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The Giants can come back in the ninth inning now

At least we can take solace in that as the team continues to collapse

San Francisco Giants v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Giants spent two years never once winning a game when the other team had a lead in the ninth inning. It wasn’t that the ninth inning was some kind of magical Neverscoreland — Giants closers repeatedly reassured us that wasn’t the case! -- but for some reason, for two years, the Giants couldn’t erase that deficit and win. It was very, very weird and Grant wrote about it often because of the weirdness. When that streak ended, there was much rejoicing.

For literally all of 2016, the Giants never once made an opposing pitcher blow a save in the ninth inning. They weren’t even good enough to stage a dramatic comeback and lose because that would require a dramatic comeback. Is that streak more impressive/pathetic than the first one? Probably! They came close a number of times, but each time they needed one more hit or one good runner-on-third-one-out AB, they failed. It was dispiriting and predictable; it was the 2016 Giants summed up. It’s not that they were terrible, but that they were perpetually not good enough by the tiniest amount.

Since May 10, the 2017 Giants have forced opposing closers to blow five saves. This isn’t because the offense became good — Fangraphs’ wRC+, like OPS+, has them as the worst Giants offense since 1902 — but rather that it’s just really hard to never come back in the ninth. Now, obviously the team this year has trouble winning the games where they come back, as they’ve only won two of them and have lost their last three ninth inning comebacks, but, well, that’s what happens when your entire team is protesting economic inequality by getting paid large sums of money to be overtly terrible. They’re showing that the basic tenets of capitalism are a lie, man, and good on the Giants for sticking up for their beliefs.

But the main point here is that the flaw that we spent all last year bemoaning was just a fluke. Well, not the bullpen, but the other flaw. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the hitters on the team that they couldn’t come back in the ninth. This is basically the same team, except everyone’s a year older and (other than Buster Posey) much worse, and they’re still able to stage comebacks.

So what happened last year? It was bad luck, bad timing, and baseball. As easy as it was last year to assign narratives to the Giants like their being chokers or not clutch, letting moments get too big or just being overwhelmed by the pressure, the simple fact is that those same players, all of whom are now not as good at hitting as they were last year, are comporting themselves just fine in those situations. Sometimes narratives that are simple and clear aren’t based in anything other than the human brain’s love of finding patterns, and don’t predict anything about the future.

Also, sometimes your baseball team is terrible and not going to be not terrible anytime soon, but hey, at least that ninth inning comeback thing is okay now!