If you didn’t read Friday’s recap, don’t go back and do it now. Just know that it was an extended exercise in whining and can-kicking. The Giants couldn’t do anything right. They had the answers to the math exam during the history essay, and they remembered the effects of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff during the math exam. Their timing was even worse than their execution, which was plenty bad enough.
This game, though. This game was different. This was the game where the Giants loaded up the poppycock cannon and sprayed the absolute hell out of the other team. And you don’t even have to feel guilty about it. The Giants won, 3-2, against Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, which is just a beautiful sentence to type.
And the important thing is how those three runs scored. They were poppycock, all of them. Just had a mom tell me that her fifth grader reads every one of my recaps, so we’ll stick with poppycock. Wink. Nudge. You know what I really mean, though.
The first run was set up with a one-out double from Angel Pagan that came after a blown strike-three call. Brooks Baseball says as much, anyway:
That li’l green fellow, to the outside corner from the catcher’s perspective? Pretty much a strike. It should have been a three-pitch strikeout, two outs. The Giants got lucky. And with a gift runner on second, they scored on an error.
"Here, Giants. Have this run," said absolutely no one since July 15. "Take it. We can’t use it." It was the gift that teams get occasionally. It was the gift that the Giants were desperate for.
If you look at the replay, you see that Kris Bryant was aware of Hunter Pence’s speed. Maybe a little too aware. Good.
The second run scored after Joe Panik blooped a single into right field. This is acceptable. This is owed. Panik had some of the worst luck in recent memory since coming off the disabled list. He lined out in the first inning, too. This bloop was a hit he was owed, and there are 20 more coming, possibly in the NLCS alone.
The bloop was followed by a wild pitch. Wilson Contreras has a future. Bright future. But I’m not as convinced about his glovesmanship just yet, and Panik moved to second on a wild pitch. Then he moved to third on another wild pitch.
Brandon Belt checked his swing on a 3-2 pitch, and this is the noise I made after watching the check swing: Nnnnannrrrrnnnnnnooofmmmmmmmyeah. Because it could have gone either way. Belt seems to invite the Murphy’s Law conclusion of every check swing, for whatever reason. But it was a walk, and this is a reminder that no Giants player has walked more than Brandon Belt since Barry Bonds was forced into retirement.
That was followed by a nubber to right field by Eduardo Nuñez, who was also due a couple nubber-hits. Don’t act sheepish about the nubber. The nubber is your right. You’ve earned that nubber. All of the line-drive outs were leading up to this nubber.
That’s two poppycock runs, and now we get to the best one.
The third run scored with ha ha ha ha, I can’t even keep a straight face. Okay, well, here goes, please be understanding if ha ha ha ha ha ha
Brandon Crawford singled with one out. He was running on a full count and stole second as Joe Panik struck out. The play was unusual because there was no one covering second, and I’m pretty sure that a middle infielder in the proper position would have gotten him. As is, runner on second, two outs.
That brought up Brandon Belt, who has actually done okay in clutch situations this year, so quit yer heckling. At the same time, yeah, I was already looking forward to the next inning. That’s a quarter on Belt, three-quarters on the Giants in the second half.
That’s when Crawford took advantage of the Cubs’ extreme shift against Belt and took third without a throw. Man, oh man, how I wish the Giants did this more often. I’m not sure if they could, really. Haven’t paid attention to the opportunities that have been presented. But I want more. This was a welcome Costco sample, and I would like to buy several 64-packs from the freezer section. It made you think, "Now if the Cubs could just throw a wild p
And they did! The very next pitch. Contreras was shaky all game, not quite getting to the wild pitches, and straight missing a ball once or twice, and Arrieta was going to go below the dirt against Belt in a two-strike count, so you could see it coming. But it never works that perfectly. There is never a straight line from A-to-Z like that in baseball, especially for the Giants in the second half. There was this time.
Panik on Crawford: "He's a modern-day Rickey Henderson, right?"— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) September 3, 2016
Yeah, that’s a fair comp.
The sequence might have been my favorite of the season. And for whatever reason, I especially love that Belt struck out on the next pitch. Like he was yelling, "I WAS GOING TO STRIKEOUT ANYWAY, YOU DUMMIES" toward the Cubs’ dugout. He probably should have yelled that.
Those were the runs scored by a team that had three hits in each of their past two games. There isn’t a legitimate one among them. The first one needed a blown call and an error, the second one needed a bloop, and the third one needed the Cubs to screw up three different times in quick succession. This is not a criticism. This is pride. Beaming, unrepentant pride.
This is the game the Giants have been waiting for.
Madison Bumgarner is probably the real reason the Giants won, as he struck out 10 batters in six innings, and he deserved much better than two earned runs. There were shenanigans on the Cubs’ part, too. They were just out-shenaniganed.
One of the worst parts of the second half has been how the Giants haven’t been able to win the Bumgarner starts, even when he pitches well. Even when a team is abysmal, they should still get to look forward to the Ace Days. When the Mariners were losing 90 games, they at least got to look forward to the Felix Hernandez days and expect good things. The White Sox get to do that with Chris Sale. It’s a right if you have a top-tier pitcher, even for the bad teams.
Yet the Giants couldn’t win with Bumgarner. Even worse, he was shakier than normal in some of his recent starts. The command wasn’t as fine.
This was a duel against Jake Arrieta, and it was a draw, at best. I’d give the advantage to Bumgarner, really, considering the bat-missing majesty he showed all game. This was the ace the Giants were looking for, and it came in the aciest of starts. The pitch count got him — Wilson Contreras taketh away, and he giveth — but it was a start the Giants were hoping for.
That left it to the bullpen, and they were ... shaky. Let’s put it like this: Santiago Casilla was by far the steadiest reliever of the five used by the Giants.
This is one of my favorite sketches of all time, and if you’re familiar with it, you can skip to 4:45 to see the Giants’ bullpen in action:
If you’re not familiar with it, you can watch the first four minutes and watch the 2016 Giants bullpen, over and over again.
The Giants came close, but they never crashed into the thimbles. We’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow, but on this day, they were as good as we could have hoped.
Which is to say, pretty danged lucky.
We’ll take it.
We’ll take it and inhale its scent as we fall asleep tonight.
The Giants won a game, and I’m not sure how they did it.
We’ll take it.