It’s at this point of the season, bedraggled and weary, when I pose a simple question with an obvious answer: Is it better to win the first two games of a series, then lose the last one, or is it better to lose the first two games and win the final game? The obvious answer is, come on, winning two games is always better than winning one game.
The answer from eleventy-three games under .500, though, is that, I don’t know, there really is something satisfying about avoiding the sweep. It’s a middle finger to the other team. “Oh, you thought we were that bad? Ha ha, you arrogant twits, we’re actually slightly less bad. Here is a kerchief to wipe the egg from your face.”
The Giants scored a season-high 13 runs, and it reminded us how the offense used to work. We don’t even have to go back to the championship seasons. Back in 2015, the Giants were slapping the ball all over the ballpark, and it was beautiful. Most of the hitters were under 30, and it was a style of attack that was going to last forever ... forever ... forever.
It stopped working because the Giants stopped slapping the ball all over the ballpark. For as much as I complain about home runs, this is still a lineup that can succeed with doubles into the gap, which is how they were constructed. They stopped hitting the ball as hard as they used to, almost en masse, like something out of a baseball-themed Twilight Zone, and that made it hard to remember what a successful lineup looked like.
Like this, then. The Giants were just the second team to hit eight doubles in a game this season (the Mets did it in May), and it was the first time they’ve ever done it at AT&T Park. It was just the 11th time they’ve hit eight doubles in the last 100 years, which means this kind of performance about as rare as a no-hitter. They got doubles from the top of the lineup, and they got doubles from the bottom of the lineup. Also, the middle. Doubles!
Eduardo Nuñez still wants to play for a winning team and make millions of dollars, bless his heart, and he’s up to .300 on the season. He had two doubles, and the violence in his swing is incredibly encouraging. There just aren’t a lot of Giants with the same kind of violence. More violence, really. It sets a good example for the kids.
Hunter Pence will be tethered to this organization for decades. You don’t believe it now, but in 30 years, a paunchy, bald Pence will wobble out to the field and everyone will stand and applaud, and your eyes will well up with tears. So if that’s the case, it would sure be a helluva lot cooler if he could hit for the next couple of years so that the feelings aren’t even slightly ambiguous. He’s looked lost since coming back from the disabled list. Today he had three doubles, all of them on hangers that deserved to be doubles. It was glorious to see Pence punish pitches like that.
While it was pretty rude for Austin Slater to get a triple instead of stopping at second base, I suppose he belongs in the discussion, too. He was 3-for-4 with four RBI. The only player with more RBI in a game for the Giants this year was Brandon Belt, who hit a solo homer and a grand slam in the same game (that the Giants lost). Before that was Brandon Crawford, who had two hits and four RBI against the Phillies in a June game (that the Giants lost). So it was nice to see a performance like this in a game that the Giants won.
Also, it was nice to see Slater’s performance because, please, here, take the left field job. Take it for 10 years. Just hit enough to keep the job, and I swear, you can have it. He’s hitting .320/.414/.560 on the season, which isn’t going to last, but it doesn’t have to be that far from the eventual truth. You can see the inside-out swing, the line drives. He’s like a ghost of 2015, when the Giants were thriving offensively with Matt Duffy and Joe Panik, when they brought up Kelby Tomlinson and made the world mad because they were creating these players out of Lego.
The game didn’t change to where these kind of players couldn’t succeed. The players stopped hitting the ball like they were hitting it. Slater, at least for the last few games, is looking one one of those throwback players. You know, all the way back to 2015.
And I really appreciate how the two players who were 1-for-4, Nick Hundley and Aaron Hill, also each contributed a run scored and an RBI. Good work, fellas, even if it bugs me that I can’t tell you apart at the plate without squinting.
This is also probably a good place to point out that Buster Posey was 3-for-5 with four RBI, which he’s absolutely deserved all season and hasn’t done since last September. He’s now at 23 RBI for the season, which is starting to pull away from the “historically odd” designation that he was on pace for. I’m still caught between not caring about RBI and thinking, “What the hell is happening, this is hilarious?” Really, though, I’d much rather prefer that a fantastic hitter got rewarded for a fantastic season. He’s up to a .347 average, and I could totally envision a future in which his chase for a second batting title is the best part of September.
The Giants scored a baker’s dozen, and they did it with a bunch of line drives and doubles. Because, yeah, that’s how they were built. It’s weird when a plan works out.
Sam Dyson’s ERA with the Giants is a cool ∞, and I’m not sure if we should be surprised. When he threw his first 95-mph sinker, which moved about a dozen feet and looked like a left-hander’s slider, it was incredibly obvious to see what the Giants were thinking. “Do that. But, like, figure out where it’s going.” And I can respect that.
Alas, he could not figure it out in this particular game, and the ninth inning was a lot weirder than it needed to be. But in a lost season, I can appreciate the experiment even more now. That’s a funky sinker. This is definitely an ideal time for a buy-low gamble, so down the hatch. If it works, it is what it is, and it works if it works, what it is. Or something.
There will be lumps. Roll with the lumps.
And, heck, if the Giants could score 13 runs in every game with eight doubles, they could find spots for him to work out the kinks. They should consider that strategy, but I’m not a GM, so what do i know?