It would have been too much for our delicate constitutions if the Giants had come back in the ninth inning again. Another ninth-inning comeback, after waiting two years to win a game they trailed in the ninth, feels like a quirky baseball thing — “Jasper Tillstock hadn’t had a triple in 1,384 plate appearances ... but he has two tonight!” — but it would have been impossible to process. Our brains would have melted like we were robots trying to solve a paradox. You’ll have to wait until next May 10.
As such, the Giants lost a regular ol’ AT&T Park special, 3-2. Except there was a little more to it than a traditionally feckless loss. Prior to Thursday night, the Giants had never lost a game at AT&T Park in which they had ...
- at least two home runs
- at least 11 hits
- and allowed three runs or fewer
Those are some pretty specific goalposts, but the overall point stands, which is that it’s hard to lose a game at AT&T Park with a bunch of hits, including two that go over the fence. The last time it happened to the Giants in any ballpark was over a decade ago. When a team gets that many hits and home runs, while simultaneously preventing the other team from getting a lot of hits and home runs, they generally win.
The 2017 Giants: They don’t generally win.
The Giants moved to 12-24, which means that for every game they’ve won, they’ve lost two more. Without looking at the record, that’s about what I would have guessed. The Giants win .333333333333333333333 percent of the time, every time, like clockwork.
I like to play a dumb game, where I look at how many games the team is below .500 and think, “Gosh, if they win (x) in a row, they’ll be right at .500.” About two weeks ago, this made me feel better. Because the Giants most certainly could win seven games in a row, at least in Theory Land, where the rides are free, but the cotton candy is made out of hair.
The Giants aren’t winning 12 games in a row. They’re not getting back to .500 soon. The losing will continue until morale improves.
So let me play another dumb game to make myself feel better instead. I’m going to pretend that this season is completely normal. That the Giants are close to first place. That they’ve won a bunch of games recently, and everything is absolutely fine. And in this beautiful reality, the Giants lost, 3-2, to the Reds on an unremarkable Thursday night. What would I be writing about?
I’d probably start with Denard Span. In his first game back from the DL, he roped four hits, including a long, arcing home run. Left-handed hitters don’t hit no-doubt home runs on a thick-aired night at AT&T Park. It’s one of the constants of the physical universe. And yet there Span was, absolutely rebuking that baseball and everything it stood for.
While I’m also disappointed that Span didn’t catch the ball that led to the game-winning run, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the cruelty of the baseball gods to give him a fly ball in front of the fence on the day he came back after being injured on a fly ball in front of the fence. In the biopic of Span’s life, that scene will come with sweaty flashbacks and night terrors. Too soon!
I’d move on to Ty Blach, who was largely excellent. Seven innings pitched, one walk, and two strikeouts is what the door-to-door salesman promised us with Blach’s best outings, and by gum, that’s exactly what we got. His ERA will be under repair for a long, long time after his last outing against the Reds, but it was encouraging to see him come back against the team that whooped him good and be the Ty Blach we all expect.
There would probably be a section about the weirdos complaining about Brandon Belt making the final out, as if he wasn’t responsible one of the two runs in this poopy game.
Mostly, though, there would be a spot to complain about this 0-2 pitch from Hunter Strickland:
Look, there was a runner on third with one out, and he was probably coming home in the next few minutes, regardless. But it’s a contender for the worst pitch of the year, and I’m not talking about thus far. We’re talking a contender for the year-end banquet and awards ceremony. One of the worst 0-2 pitches in recent memory for any pitcher, on any team.
Again, the larger problem is that the Giants scored two runs and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Every hitter in the lineup, other than Span, left at least two runners on base in this game. That’s the real story.
But that pitch, man. That lousy, good fer nothin pitch. It was so bad.
The Giants are playing .500 ball over their last two games, and yet it still feels like the season has slipped almost entirely away. The best comparison I have, at least when it comes to optimistic outcomes, is the 2016 Astros, who were also supposed to contend. They started their season just as horribly, but you know what? They clawed back. Their bad pitchers started pitching better, and their lousy hitters started hitting better. They went from 11 games back to 2½ back within a three-week stretch in July, and they made the season fun again.
Those Astros finished with 84 wins, five games out of a postseason spot. Again, that’s the optimistic scenario: false hope ending in nothing exciting. The hole is just too deep now.
The Giants got two of their starters back on Thursday night, but they found a unique and predictable way to lose. They’re good at that, and we should be proud of them for being good at something, at least.