You might remember 2002 as being Robb Nen’s final season or the year a suburb of Los Angeles rallied around a wacky little monkey, but baseball history remembers it as the last time the Giants pitched two shutouts in their first three games and held their opponents to 3 runs in their first 4 games. Today [sniffle] is, in fact, the 16-year anniversary of this amazing (and totally forgotten) feat.
Why is it amazing, you might ask? I can assure you that it has nothing to do with this list
ELIAS/@SlangsOnSports:— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 2, 2018
Fewest Runs Allowed1st 4 Games - All-Time
2018 LAD 2
1915 PHI<< 2
2007 Mets 3
2002 Giants<< 3
1991 White Sox 3
1979 Astros 3
1970 Reds<< 3
1943 Cards<< 3
1943 Reds 3
1914 Senators 3
>>Won NL pennant
and has everything to do with the fact that the two shutouts in question were started by Russ Ortiz and Ryan Jensen.
What a pair of unlikely names. You don’t associate either with shutouts, even if you think of Russ Ortiz’s Giants career as a good, maybe even great one. This is where the whole “anything can happen in baseball” thinking comes into play. Both pitchers went 7 innings and threw fewer than 100 pitches.
Ryan Jensen was a fifth starter who got bumped up in the order when Jason Schmidt had to start the season on the disabled list. My recollection had been that it was Kirk Rueter who began the year on the DL, but it turns out that was 2003! And he faced Dave Roberts as the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter.
The 2002 Giants did go on to the World Series and they did it because they allowed the second-fewest runs while scoring only the eleventh-most amount of runs. The 2002 Dodgers allowed the third-fewest runs but scored the eighteenth-most runs.
But who cares about the recap of an old, old game.
For a brief moment in time, the Giants made their division rivals look overmatched. Sure, they had Barry Bonds when nobody else did, but they also had Russ Ortiz and Ryan Jensen, who are not names that automatically make you think “Uh oh, we’re getting shutout today.” The Dodgers were countering with Kevin Brown, who wound up hurt most of that season, Odalis Perez, and Hideo Nomo, whose numbers could be easily duplicated by Bumgarner and Cueto this season.
The Giants were definitely dominated by front line starters these past four games, that’s simply all the Dodgers have to offer, of course, and if the Giants’ offense is no better than their 2002 selves or the Dodgers’ 2002, then nothing good can come of the season, but the Giants did definitely pitch two shutouts already this season, and that’s something they’ve only done one other time this century.
Does any of this mean the Giants will make a playoff run or win the World Series? Who knows? It’s only four games. A bunch of statistical and competitive noise. But Baseball makes no sense, so it makes sense to grab hold of whatever nonsense you can find sometimes. And this bit of history was simply the nearest vine.