It’s not that the Giants got crucial home runs from two players who weren’t on the roster last weekend. That sort of thing happens when you roll the roster dice. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t, and it’s a lot of fun when it does, but it’s almost always going to be more coincidence than destiny. That’s because baseball is almost always going to be more coincidence than destiny.
It’s that the Giants got crucial, game-winning home runs from two players who were added to the roster specifically to wake the Giants up. The Giants went down to the lightning store and said, “Do you have any lightning?” The lightning-store manager said, “Fresh out,” and then he remembered.
“Wait. Yes, we have some in the back.”
Christian Arroyo was brought up because he was hot in Sacramento and the Giants were getting their socks stuck in their zippers, and there was no way it could hurt. He was brought up to provide bouncing, cherubic energy. At one point during Wednesday night’s game, he was hitting .100, but no one really cared. He got his first hit against Clayton Kershaw. He was making plays around third base. Giants fans were really into him, as far as bottom-half-of-the-top-100 prospects go.
He just hadn’t had that moment yet. And then ...
On one hand, I’m sad about the old friend who is dealing with complaints from his new constituency. On the other, more important, hand, look at this new friend! Look at his energy, his joie de vivivere!
Before that home run, the Giants had played the dullest game of the season. Which is absolutely saying something for a struggling team that was just shut out in Coors Field. It was so very dull. Drew Stubbs had the only hit through six innings, and I had to google if Drew Stubbs was actually on the Giants, or if I was just making it up*.
* He’s on the Giants.
And then there was energy. You could hear it through the TV. Suddenly people cared again.
For me, a classic Giants grump, it was bittersweet. “The moment is somehow made more exciting because the Giants can’t score more than two runs,” the sad man wrote in his notes. “The Giants got closer, but they would never get three runs, much less four.”
What I didn’t understand was that Arroyo was skateboarding across my face like a long-haired punk from a Mountain Dew commercial. He really was winning the game for the Giants and providing a spark. He was one half of the lightning haul purchased from the lightning store, at least for this night.
Now we get to the other half of the lightning, the part that was on clearance in the lightning store. “This lightning’s expiration date is past,” the old-timer muttered, “but it’s probably still good.”
Michael Morse is on the Giants in 2017 and hitting dingers. It might as well be Cody Ross for how random and enjoyable it is. The score was 3-2 in the eighth inning, and then this happened (again):
He just wants to give the entire Bay Area a hug, is that so wrong? Also, I never noticed that he was carrying a walkie-talkie in his pocket in the 2014 NLCS. Nuances upon nuances.
Morse was brought up to hit pinch-hit dingers in San Francisco, his spiritual square-peg hole. It made sense, what with him being the Giants’ spiritual square peg. In my wildest, most optimistic fan fic, I would have given him a week before he got one of those homers. Instead, he took over the team lead in slugging percentage from Madison Bumgarner in one at-bat, and he reaffirmed his status as one of the most important cult heroes of the decade.
The idea of a pinch-hit home run in the eighth was absolutely laughable just a week ago. The Giants got one from a marked-down bolt of lightning from the lightning store. And watching him run the bases made everyone in the dugout, in the stands, and watching at home grin like a fool.
The top prospect? Oh, he’s hitting two-run homers to bring the Giants closer. The cult hero from three years ago? Oh, he’s hitting pinch-hit homers to tie the game.
And what does it all add up to? Baseball being ... f... f... f... fun?
If and when the Giants screw up this season irredeemably, this is the kind of game that makes you come back next year. That reads like it’s too hyperbolic, but it’s the truth. Even in the lousy seasons, games like this strike a chord. How many games did the Giants win in the season with the Bob Brenly game? Doesn’t matter. How many games did the Giants win in the season with Chris Heston’s no-hitter? Doesn’t matter. How many games did the Giants win in the season with Angel Pagan’s inside-the-park walk-off? Doesn’t matter. How many games did the Giants win in the season with Michael Morse’s eighth-inning pinch-hit homer?
Eighty-eight, and they won the World Series, too.
Oh, there are permutations, but the end result is that you’ll remember this game and that baseball can be fun, even if it’s sandwiched between two pieces of stale baseball bread.
Christian Arroyo got the Giants closer and Michael Morse tied it up. It’s the sentence that Bobby Evans scrawled on his notepad when he was on a boring call just a week ago, and now it’s real. The Giants shook things up, and it worked.
For tonight, at least. It’s a long season. But that’s a lesson to savor this win a lot more than most.
Also, both of them get the Night Ranger song “Sister Christian” stuck in my head. Arroyo because of his first name, and Morse because he looks like he listens to the song on a Sports Walkman to get himself ready for every game.
From Brooks Baseball, here’s what Hunter Pence’s game-winning at-bat looked like from the catcher’s perspective:
It’s instantly my favorite at-bat of the year, and I’ll take a few weeks to contemplate it, but I’m pretty sure that it’s one of my favorite regular-season at-bats from the last few years.
So the situation is this: You don’t want Hunter Pence to hit a fly ball. You want him to hit it on the ground or strike out. Having watched Pence for several years, my suggestion is this: a slider. Or a curveball. Nice and low, out of the zone. His eye has gotten better over the last couple seasons, but he’ll still chase the breaking balls.
After six mid-90s fastballs at the damned chin that he handles enough to foul off, maybe mix one of those in? I’m not the only one who thought that at the time:
Like most people rooting for the Dodgers tonight, Dave Roberts would have liked to see some variety in the pitch sequence to Hunter Pence.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) April 27, 2017
It’s not like the Dodgers were likely to win if Pence struck out. Odds were still in the Giants’ favor, and all that. But it would have given them hope.
Instead, they gambled on Pence not hitting a high fastball. I’ll field this one: He can hit all fastballs, especially if he’s looking for one.
Gorkys Hernandez scored the winning run. He was on base because he hit a solid leadoff single.
Hernandez hasn’t had a good season. Appreciate him tonight, for he played like the guy the Giants thought they were getting all along. He made a nice play in the outfield. He got a solid hit. He did fifth-outfielder stuff when the fifth outfielders do things well.
It would feel weird not to acknowledge him.
Also of note: Christian Arroyo hit his first major league home run against the Dodgers, and Michael Morse is back, hitting pinch-hit homers in the eighth to tie the game.
And, apparently, baseball is fun once more. I remember this sport. I remember this hobby. My stars, it’s beautiful, just like it used to be. Remember? Remember how it used to be?
Morse does. And for that, we are grateful. He’s so fun, everyone.