Moron that I am, Santiago Casilla protecting a two-run lead in the ninth inning at Coors Field didn’t worry me. Casilla’s recent history has been abysmal. The Giants’ history in ninth innings at Coors Field has been abysmal. This isn’t multiplication, where two negatives become a positive. Yet I was optimistic.
The Giants were two wins away from a series win at Coors Field. Swept by the Padres right after the All-Star break? Just a little rusty. Lose a couple series to the Reds and Phillies? Just one of those things. Lose to the Cubs? Hey, they’re really good. But take a series from the Rockies in Coors, allowing just 11 runs in three games? That’s an omen. That’s the zephyr we were waiting for, the one that was gonna pick the sails right up. The Giants were back.
And then Coors Field happened. Unless the Giants’ bullpen happened first. Oh, my, what a chicken-and-egg question this is. The progression:
- Home run (on hanging breaking ball)
- Strike out (on hanging breaking ball)
- Single (on hanging breaking ball)
- [new pitcher]
- [new pitcher]
- Bloop single (that an average left fielder would have caught)
- Double (on fastball down the middle)
What sort of brilliant Chagall painting is that? It’s beautiful. It speaks to the human condition, and we’re lucky to get even a glimpse. It’s perfect, combining all of the disparate elements of bullshit. There’s the home run on a garbage pitch that landed at the demon hooves of the demon horse at Denver International. The single gave us one of the funniest moments of the season:
The hit-by-pitch came from a lefty reliever who had one job.
Osich: You, uh, want I should hit this guy, boss?
Bochy: What? Wait, n
The bloop hit was perfectly served right where the creaky, hamstringless left fielder couldn’t get to, even though it was up in the air for seven minutes. It was a reminder of Pagan’s below-average range and the tortuous dimensions of a ballpark that represents mankind’s eternal war against nature. Perfect. Mmmmuuuuuuuwaaaah. Just perfect.
The final pitch was thrown by Joe Nathan, who pitched for the Giants at Candlestick. A ground ball, and this recap is filled with nostalgia-fueled dreams, in which Nathan was the unexpected hero to emerge out of the even-year mists.
"Milady, take my hand," he would say in your fantasy, certainly not mine, because it’s a little weird, it’s just baseball.
"Where are we going, Joe?", you would say, certainly not me.
"The hell out of here."
And then he would scoop you, not me, up because you’re a metaphor for the ninth inning. Except he grooved a fastball to a guy with a .001 OPS, and the Giants lost.
Look at Santiago Casilla’s inning according to Brooks Baseball (from the catcher’s perspective):
The pitches in the strike zone are poison. The pitches out of the strike zone are useless. It was a pitcher shaken up by the mere scent of Arenado from 60 feet away, and it was a pitcher who was absolutely ruined by the home run that burned up upon reentry.
What now? Well, [clears throat] the Giants are still in postseason position for the 131st consecutive day. So this is fine. Everything is fine. There is nothing going wrong. This team is not a criminal affront to everything good about the sport. They still have a chance to make the postseason, ha ha, and as you know, anything can happen in the p
Stop. This team can’t beat the Rockies. Or the Phillies, Reds, or Padres. Not as currently constructed. What I’m suggesting is bold. But I’ve been thinking hard about this.
What if the Giants stopped using Santiago Casilla to protect leads in the ninth inning?
It seems counterintuitive, what with him picking up a hold tonight, and all. But this was his worst appearance of the year, and he’s had plenty of bad ones. He had nothing. That Vine up there, with Mike Krukow growling "Keep. The. Curveball. Down."? I got it out so quickly because I had my phone in my hand, trying to Vine the pitch before, with Krukow saying the same thing before a different curveball that was just as poorly executed.
Think about all the good that happened in this game. Albert Suarez bent, but didn’t break. The Giants scored three runs in the first two innings, and they reached double digits in hits for the first time since the end of August. Brandon Belt roped a long homer off a lefty. They got three hits with runners in scoring position. Gorkys Hernandez was all over the place, hitting his first major league homer in years. Steven Okert was dominant. Hunter Strickland looked as good as he has all year. Javier Lopez did what we’re used to. Will Smith looked like a worthwhile trade target, and how. Every hitter between the third and sixth spot in the order had at least two hits, with Hunter Pence getting three.
The Giants lost. They lost another series. They’ve won two series, lost 10, and tied three since the All-Star break. The 1993 season stung because the Braves wouldn’t stop winning. It took a monumental, historic run for them to catch up. That’s not the case here. The Giants needed to add baking soda to vinegar, but they drank the baking soda and snorted the vinegar instead.
The Giants still haven't come back in the ninth inning this season. They've broken ties, and there was this one time in extra innings against the Dodgers when they came back from a deficit, but they haven't come back in a single ninth inning this year. They've blown two ninth-inning leads in the last four games, losing both times.
We’ll laugh about this, he wrote for the 43rd time since the break. When Stephen Jenkins of Third Eye Blind is narrating the World Series video, and you’re watching it for the sixth time, you’ll remember this despair, and you’ll think, "Maybe it was all for the best. Maybe that was when the Giants knew they needed to shake up the bullpen.
We’ll laugh about this.
Unless the Giants are truly terrible, and this is the memorable beginning to an epoch of unmemorable baseball that extends for 25 years, just like it did during the last baseball winter. Unless the Giants crumble into irrelevance and break apart, with us wondering if the golden age was all a dream.
We’ll laugh about this.