One of the hottest days in the recorded history of San Francisco belonged to the catchers. The Giants are now 54-84 thanks to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. In a truly perplexing move, the veteran manager (and former Giants catcher who retired due to a series of concussions) pulled his starter, Lance Lynn, after 8 beautiful innings of 1-hit baseball and under 100 pitches thrown. His bullpen quickly gave up the lead in the bottom of the ninth inning thanks to a Hunter Pence single, a Joe Panik sacrifice, and a Buster Posey (current face of the franchise catcher) flip job on a Seung Hwan Oh slider down and away that floated into right center field and gave Pence enough time to score. In the bottom of the tenth inning, with Ryan Sheriff pitching, (today’s starting catcher) Nick Hundley hit a home run to right field — just the 49th time a right-handed batter has done so at AT&T Park — and the Giants walked it off 2-1.
Okay, that was the official game recap, now let’s talk about this like uncivilized people. Today’s game was probably the hottest game every played at AT&T Park, but even with that being the case, neither team could score any runs. This was in part because both starting pitchers today were particularly dominant, and even though the Giants wound up going to their bullpen sooner than the Cardinals did, the life and movement on most of the pitches thrown today was truly a sight to behold. The point I’m trying to make here: this was, somehow, “pitching weather”.
Jeff Samardzija is at his best when his power stuff darts out of the strike zone. All of his pitches have tremendous spin, but when he’s going wrong, that movement all stays on the same plane or just hangs around in the strike zone. His slider dips so powerfully -- it’s not a reliever/closer’s slider, but it’s almost as effective -- that combined with his two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter, and curveball (except when he loses his grip on it, as he did in the first inning) there’s just so much unpredictable movement with every pitch that he should present a challenge to any lineup.
In that sense, the Cardinals lineup is a perfect matchup for Samardzija. They crowd the plate, they hunt for breaking balls, and they’re excellent fastball hitters. Samardzija constantly challenges hitters, and hitters used to pitchers nibbling or challenging only occasionally might swing and miss a bit more often at such a power pitcher like him.
He didn’t keep the Cardinals off balance. He simply challenged them in every at bat. And to his credit, he was on his game today. Another strong performance from him in this completely forgotten season.
And Lance Lynn was even better, hitting his spots and pitching to contact (for the most part) very effectively. Both starters had a lot of cutting movement today and the relievers did, too. It helped that the game moved at a nice pace. I almost forgot that the Giants are completely unwatchable night to night.
We shouldn’t overlook Buster Posey’s hero moment from today, as he helped keep the Giants’ hopes alive with that hit in the bottom of the ninth. In a season that’s lost on a franchise that’s going nowhere for what’s probably the rest of his career, it would be really easy to say, “I’m getting paid win or lose, so why bother?” And to the Giants’ credit, they do look like they’re all trying so hard to look like real baseball players, but we all know that their very best isn’t anywhere near competent. Except for Buster Posey, that is.
His not-giving-up-ness won’t attract top tier free agents to a sinking ship, but it will make the few remaining paying fans feel better about what they’ve paid to see. And to the Giants’ credit, they didn’t try to tank the season. It just so happened that all of their efforts created a perfect storm of tanking and no matter what they tried to do differently or however hard they pushed themselves, they never rose above tanking. In that sense, the Giants are not evil villains plundering a fan base’s time and money to eventually be competitive again, they are straight up Harland and Wolff and the White Star Line, operating a ship they thought was unsinkable.
Steven Okert and Derek Law looked like the best versions of themselves today, when the past couple of nights have shown that even a brief pitching outing from a single member of the bullpen could prove disastrous. It was nice to see Okert’s slider be effective in the strike zone and teasable outside of it and it was a relief to see Law’s fastball velocity back at 96. Again, maybe it was just a case of “pitching weather” today, but it was good to see something positive come out of the bullpen.
The Giants probably didn’t “deserve” to win that game, but it just goes to show that even one of the very worst professional sports teams on the entire planet can take advantage of stupid decision-making. So, thanks again, Mike Matheny. Your team surely needed this win much, much more than the Giants did, but it’s nice of you to let them go home happy for once in nearly 5 months.