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The Giants lost another game they were leading when the ninth inning started, which totally surprised everyone

Madison Bumgarner was at his best, and then the bullpen came in. Has anyone noticed that the ninth inning hasn't been very kind to the Giants this year.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants are 4-5 in their last nine games when leading after eight innings. Here's a list of teams that don't have five losses all season in games where they enter the ninth inning with a lead:

  • Angels
  • Astros
  • Blue Jays
  • Braves
  • Brewers
  • Cardinals
  • Cubs
  • Diamondbacks
  • Dodgers
  • Indians
  • Marlins
  • Mets
  • Nationals
  • Orioles
  • Padres
  • Pirates
  • Rangers
  • Rays
  • Red Sox
  • Reds
  • Royals
  • Tigers
  • Twins
  • White Sox
  • Yankees

The A's and Phillies have five losses each when leading after eight. The Rockies have six, and the Mariners have seven.

But let me emphasize the key point here: Those are the teams that don't have as many losses in games they led after eight innings in the entire 2016 season as the Giants have in their last nine games in that situation. This is the Barry Bonds Baseball-Reference page of shitty bullpens. It breaks everything you think you know about baseball and makes you giggle-sob in your sleep. Every fact about this team's bullpen is the shrieking obelisk on the moon in 2001. We are horrified and attracted and repelled and enthralled. The shrieking obelisk pointed humanity to its next evolutionary stage. So, too, shall this shitty bullpen.

The worst part about baseball is all the results-based analysis that we gobble up and regurgitate because we have no choice. It's either that or not talk about it at all. And if Joe Panik is playing Corey Seager straight up, the Giants get a double play on his grounder. That leaves one out for the save, and they sure could have blown it, but let's just say they don't. What's the narrative in that case?

Thank goodness Ron Wotus didn't get weird with Corey Seager's shift.

Nope. We wouldn't have noticed. The headline would have been Giants Save Baseball Game. And, oh, my stars, it would have been an 800-point headline made from a picture featuring dogs standing on each other's dog shoulders. Would all of the dogs also be biting a man? No, that would be too on the nose. But it would have been a glorious headline. I could have written the hell out of it.

Instead, an odd, Panik-only shift was on, and I'm not sure why, considering Seager's ground ball spray chart doesn't dictate anything that extreme. But maybe it was based on the way Javier Lopez was going to pitch to Seager, or maybe they knew something we didn't, dunno. It's a little granular to nitpick that situation if you acknowledge that everyone in charge has a lot more information than the FanGraphs page you were just on.

That's what had to happen in this blown save. The double play ball had to be hit in exactly the spot where the second baseman wasn't. He had to be an inch away from keeping the ball in the infield, just for good measure. If you'll remember Santiago Casilla's blown save on Saturday ...


Anyway, if you'll remember Casilla's blown save on Saturday, you know that he also was two steps away from a middle infielder turning a crucial double play. Yes, that's baseball, ha ha, but it's so much more than that. There had to be the bloop allowed by Romo before that. There had to be the inexcusable walk from Casilla. It was a symphony of mistakes and bad luck that aligned in the perfect way.

In this game, the first mistake was that Derek Law was throwing 89-92 without command. That's not him. It doesn't have to mean that he's hurt or tired, but it sure does have to mean that he wasn't the solution. He wasn't the pitcher Bochy thought he brought into the eighth.

So he started the ninth. There's results-based analysis, and there's that decision, which looked bad the second it was made. Derek Law was the correct answer last week, when he had his stuff. He wasn't in this game.

Which is the point! To do what the Giants have done, they've had to screw up in so many ways, through poor decisions, poor luck, and abominable sequencing. It's been hitting three times on 18 and getting to 21, over and over again. Except in reverse. I guess that would mean splitting aces in every hand and getting a spider for the next card? Like, an actual spider. A real bitey one. I'll workshop that reverse analogy in the morning.

Don't forget that the Giants scored one run. That seems important. They have to be just awful enough at scoring to take leads that have to be protected in the same precarious fashion.

