear bomb. He was a couple seasons away from saving the planet from lizard people. Which is where the Giants are right now if they win. The 2018 season will be the baseball equivalent of lizard people, and it will be forced and unwatchable. There will be an 0-20 start or an 0-20 finish, and you’ll have your nose rubbed in it the whole time before the Giants turn it around at just the right time.
Of course, the Giants won’t actually do it this year. There isn’t really magic in the even years, and we’ll get to appreciate that the three championships in five years was just a special, brilliant fluke that we were all lucky to watch. It was just as unlikely but no more meaningful than three people named Boss Clendinger unwittingly sharing the same taxi. It would be a charming coincidence, but it doesn’t mean the fourth passenger they picked up would have anything close to the same name. This is just a dude named Keith, and he smells like a toenail.
Albert Suarez pitched well enough, and the bullpen was imperfectly perfect. The Giants held the Cubs to two runs, which isn’t something teams have been able to say in 105 of the 137 games they’ve against the Cubs played this year. Would you believe the Cubs are 7-22 in the games in which they’ve scored two runs or fewer this year? Of course you would. Just like you would believe that the Giants are one of the teams that couldn’t win in that kind of game.
This was not the game where you started to wonder if you were wrong about the Giants. This was a game with line-drive outs a day after they lost on a broken-bat flare. This was another frustrating, obnoxious, puddle of disillusion. This was the second half in a coffee mug, and you don’t know why, but you keep ... taking ... sips ... you ... fool.
And yet the Giants are still capable of winning a postseason spot. They are still capable of winning the NL West. They are still capable of making us laugh about this one day. Were they 80-1 in the first half of the season? Feels like they were if they’re still contending now. It’s probably a good thing they were 80-1 in the first half. Really set themselves up nicely in case everything fell apart.
Everything is falling apart. Yet the Giants still have a chance. That’s been the case for the last two months, and I can’t explain any of it.