Think of all the different ways this game could have ended. Jeff Samardzija could have thrown eight innings of one-run ball and been a tough luck loser. The Cardinals could have gotten the runner in from second in the 11th. Matt Carpenter could have hung out at second instead of pretending he was Dee Gordon.
Carpenter could have hit a Mark Melancon cutter 410 feet, and we’d still be watching baseball.
Instead, the Giants won in 13 innings, and they did it in a way that will keep you warm even if they somehow can’t win the third game of a series, but what are the odds of that, ha ha, probably pretty low, ANYWAY, the Giants won another extra-inning marathon, and you still can’t change your underwear. Not until the next extra-inning loss. I know this is a Pirates of Penzance technicality, and I’m sorry, but this is the life you chose.
Jeff Samardzija is the purest of heroes, of course, the player most responsible for the Giants winning and the Cardinals losing. His FIP and xFIP both dropped below 3.00 this game, and if that nerdspeak doesn’t appeal to you, the translation is that he’s been the best pitcher on the Giants this season. He’s struck out 71 and allowed just 10 walks in 61 innings, and that strikeout rate puts him in the top 10 in baseball, not just the National League.
On the other side, Carlos Martinez was extending an icy hand through your screen and forcing you to tip your cap. He was dominating in a way that made it hard to be mad at the Giants’ hitters. You know I enjoy getting mad at the hitters on my favorite team. It’s how I grew up, and your dad isn’t much different. There are chemical reactions that happened when I yelled at Kim Batiste, and my brain became addicted. The way Martinez was throwing, though? Didn’t matter. If you didn’t tip your cap, I would have hired someone to come over and do it for you.
The only thing that could have beat him was brilliant pitching, which makes this a delightful example of perfect timing.
The best part of watching Samardzija’s game — other than all the zeroes and the eventual win — was the sweet center-field camera in St. Louis. I’ve written paeans to it before, and I’ll do it again. It was the perfect angle to watch what Samardzija had to offer. Belt-high strikes. Location on the outside. Stuff that was lively enough to tie hitters up, even if it leaked over the plate. And there were balls that leaked. In another game, on another day, there would have been consequences.
That’s the fun of Samardzija, though! When it works, it seems so damned obvious. He’s struck out 40 batters since issuing his last walk. The last Giants starter to have more than four walk-free starts was Bill Laskey in 1984. There was a younger gun throwing 95 and humiliating the Giants, which wasn’t fun, but on the other side, there was a 32-year-old throwing 95 and matching him.
Take this start and store it in your baseball pouch for the next 7-inning, 4-HR game, is what I’m saying. This helps make up for it, I promise.
And, of course, the other hero of the night must be feted. If you had to explain away a full back tattoo featuring this Gameday image in 20 years, it wouldn’t be embarrassing. You could make a valid argument for getting it done.
Christian Arroyo has been tremendous in the field. That’s not damning with faint praise; that’s why the Giants have stuck with him, even as he’s slumped miserably. It’s the Matt Duffy experience from last year — you figure the hits will come, and you appreciate the solid defensive play until then.
But the hits are sure few and far between. Arroyo has had some memorable moments, and the Giants are 13-12 with him on the team, wink wink, but he’s excelled in getting himself out, either with weak contact or no contact. He’s not even 22 yet, so it’s silly to get too worked up over it. At least he can pick it. Everyone else in the stupid lineup should learn how to hit in the meantime and cut him some slack.
In this at-bat, though, Arroyo looked like an absolute demon. Those fouls didn’t just tick off the end of the bat. You see the location, right on the hands, for the most part, but the fouls were loud. Back to the screen. Back to the screen. Pulled sharply to the left side. He might have swung at balls out of the strike zone, but he wasn’t fooled. And he eventually worked himself into a fastball count by laying off just enough pitches.
Ol’ number 12 up there. It was what he was looking for. A changeup from Kevin Siegrist might have broke Arroyo’s spine. Instead, it was a fastball, and he got the 12th pitch in the air, deep enough to score two, deep enough to win the game.
Even after the double, Arroyo is still hitting .221/.279/.347 on the season, which is good for a .271 wOBA and 67 wRC+. Those aren’t good, if you were looking for a translation. It’s been quite the learning curve.
But watch that at-bat again and tell me you’re not impressed. That it’s wild for the Giants to think Arroyo is a future major leaguer, that he has the talent to start for a postseason team one day. One of the best parts of baseball — the marrow inside the osso bucco — is when a batter forces a pitcher to throw 10 or more pitches, then does something devastating on the final pitch.
Here was the best example of a rookie’s career so far. Looking forward to more of it in the future.
This game was in the eighth inning just after two hours. I was going to catch most of the Warriors game. It was glorious. Is this how games used to be? Kate, we need to go back, et cetera.
And then came the rain.
Then there were 13 innings.
Before I was finished writing, Twitter’s “United States Trends” spoiled the Warriors game for me, which is a cautionary tale for us all.
There’s no point to this. I wanted to grumble a little, that’s all. There have been 84 innings of Giants baseball played over the last eight games, and I gotta tell you, that ratio doesn’t add up.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Giants have won seven of those eight games.
I’ll take that.