The dropped third strike is the dumbest rule in all of professional sports. Tonight, it was a MacGuffin. Coors Field loves to mess with your mind. It’s like some kind of Lovecraftian demon that works its way into your nightmares to make you prophesize your own doom. It forces you to think about all the ways everything can go horribly, terribly, unspeakably wrong. Just imagining it is as bad as living it. The Giants won, but I can’t even enjoy it because of how bad things could have been.
Imagine the Giants trying to salvage one lousy game from an otherwise miserable series. They’re two outs away, and they have a three-run lead and nobody is on. Everything should be fine. But a dropped third strike to Gerardo Parra turns one of those outs into a baserunner. The game should be over before Ryan McMahon’s double brings up Arenado.
Raise your hand if you weren’t 100% convinced Nolan Arenado was going to hit a three-run homer to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. If your hand is raised, you are either lying or new to this.
Even after he popped up, I kept imagining Kelby Tomlinson dropping it and twenty guys scoring. But he didn’t drop it. He held onto it and the Giants won. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but they did.
All day, my brother has been texting me updates about pitchers that were dealing. Kluber went six scoreless innings, struck out ten and only allowed three hits. Scherzer threw eight scoreless innings, struck out twelve with one walk and two hits. The numbers that jump out to me aren’t the strikeouts or the walks or the lack of earned runs. It’s the innings pitched. Do you remember what it was like to have a pitcher go eight innings? Seven innings? Six?
Giants starters have only hit finished the sixth inning five times in the last 23 games, and in all that time, a Giants starter hasn’t finished the seventh. If this were an effort to minimize the third time through the order penalty, I’d be all for it. But it’s not. Bruce Bochy would love to have his starters grind through the order a third time despite all the prevailing evidence suggesting not to. The rotation just hasn’t been good enough to make it more than five innings.
From the beginning, it did not appear that Derek Holland would make it through six innings tonight. The first three batters he faced went:
· Home Run
The three runs Holland gave up in the first brought the first-inning ERA of Giants starters to 9.00.
6 of the first 7 batters he faced got hits. By the time he made it through the order a first time, he had already given up four runs.
For the next 2.2 innings, though, he looked great. Nearing the end of the fifth inning, it looked like he would make it through the sixth after all. Then the wheels came off. Holland walked Arenado and Trevor Story back-to-back and gave up a hard-hit liner to Carlos Gonzalez but Gorkys Hernandez bailed him out with a great play.
After Holland, Reyes Moronta and Tony Watson threw scoreless innings. Sam Dyson and Hunter Strickland threw a scoreless innings, too, but I’ve already detailed how Strickland’s outing turned into a waking nightmare and Dyson’s wasn’t much better.
I keep waiting for Reyes Moronta to have a meltdown, but aside from when he pitched with a sore back, it hasn’t happened. The 5 BB/9 is a big ole crate of shoes about to drop but for now, he’s striking out enough people and limiting hard contact enough to be effective.
Moronta is the guy I would want to be the opener. The opener is supposed to be roughly the third best guy in the bullpen, and I think he can get there. Tonight would have been another prime night for implementing the opener. Perhaps if Holland had worked out his kinks against the bottom of the order, he only would have given up two or three runs. Maybe he would have been able to pitch another inning. Maybe it doesn’t when Holland pitches, but I would like to know if the opener would make any difference.
It feels weird to feel good about a pitcher giving up four runs in five innings and not striking anybody out, but I think Holland had a decent outing, and he’s looked pretty okay over the last month. Most of those six inning starts were his after all. You know what? I look forward to Holland’s outings.
(Please come back soon, Madison Bumgarner.)
Holland didn’t just have an okay night on the mound, he also helped out at the plate, too. Derek Holland actually laid down a bunt! It was a good bunt! And the Rockies screwed up on it! It’s incredible. These things happen for other teams all the time. Their starting pitchers bunt their runners over and sometimes the other team goofs it. Good things happen when you don’t strike out bunting the ball foul.
Holland’s bunt set up a bases-loaded, one out situation for Gorkys Hernandez, and Hernandez did something he hasn’t done a lot of this season. He walked. That’s his third straight game with a walk. If that seems unremarkable, it is. But this is Gorkys Hernandez we’re talking about. Is this a sign that Hernandez has added a Belt-like eye to match his Crawford-esque power? No. That would be cool though.
Gorkys Hernandez and Brandon Belt were the only starters who wound up hitless. Evan Longoria hit his fifth extra base hit of the series: a triple. Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Mac Williamson all had two-hit games. It’s amazing the good things that can happen when everyone is hitting.
The Giants ended the road trip with a 2-6 record and they’ll end the month of May with an 11-17 record.
But they’re playing .500 over their last two games, so they’re basically fine. They don’t have to go back to Coors until July. That’s the real victory.