On the same day I posted an article bemoaning the Giants’ inability to hit baseballs hard, they absolutely crushed two of them for a home run. Hunter Pence hit an opposite-field shot that was loud and vintage, a reminder of just how freaky strong he can be. Buster Posey hit a ball as hard he’s hit one all year, if not since 2014, if not since the 2012 NLDS*. The Giants didn’t just have two home runs, they had two extremely convincing home runs. One of them even came with a runner on base.
When the Giants have two home runs or more in the AT&T Park era, they’re 475-180. By percentage, that means they’re roughly the equivalent of a 117-win team. If you go just by the championship era of 2010 to present, when runs were a little harder to come by for the entire league, they’re 166-52, which is about the same as a 123-win team.
When the Giants hit two home runs, they’re roughly the best team in baseball history. That’s true for every team, of course, but the Giants were the ones to do it in this game. And the problem wasn’t exactly the pitching, although Matt Moore was shaky as Jonathan Sanchez after a few cups of coffee. The Giants allowed four runs, which is what the average team allows in the average game. Since 2010, when the Giants have hit two homers and allowed four runs or fewer, they are 129-3.
Check that. They’re 129-4 since 2010 in those games. And that’s how it goes for the Giants. Even when they do something good, they screw up the timing. There wasn’t a runner on base ahead of Posey because of course there wasn’t. There was a runner on ahead of Hunter Pence, which was delightful, but it didn’t allow them to build an insurmountable lead. And, of course, there was no other possible way for the team to score. Christian Arroyo struck out four times. Brandon Belt struck out three times. Eduardo Nuñez is still playing like he thinks contract extensions are bad luck.
These have been two of the hardest teams to watch in baseball this year, with the Mets providing as much off-field drama as the FDA allows. They were supposed to have great pitching, but they’ve alternated between hurt, awful, and deGrom instead. Considering the Giants were stuck with the toughest option, I’m proud of the lineup, really. deGrom is tough, and the Giants drove his pitch count up. He wasn’t sharp, and the Giants weren’t conciliatory.
On the offensive side, the Mets were metsing, grounding into double plays at the worst (best) times, and popping the ball up in situations with a runner at third and fewer than two outs. A team that’s nearly as unwatchable as the Giants should be a team that will occasionally barf a game away, right?
Perhaps! Not this game, however. The Giants got two of the special flight-balls that the ancient stone tablets told tales of, but, lo, they were not enough. They blew two different leads, and they tried really hard to blow different ties throughout the game. The lineup was exciting for two plate appearances, completely moribund for most of the other 33, and the pitching was just iffy enough.
Derek Law and Josh Osich combined for three walks in the eighth and ninth innings. In a tie game on the road, that’s pretty much a cry for help. Maybe they were hungry.
No, it wasn’t a good game, but at least there were a couple of moments when you actually believed they could win. That’s a nice change of pace from the weekend. Really, where you’re seeing a four-game losing streak, I’m seeing an upward trend.
Loss #1 - Over before the Giants came up in the second inning
Loss #2 - Over before the Giants came up in the second inning
Loss #3 - Over before the Giants came up in the second inning, but kinda close
Loss #4 - There was hope, actual hope, until the Giants were pushed out of an open window
Progress! There’s still time for the Mets to mets the place up this series. The Giants will just have to stop doing their nonsense more efficiently at the same time.
*Specifically, this home run:
Matt Moore continued his sold-out one-man show, “What Have We Done?”, in which he plays 13 different characters in and around the Giants organization, from Matt Duffy to Bobby Evans, each giving different perspectives on last July’s trade, all of them trying to make sense of what happened. The trade made sense at the time. It made sense when he was carving Cubs up in the NLDS.
It can make sense again. Dammit, I promise. You watched that six-pitch fourth inning, right? Two quick outs and an overmatched Juan Lagares for the final out. Six pitches and nary a ball in the inning. Moore can look like that.
He can also miss his target over and over again, getting punished for the pitches in the middle of the strike zone, and getting punished for the pitches out of the strike zone. Watch Buster Posey’s glove next outing and see how much it moves. It’s a groundhog mitt, and if you see its shadow move, it means three innings of pain. If you see a nice, steady shadow, it means seven innings of entertaining baseball. Look, not every metaphor can be a winner, but just watch the mitt. You know what I mean.
The Giants aren’t going out there and signing Yu Darvish this winter, so if there’s any chance of them not being last-place bozos next year, Moore will have to realize his low-cost potential. Confounding starts like this don’t make me optimistic or pessimistic. They just make me impatient for the real answer.