This game didn’t come down to the final at bat. But the danger in sports is that we get emotionally invested, and sometimes after a loss all we can think about is one moment, as distinctly in the past as it may be.
And the danger in day games is that they leave many hours left to contemplate said moment before scotch and sleep o’clock. Or at least sleep o’clock, at any rate. Get started on the scotch.
Here’s the final at bat, a strikeout looking by Brandon Belt:
That cluster of red, well outside of the strike zone? That’s Pitch 3, a called strike in a 2-0 count, Pitch 4, a foul ball after Pitch 3 was called a strike, and Pitch 7, a called strike in a 3-2 count. If the third pitch is called correctly, Belt is up 3-0, and either gets a walk, or a good pitch to hit. If the seventh pitch is called correctly, Belt gets a walk, and the tying run comes to the plate, and it happens to be the Giants second-best power hitter who was having a mighty fine game.
Again, the game didn’t come down to the final at bat. But here’s what the advanced metrics tell me: no baseball team has ever won a game in which they trailed at the end of the ninth inning. Many baseball teams have won a game in which their cleanup hitter represented the tying run in the ninth inning.
The Giants likely would have lost the game regardless. But until I hear the sweet baritone of Draymond Green emphatically yelling “AND ONE!” while shooting a wild layup with no contact in a few hours, I’m going to be bummed about the Giants not getting the opportunity to use their final out.
It wasn’t the only umpiring mishap of the day, as Joey Votto was given a second life in the fifth inning after an inning-ending ground ball was inexplicably ruled a dead ball. Votto eventually walked, and then scored, which gave the Reds a 5-3 lead.
In what ultimately amounted to a three-run loss, that play likely means nothing other than some additional inflation to Andrew Suarez’s poor ERA. But the Giants loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, and put two on with one out in the seventh, and got nothing to show for either occasion. In a closer game they’re perhaps less interested in barreling the ball for a two or three-run hit, and more interested in a timely sacrifice fly.
Again: highly unlikely that the correct call changes the game’s outcome. But baseball games are a two and a half hour lesson in the butterfly effect, so when the cookie crumbles into the toilet, rather than into your lap, you can’t help but wonder.
Belt hit a home run for the third consecutive game, and the mini-slump he was briefly mired in is emphatically gone. Such a game will put Belt over 2.0 fWAR on the season - only two other first basemen in the Majors have eclipsed 1.0
He has been simply majestic this season.
The Giants haven’t had a player hit 30 home runs in a season since 2004. As a depressing reminder, 41 players reached that number last season alone. Belt is now on pace for more than 33 dingers.
It could happen. It could finally happen.
And it would also be utterly hilarious if the 14-year drought since Barry Bonds were ended by a fellow left-hander.
I would not make a good Major League pitcher. Part of this is because I am a subpar athlete. Part of this is because I am not very good at playing the sport of baseball.
And part of it is because I utterly lack the mentality that this sport requires.
I get sad when a Giants pitcher allows a hit, because it means that a no-hitter will no longer be accomplished. When a batter is 0-2, I start thinking about how they need an extra-base hit in order for the game to improve their statistical standing for the season; a single won’t do here, fella!
Andrew Suarez is a Major League pitcher primarily because he’s a good athlete who is good at playing the sport of baseball, but also because he has the requisite attitudinal fortitude.
23 pitches into the contest, Suarez had seen four batters, and the Reds led 4-0. At that point, his day was toast, from the standpoint of a basic assessment. He could have retired the next 21 batters and his ERA still would still have started with a 5.
Instead of taking that dismal defeatist mentality, Suarez bounced back and was strong the rest of the way. It didn’t mean anything in terms of winning today’s game, but the fact that Suarez pitched six innings (after Ty Blach pitched only four on Tuesday) could very well impact tomorrow’s game.
The bullpen is well rested, which seemed rather incomprehensible after his 36-pitch, four-run first inning.
Speaking of pitchers, Matt Harvey, who was linked to the Giants just a few weeks ago, made his second start for the Reds. After watching him pitch, I am glad that he is not on the team that I am rooting for.
In another year, and by “another year” I mean “last year”, this loss would have been utterly debilitating.
The Giants had 12 hits, but only mustered three runs, and it wasn’t through any wrongdoing. Belt tattooed the right field bricks, and came away with a single. Andrew McCutchen used his bat to fire fastballs into Cincinnati's gloves. Pablo Sandoval crushed a opposite-field fly ball with two on, only for former Giant Adam Duvall to make a remarkable diving catch on the warning track.
And, of course, the duo of umpiring faux pas.
But these are the losses that happen in the course of a normal season, just as being on the other end results in the wins that happen in the course of a normal season. And the Giants are having a normal season. At 22-22, they’re about as normal as normal can be.
Last year was not a normal season, and as a result, these types of losses stung the way it stings when the lime you’re juicing squirts all over your arm that you accidentally stuck in a wasp hive earlier in the day. This year, it’s just a normal arm that hasn’t been torn up by bees, and so the lime juice is a pesky inconvenience, rather than a sign of the universe being out to get you, specifically you, and only you.
Oh well. Better luck tomorrow.