Most numbers require context. Pedro Feliz hitting 22 homers with great defense and a .305 OBP in 2004 meant something much, much different than it would in 2017. Ty Blach having a 3.24 ERA while pitching most of his games at AT&T Park is great, but it would mean something even more if he pitched most of his games in Coors Field.
Here’s a number that doesn’t require context: When the Giants score seven runs in a game, they should win. That was the case in 2000, when offensive levels were absurd. That was the case in 2008, before the league got a little more pitcher-friendly. That was the case last year. That was the case last night. When the Giants score seven runs, they should win. It’s been that way since Arthur Cobblesturm used twine and a sheep’s bladder to invent first base in 1857.
There’s a corollary to that, too: If the Giants don’t win when they score seven runs, that probably means the pitchers done screwed up.
I regret to inform you that the pitchers done screwed up.
Matt Moore was an All-Star who finished ninth in the 2013 Cy Young voting. He was one of the most valuable pitchers in baseball. A Tommy John surgery and four seasons later, he’s become one of the most confounding pitchers in baseball. It’s not that he lacks control or command; it’s that he’s imperfect with both at exactly the wrong time. He walked two batters in Sunday’s game, which shouldn’t be a capital offense. Except the first one was to the leadoff hitter after the Giants took a 1-0 lead, and the second one was to the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the third inning, right when the Giants took a 3-2 lead.
Both of those leadoff walks scored, of course. The Giants walked five times, and one of those walks scored. The Phillies walked three times and all of them scored. It was that kind of game.
It was more than the walks, because Moore’s cutter was sailing over the plate all game. Odubel Herrera hit two doubles on lazy cutters, for example. He came into the series with nine doubles in the entire season, and he hit four in the last two games.
Freddy Galvis came into the series with four home runs. He hit two in the game. Seems like there were a lot of stories like this, and it’s not like the doubles and homers bounced off Jose Canseco’s head; they came on bad pitches that deserved the time out.
Moore was inconsistent and erratic, but he wasn’t quite Giants-lose-even-though-they-scored-seven bad, not on his own. He had some help from the bullpen, which threw three innings and allowed four runs and three homers. Mark Melancon could not save them. I don’t even know if he’s still on the team, to be honest. He could be driving Christian Arroyo to Sacramento right now, drinking Red Bulls and pushing, pushing, pushing to the next motel.
So if you wanted to distill what went wrong with this game into easily digestible bullet points, it would go like this:
- Matt Moore hasn’t been the average-or-better pitcher the Giants were hoping for
- The injury to Will Smith has forced them to lean on both Josh Osich and Steven Okert, and neither one has seized the role
- Derek Law still looks like a different pitcher than he was last year, without anything resembling his previous command, and he’s still worrying me
- George Kontos will throw at least one homer-friendly pitch in every inning, even if he escapes unscathed
That’s how the Giants can score seven runs and lose, which is an unfortunate string of words in any season, but especially 2017. The Giants are 234-60 in the last two decades when they score exactly seven runs. That means they play like a 129-win team when they score seven runs. Which means they should almost always win.
Against, say, a last-place team that hasn’t won a series in their last 10 tries.
While the bullpen rankles, it’s the leadoff walks from Moore that I can’t get over. The Giants jumped ahead, and then there was a free baserunner. The Giants jumped ahead, and then there was a free baserunner again. It’s not like Moore is incapable of throwing strikes. It’s just that he sure has a penchant for walking someone at the wrong time. And then having a cutter leak over the plate at the worst time.
Note that Jeff Samardzija has been rejuvenated since lighting his cutter on fire. It might be that the cutter isn’t the magic pitch it’s been for the last few years for the Giants.
Regardless, the Giants lost a series after losing a series, and I guess they won the series before that, but they lost the series before that, too. They’ve biffed the easy series, they’ve screwed up the hard series. They’re ...
Why, they’re just not very good. And it could be that we’ll look back at this a year from now and realize this series is what allowed the Giants to draft Kumar Rocker. You will like Kumar Rocker.
He will be your reward for watching whatever this is.
Brandon Crawford hitting balls the other way and into the gap was one of the best parts of the game. While it’s easy to focus on the weirdness of Buster Posey’s RBI total or the struggles of Joe Panik, Hunter Pence, and the cavalcade of left field disasters, it’s also worth pointing out that Crawford hasn’t been nearly as solid this year as he’s been in the past.
There’s still time. It’s just June. And here’s a start. The season was supposed to feature a pair of middle infielders threatening an .800 OPS, which was going to help the Giants win behind an above-average Matt Moore.
It would have worked in this game! Except for that other stuff. Still, Crawford starting to reclaim his All-Star form is a fine silver lining.
Javier Lopez showing 55-grade (70 potential) color commentator skills is also a silver lining. He consistently made me laugh and chimed in with worthwhile points, while also exhibiting the kind of restraint that I’d have to imagine is hard for a brand-new commentator.
I’ve listened to Duane Kuiper’s early days as a color guy (with Joe Morgan as a play-by-play guy!) on old Giants Vision broadcasts, and he was cool enough. But there was nothing that indicated he would become one of the very best play-by-play broadcasters in the game, and one of the very best play-by-play ex-major leaguers in history.
Lopez, though, was immediately impressive in a way I wasn’t expecting. He’s been a lot of fun.