Throughout the telecast of Wednesday night’s Giants game, three different broadcasters pointed out that Great American Ball Park was a good place for comebacks. The Giants were down early, but that’s okay, they had time in this ballpark. And, hey, I was right there with them for a while, still optimistic, like a fool.
The Giants scored three runs, of course. The starting pitcher was a dude my age, and I’m so old that I get sore from driving a manual transmission, but the Giants still couldn’t hit him. They can’t hit soft-tossing rigthies like Bronson Arroyo. They can’t hit soft-tossing lefties like Jason Vargas. They can’t hit hard throwers like Robbie Ray.
They ... well, they can’t hit.
On another night, in another season, for another team, that would be the story. Where will the Giants find their runs? In 2009 and 2011, it consumed our thoughts. Everything was working except for the offense.
In this case, the Giants also allowed 13 runs, which is probably the story. The offense almost gets a pass. They couldn’t hit Arroyo, who came into the game with a 7.20 ERA. On the day of his last appearance in the majors before this season, Juan Gutierrez gave up four earned runs for the Giants. Did you remember that Juan Gutierrez existed? You did not. That’s how long it’s been since Arroyo pitched in the majors. He throws 86 mph. The Giants couldn’t hit him.
But, again, I’m getting fired up when the bigger problem is that the Giants allowed more than a dozen runs. In their last 13 games, they’ve allowed 10 runs or more in four different games. That’s how many times the 1986 Giants allowed 10 runs or more, too. If this year’s team allows double digits again, they’ll tie the 2010 and 2014 Giants.
It’s still true, though, that the Giants have having problems scoring. Even in a place like GABP, where the run spigot has been busted for years, even against a pitching staff that literally set a major league record for home runs allowed last year, they can’t score. So is that the problem?
No, it has to be the pitching. They can’t staunch the bleeding. Even if the Giants could score five lousy runs, the pitchers can’t hold the other team to six.
Except, wouldn’t it be nice if the lineup could string some hits together, like they were supposed to? I don’t expect them to score a dozen runs every game, and they probably wouldn’t have beat the Reds in 161 games out of 162, but isn’t the real problem with the team the lousy offense?
This is the point-counterpoint that rages with every bad team. That is, until you’re beaten down by the reality of what’s happening. It’s all bad, folks. It’s all bad. The starting pitching is struggling. The relief pitching is struggling. The lineup is struggling. You’re struggling. I’m struggling. It’s all how the Giants are 11-19. It’s how they’re in the middle of their worst start in 27 years.
To be somewhat fair to Matt Cain, he was victimized by doinks and dweeblers, weak hits and dorblers. They all came with two outs, somehow, and it was appalling. He fared worse than he probably pitched.
To be somewhat fair to your intelligence, though, Cain walked Billy Hamilton twice. That is a pass/fail exam. If you give up a 500-foot homer to Hamilton, you share the video with your friends 10 years later. If you give up a hit, hey, good on him. If you walk him, you’re actively bad at pitching the way you want to pitch.
If you walk him twice, you’re screwing everything up. But Cain didn’t walk just Hamilton. He walked six of the 24 batters he faced. Five of those walks scored, and the one that didn’t was thrown out at the plate. The Giants walked 12 batters as a team, and this was just the 15th time they’ve walked that many since moving to San Francisco. They’ve never walked that many in a nine-inning game and won, probably because teams that walk 12 batters are playing very, very bad baseball.
I recently got a polite email that wondered if I could spend more time being optimistic. And I understand the larger point. The Giants have had recent success. They play in one of the most beautiful venues in the history of professional sports. They have fan favorites to rally behind, players we’ve grown attached to. They have the best broadcasting crew we can possibly hope for. This is a team that’s made us feel spoiled on so many levels.
At the same time, my whole shtick is to have the voice of a fan, both in good times and bad. So while there’s a part of me that wonders if I’m jaded because I’m usually sick of baseball at this time of the day, another part of me remembers that all of us are usually sick of something at the end of the night. This is how we choose to relax. And when it doesn’t help us relax or feel better, we get surly.
At least, I know I get surly. These recaps are supposed to be about the individual experience of each game. And through 30 games, this team makes me grimace and wince like few other teams that I’ve ever watched. It’s just not fun. There was the Morse/Arroyo dinger-combination game. That was fun. There was beating Kershaw. That was also fun. But this has been the kind of season where Madison Bumgarner can hit two home runs, lose, and then fall off a dirt bike onto his left shoulder. This has been the kind of season where Bronson Arroyo can remind you that he’s still pitching in the same game that reminds you that Matt Cain might not be for long.
There are still 132 games left, and I love a good surprise. This game will sneak up on you, alright. Maybe the series win in Los Angeles was more instructive than a single game in Cincinnati. It’s possible!
As of right now, though, it looks like the Giants can’t hit, and they can’t pitch. That seems like a bad combination.