I don’t know how the next 153 games will go in this 2017 season. The Giants could win all of them, and I could gain 100 pounds of muscle to play Mark Melancon in the movie. It’s early, and you can tell it’s early because I’m writing the words “it’s early” in every recap.
But I do know what the first nine games felt like. They mostly felt like a soggy, overlong weeknight game, with dumb mistakes or misplays at the worst time and generally unwatchable baseball.
This game, then. This game was 2017 nectar, the purest of the pure. It might not be a proxy for the season we’ve come to know by September, but it’ll sure do for these first two weeks.
While it isn’t going to roll off the tongue like “The Joe Morgan Game,” “The Bob Brenly Game,” or “The Brian Johnson Game,” in five years, one of you will use the words “The Gorkys Hernandez game” in order, and the other person will nod. It’s unfair, but it’s too late for fair. We just watched The Gorkys Hernandez Game. And, lo, it was bad.
The progression was so quick, so lacking in subtlety. It was like a streaker ran onto the field with “THIS IS GOING TO BE SO BRUTAL, WATCH GORKYS” written in body paint before the first installment. It went like this:
Gorkys Hernandez came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning. He worked the count to 2-0, then fouled off two borderline strikes. He got a 2-2 fastball and drove it 363 feet to left center. The only problem was that the fence was 365 feet away.
On a normal night, just the most important tough out at the top of a tough-out list. This night was a short story in an entry-level creative writing class, though, and it wasn’t going to let you miss the point.
In the next half-inning, approximately seven minutes later, the Diamondbacks had the bases loaded. See the symmetry winking at us? There was one out instead of two, but it still works. Jeff Samardzija is in trouble, walking a couple batters to get his mess, just like Robbie Ray did in the previous inning. The Diamondbacks hitter also comes up two feet short of a grand slam.
I keep watching the end of the play, where Gorkys is thinking, “There’s no way the park can be this big,” and he’s slowed down a bit, and it’s like one of those dreams where you forget how to run or throw a punch. He’s almost there, almost there, almost there, and Jeff Samardzija (not pictured) is so hopeful, as we all are, and then ... I don’t know.
Yeah, that. It’s a funnier image if you think of the “oO!” as the spectacles of a wealthy dowager who can’t believe what she just saw. Before we start picking on Hernandez too much, though, let’s see if we can find an example of a similar play in which he did good things. Like, oh, against the same team. To the same part of the field.
THAT WAS THE SAME GUY. And while I bristled at suggestions that Angel Pagan would have caught it, I think he might have. That was a play that every center fielder makes, including Hernandez, 98 times out of 100.
The larger point was that it was a play that was bad enough to bring up Pagan’s defense in center field wistfully. Brrrr.
The Diamondbacks were up 3-0, and it’s hard to believe the Giants actually scored three runs after that. Didn’t feel possible at the time.
About seven minutes after that, Aaron Hill lined out to A.J. Pollock, who made the centerfieldiest damned play we’ve seen all season. Sailed back at full speed, wind whistling through his hair, reached out, and snared a triple away. The contrast was so immediate and wrong.
Look at that play from last year, though. Hernandez can make that play. He’s pretty okay in center, usually. Just not tonight.
Which is why this game is The Gorkys Hernandez Game. Just one of those things that’ll put the “-” next to a fifth outfielder’s WAR at the end of the year.
He goes back, back, slows, and MISSES THE BALL, why did He goes back, back, slows, and MISSES THE BALL, why did He goes back, back, slows, and ... yeah, I should probably just delete that GIF.
Of course, Jeff Samardzija allowed a hit to the pitcher and gave up two walks to set that play up. And you give money to the Giants, which encourages them to keep hosting baseball games. We’re all culpable in some way, here.
More specifically, though, Samardzija is more culpable than most. He pitched fine enough, missing bats again, but that was the death inning of the game. Tune in next week for the death inning of the next game.
I will beat this ninth-inning comeback thing into the ground, don’t believe I won’t. The Giants scored two runs in the ninth inning of this game. They did not win. If they scored two runs in the ninth inning of the last save situation they were trying to blow, they would have taken the lead. They didn’t. They scored one run.
Ah, but if they had scored one run in the save situation before that, they would have tied that game in the ninth.
That’s the Giants from the last two seasons. Need three runs in the ninth? Here’s two! Need two runs in the ninth? Got one for you! Need one? Fresh out, ha ha! It’s mesmerizing.
The Giants haven’t come back in a ninth inning since May, 2015. The Angels have come back in the ninth twice in their last three games. Ninth-inning comebacks, especially at home, are something normal teams do.
In retrospect, Chris Marrero hitting a comeback walk-off homer in the very first game of the spring, then making the team, was the worst omen possible. Get me a chicken, some candles, and some incense, and we’ll put this right.
The Giants were facing a lefty, and their best weapon against left-handed pitchers was injured, so Aaron Hill hit cleanup and Marrero wasn’t too far behind, oh, and Gorkys Hernandez led off, which was nice of him, seeing as it was his game, and all.
The Giants knew they were going to have problems against lefties. This was obvious from the last pitch of the 2016 season. This was their solution out of camp.
The early returns, well, they’re not good. They’re not good at all.