It was a Madison Bumgarner vs. Jarred Cosart matchup. The former will get Cy Young votes. The latter entered the game with a 5.63 ERA and six walks for every nine innings pitched. If the Giants lost this game, they might as well have gotten on the team bus, drove straight past the hotel, and filmed a Netflix series about Chilean cuisine. "The Team That Drove For Four Days," they’d call it.
The Giants almost lost this game.
They did not! But they almost did. But they didn’t! But they almost did. Back and forth you go, and it’s completely appropriate. Most teams don’t have a Top Five Wins That Made You Mad As Hell list they can draw from, but the 2016 Giants do. This is second only to the extra-innings win against the Diamondbacks, the one where Cory Gearrin played left field.
I want you to think about how the Giants scored the winning run in that game. I want to say it was Cory Gearrin, lumbering left fielder, jacking a long, long homer into the swimming pool, but that’s not right. No, it was Kelby Tomlinson, getting a one-out single with a runner in scoring position, the exact hit you were absolutely sure the Giants weren’t going to get.
He did it again! It’s more coincidence than trend, but when a future civilization builds a religion and worldview based on nothing but a preserved collection of 2016 Giants game recaps, they’ll spend at least a little time making sure the Kelby Tomlinson statue is just so. The Giants needed a single. They sent up Professor Single. They got a single. And for the 138th straight day, the Giants are in position for one of the five postseason spots in the National League.
I can’t tell if this team is a test of faith — Joltin’ Job! — or if the entire second half has been the baseball gods trying to give the Giants the hint that it’s time to leave after a party.
BASEBALL GOD: [turns off living room light]
BASEBALL GOD: Wow, it is sooooo late. And I have to be up early tomorrow for work.
THE STUPID GIANTS: [playing 58th game of Mario Kart 64]
THE STUPID GIANTS: Hey, I don’t mind if you just crash in your room.
But they’re still here. Either we’re passing the test of faith, or they are, or I don’t even know.
I swear, if this stupid team lost this stupid game ...
They did not! Still can’t get over that. Like they should be proud of whatever in the hell that was. But they should be! All I know is that at some point in the fourth inning, with the Giants holding a 6-0 lead, the Padres’ win expectancy dropped to 2.2 percent.
Except that’s a win expectancy that’s free of context. It doesn’t take into account that Madison Bumgarner is on the mound, or that he’s facing the Padres, who have been the second-worst offensive team in the NL since the All-Star break (GUESS WHICH TEAM HAS BEEN THE WORST, I DARE YOU). If you adjusted for those factors, I’d guess the Padres had about a 1-in-100 chance of winning at that point.
Dinger. Leadoff walk the next inning, followed by another dinger. Two-out double on a lunging, off-balance swing that resulted in a chopper that skipped off third base. Yet another dinger. Two-out single the next inning. Wild pitch. Two-out single. That was how the Padres almost won.
The Giants had a pitcher on the ropes in the very first inning, and they got the two-out hit they’d been lacking. Then they got another one. The pitcher ended up leaving the game with an injury, and he was relieved by a procession of September call-ups that Andy Green heard of for the first time tonight. Again, Bumgarner was pitching for the Giants. He had two doubles. He had a no-hitter through four. This was the easiest win of the year.
Instead ... well, look, I don’t even care. Just had to get some things off my chest. We know that Tomlinson is a hero, and so is Denard Span, who is literally leading the Giants in home runs in the second half. If Span's second-half home run total were a full season, it would be the second-highest home run total for his entire career. Weird.
But you know those guys are the heroes. Let’s round up some unsung heroes while we're at it.
UNSUNG HERO #1: Hunter Strickland for 1⅔ perfect innings with three strikeouts. Mind you, he hung a curveball to Derek Norris that traveled back through time and gave Norris another chance to hit it, and that could have been the game. This recap would have a much different feel.
UNSUNG HERO #2: If Eduardo Nunez doesn’t catch this sucker, Bumgarner has to throw another dozen pitches, easy.
He’s such a gregarious fellow, he is.
Just making people happy.
UNSUNG HERO #3: Joe Panik didn’t just get a two-out hit in the first. He got a two-out hit in an inning where the Giants were doing everything right. That’s the worst part about this team. It’s not like they’re going up there and doing the ol’ Bugs Bunny strike-one-strike-two-strike-three-yer-out. They’re working the count. Getting count leverage. Waiting for that fastball. Waiting for their pitch and coming out of their shoes to hit it.
It never seems to work out. After the Giants got runners all over the bases in the first, they worked the counts in their favor, and then nothing good happened. Until Panik singled right up the danged middle.
Panik should really be hitting .280 right now, at least. It’s good to see him getting the hits he’s deserved for a while.
UNSUNG HERO #4: To be honest, if all of these guys are unsung, I’m not sure who’s sung, but let’s have a nice round of applause for Sergio Romo not being too much of a weirdo in the save situation. Will Smith gave up a single, and Romo gave up another single, but it was never out of control. Romo vs. a rookie for the first time is one of baseball’s purest gifts, and it happened to help save the game in this case.
Sergio Romo: 3-for-3 in save situations. It’s 2012 again, and my only regret is that the Giants can’t make Mat Latos sad.
Oh, man. He’s on the Nationals, isn’t he? So you’re saying there’s a chance ...
I have no idea why Bumgarner came down with dinger fever in the fifth. All I know is that if he lost this game after losing the last game, in which he was absolutely brilliant, I was going to have a very, very public meltdown.
Instead, we’re here. The Giants won, 9-6. That’s normal, right? That seems like a normal score a normal team might win by. This is all very normal. And the Giants still have a chance to ruin the postseason for everyone else, which is sort of the point.