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Giants swept, hoisted from flagpole by their underwear

Chris Stratton was impressive again, but the game was as ugly as the 11-0 score would suggest.

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks
You. Yes, you. Why are you watching this? Why?
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

There was a point in this game where I was planning to write 500 words about how much I hate the dropped-third-strike rule. For a while, the Giants were down by a single run, and that run scored on a pitch that was so deceptive, it both fooled the hitter and handcuffed the catcher. The pitcher should get an extra strikeout for that, not allow a baserunner.

Instead, well, it turns out that play didn’t mean anything. The Diamondbacks scored a billionty runs. The Giants didn’t score one. They were swept by a team that’s much better than them, and they looked absolutely helpless in every facet of the game. Except the starting pitching. But we’ll get to that part. After all the complaining.

This was the ninth time the Giants have been shut out this season, and while that seems like a lot, it really isn’t. The 1992 Giants were shut out 18 times. The World Series champeens of 2010 were shut out 16 times. The Giants might set all sorts of franchise records or near-records because of their futility. Getting shut out isn’t one of them.

It just feels worse when they get shut out. Not even one lousy run. It takes a lot of effort to have seven runners and three double plays in the same game. A lot of effort and a lot of vision, that’s what I say.

Kelby Tomlinson had 40 percent of Sunday’s hits and 100 percent of the extra-base hits. If you’re expecting a more concise summary than that, read the sentence again.

The bullpen featured contributions from Kyle Crick (good) and Matt Cain (never forget 2010 and 2012, everyone). The former continued to make a case that he deserves a high-leverage bullpen job now and next season. The latter is absolutely painful to watch right now. If 2010 through 2014 is when Cain released his self-titled album, Leave Home, and Rocket to Russia, then 2017 is when he finally dropped Standing in the Spotlight. It’s possible to appreciate the past. It’s necessary to fear the present.

As for the future, man, I don’t even know how to wrap my brain around this. I’ll start with the obvious: Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford aren’t going anywhere. That’s a good thing, and both should help the 2018 Giants win more games than anyone else they could find for those positions.

Spots available to upgrade the 2018 lineup: 8 6

And while Brandon Belt and Joe Panik weren’t fortunate enough to have nuclear bunkers encased around their skulls, they’re still the best bets the Giants will have at well-rounded, above-average players next season.

Spots available to upgrade the 2018 lineup: 6 4

That leaves third base and the entire outfield. In theory. But Hunter Pence is owed $18.5 million and Denard Span is owed $15 million. It’s hard to see the Giants spending scores of millions on a new free agent just so they can put $33.5 million on the bench. They’ll probably talk themselves into one or both of them.

While Austin Slater was exciting, it was also a trial that was too brief to draw conclusions. What I’m thinking will happen is the Giants will move Span to left and let Slater rove around the outfield, picking up most of the starts against lefties. Pence will get another year in right.

Spots available to upgrade the 2018 lineup: 4 2

The cheapest upgrade at third would be Christian Arroyo, who looked thoroughly overmatched in the majors, although Ryder Jones could also fill in. And Pablo Sandoval is making the major-league minimum, so he still has a chance to win the starting gig.

Spots available to upgrade the 2018 lineup: 2 1

Imagine this team with Lorenzo Cain. That’s the best center fielder available. He’ll be 32 next year. His career OPS+ is 104, but most of his value comes with defense and baserunning. He’s an excellent player, by all accounts.

But imagine thinking that he’s the only thing this lineup needs.

No, the Giants need to figure out a way to upgrade three or four lineup spots without a lot of money, prospects, or willingness to hurt feelings. It’s an impossible task, which makes me think the plan is mostly going to be “Play better, numbskulls.”

After watching a game like this, that thought terrifies me.

Maybe the Marlins will want Chris Stratton for Giancarlo Stanton, though ...

Or not. But Stratton was still fantastic in a lot of respects. He walked five — including three leadoff batters, which is unacceptable — but he struck out 10 and looked filthy doing it. The curveball is a spinner, and it’s flummoxed three straight lineups with power.

When Stratton made his major league debut last year, he looked like Generic Right-Handed Fellow, the kind of foot soldier who would pitch in spots for a couple years and disappear, only to resurface with different teams here and there. Ryan Jensen is one comp, except he actually picked up ROY votes. Eric Hacker is another, except Stratton had the first-round pedigree. Brad Hennessey without the detour as temporary closer? Look, there are a lot of pitchers you could choose.

That curveball, though. It’s not something Stratton has been able to harness for a full minor-league season. That’s why he’s 27 and his career K/9 in Triple-A is just 7.3, a little worse than the league average. He’s not supposed to be the kind of pitcher who can strike out 10 batters in two out of his last three starts.

The control will need some work. And, again, he’s about three or four years older than the typical work-on-his-control-and-you’ve-got-something rookie. But in the wasteland of an 11-0 loss, it’s not ludicrous to look at the 10-strikeout rookie and attempt to take away something positive. It’s not like [looks at flashcard] Jake Arrieta had done anything before he was Stratton’s age. Sometimes it takes a while. Pitching is hard.

So is hitting.

Sometimes I think that hitting is harder than pitching, and then the bullpen comes in.

Padres series coming up, hope y’all ready, gonna be a blast.