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Giants win, take rubber match from Indians

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The Giants have a winning streak for the second time since May.

Cleveland Indians v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Giants defeated the Indians, 5-4, taking a three-game series for the first time in the second half. This is the second time they’ve had a winning streak since May 28-29, and far be it from me to look this gift horse in the mouth. It’s fun to watch the Giants win. It’s fun to watch them come back in the late innings.

At the same time, it’s not too curmudgeonly to investigate what it actually takes for the Giants to win a series these days. Because it’s fascinating.

First, it takes Buster Posey. That’s the most important part of the recipe, the rye in the manhattan. Without Posey, this team might be on pace for 110 losses and the first-overall pick, with which they would have a .05-percent chance of drafting the next Buster Posey. No, this outcome is far superior, and he’s one of the saving graces of the season.

His at-bat in the eighth inning was masterful, working back from an 0-2 count to lay off two high fastballs and spit on a close 2-2 pitch.

That seventh pitch was the only breaking ball he saw, and it was probably thrown because he put a good swing on the sixth straight cutter. It was just a tremendous at-bat.

It also takes Denard Span continuing his surprising surge and hitting a double and a home run, as well as Matt Cain pitching his fifth quality start of the season in 19 attempts. The Giants don’t win without Posey, Span, and Cain doing as well as they did, so please don’t mistake this as an attempt to minimize their contributions.

But it also takes an error at just the right time. You might argue that this was in the take-a-penny, leave-a-penny dish at the register, that the Giants gave Monday’s game away with a couple of errors, so this was deserved. I’m almost ready to believe you, except I watched this game thinking, “There’s no way they’ll win without an error.” That was how much confidence I had in the lineup’s ability to score a run.

That would make two days in a row in which the Indians field their way out of a win. Brandon Guyer’s blunder on Tuesday night allowed the Giants to tie the game, and unfortunate bunt defense helped them win. So if you give the Giants the Matt Moore underhand-toss game and the Indians the two games in which their fielding screwed everything up, they don’t win the series.

All of this serves to crystallize a theory I’ve been working on. I call it the Greater Theory of the 2017 Giants, and it goes something like this:

Boy, the Giants sure need the other team to screw up.

And I’ll take it, as always. According to Brooks Baseball, they also need the umpires to screw up. This is the final at-bat of the game, against Jose Ramirez, via BrooksBaseball.com:

It’s not so much that the last pitch was called a strike — left-handers often get that pitch called against them, and it’s stupid and arbitrary — it’s that the pitch had sink running away from Ramirez that forced Posey to stab at it, and they still got the call. Without that call, Sam Dyson is down 3-1 with the bases loaded and an All-Star up. It was going to be ruinous.

The Giants got the call, and it was a 2-2 count instead. That’s a much different situation for a hitter, much more defensive. There would be limited shaft to let out, in krukowian terms.

This is what was so nice about the winning streak from last year the beginning of this month: There were no-doubt wins mixed in, the kind that allowed you to dream a little bit.

Everyone in the top of the order was hitting line drives ... Hunter Pence was incredible all game ... Brandon Belt hit a long home run ... my stars, this is really just the ultra-productive 2015 offense, except they’re coming out of their slumber, aren’t they? It’s the same players! They’re back!

That’s not the feeling of this game. That’s more like ...

Thank goodness Buster Posey exists. As usual.

Because without Posey, the Giants don’t win a game in which ...

  • Matt Cain walked an American League pitcher who ended up scoring
  • Kelby Tomlinson forgot how many outs there were in the outfield a few minutes after grounding into a double play
  • Steven Okert was miserable and ineffective
  • The lineup was 0-for-3 in sac fly chances, which is just about the only positive category they lead the league in

But they did win, and I’ll stop grumbling, because it’s grumbling with love. Actually laughing, et cetera. The Giants won their second straight game, and that’s a factual statement. It’s just a little more factual to write that the Indians lost their second straight game.