That's not to say the pitchers haven't been absolutely dreadful. They've made bad pitches, alright. Law's pitch to Andrew Toles deserved to be hit. Hunter Strickland's two-strike pitch to Justin Turner was a mistake, and his pitch to Adrian Gonzalez might have been even worse. It's pretty telling how we're 800 words in and we haven't even brought up the Hunter Pence clank that actually lost the game. Because if he caught it, we all knew they were going to lose anyway, so whatever.

But if a team is going to set a franchise record for blown saves and losses when leading after eight innings, they need that extra something to get them over the hump of just being a bad situational team. The next hitter to hit .400 will need all sorts of bloops and ill-timed shifts and balls under the first baseman's glove that was just a little too slow.

We're watching the .400 hitter of ninth-inning losses. But in reverse. Which is like pulling a one-armed bandit's arm, watching cherries come up, and then being overwhelmed with the spiders that pour out.

I'll say this: You'll remember this team. No matter if they win a postseason game or series or fail right off the edge of the regular season, you'll remember this team for as long as your internal memory has sufficient power. That's at least something.

* * *

I'm tired and I want to sleep under my car, so this might have to be fleshed out another day. But this also happened. It was another dumb yelling episode from Madison Bumgarner, and I saw arguments in favor of it. They usually took two forms.

1. At least someone's showing some fire. Maybe this will wake the team up.

I would buy this if there were an actual slight to get mad at. If Yasiel Puig cursed at Bumgarner running down the line, or if he did the fingers under the chin thing, fine. Get fired up. Show your teammates you're not going to back down or whatever.

This was just a surly dude looking for a slight from a guy who has pissed him off from the very first bat flip.

The corollary to this idea is that, gee, the other team might get fired up, too. And they might be the ones who are trailing. And considering their player didn't do a damned thing wrong, maybe they'll get more of the desired fired-up juice.

And if they do, you've just set everyone up to look even more like complete asses if your teammates blow a one-run lead. Emotion doesn't translate into wins and happy-fun time, not always. Sometimes it looks stupid at the time and even dumber in retrospect.

2. That's just how he plays. It's like Draymond Green — he has to do it if he wants to succeed.

Sure, I can get behind this. I've made this argument myself with both players, and I believe it to some extent. Except it seems like you're trying to distract me from the fact that the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. That lead was blown in part because of Green's churlishness. If he plays Game 5, the Warriors win. There's no way to prove it, but I'm comfortable assuming as much.

And yet if Green needs that fire to play as well as he does, the Warriors wouldn't have gotten there without his fire, which leads to his generally excellent play. It's the Draymond Paradox, and it applies to Bumgarner. If Bumgarner isn't eating entire planets in pure, unfettered baseball rage, maybe he doesn't have the starfire in his belly to let him do things like pitch in Game 7 on two day's rest.


But if I could wave a magic wand and have both the player and the normal, affable, reasonable level of sportsmanship, I would do it. At least 50 percent of the time, that is, because a little of it is awfully amusing.

A little bit goes a long way, though. I don't know if Bumgarner hurt himself, or if Bochy didn't want to see him get thrown at, or if he was just out of gas after expending all of that wrasslin' energy. But there's no way he comes out of an ordinary game with a one-hit shutout going on 97 pitches after seven innings.

I don't know how it would have gone if he started the eighth. But I know how it went when he didn't.

Fun fact: There's only been seven times in baseball history that a starting pitcher has allowed one hit or fewer, no walks, and zero runs through seven innings and lost. Only one of those pitchers struck out as many batters as Bumgarner did (10). This should have been a night for celebration.

Instead, the offense didn't do anything, the bullpen screwed up, and the ace's brilliant outing was tarnished by a silly shoving match that didn't need to happen and might have lit a fire under another team. Like the Giants' bullpen needs the other team to start lighting more fires around them.

It was, you might say, a bad night.

Don't worry, though.

There's more baseball tomorrow.