Baseball is weird. Really, really weird.
Not like, up is down, left is right, black is white weird. Like, wake up at two in the morning and there’s a unicorn in your bed smoking Marlboro Lights and watching M*A*S*H weird.
Except when it’s not.
Friday night, it was not.
Two rivals met in Chavez Ravine. Fighting out of the blue corner, the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that, entering the season was supposed to be very, very good at baseball. Fighting out of the orange corner, the San Francisco Giants, a team that was built to be mediocrity personified, a flawless blend of the feck and the feckless.
And the battle went just as the simulators would tell you that it should. The Dodgers were good. The Giants were not good. Then the Giants were good long enough to make things interesting, but they weren’t good enough, in part because the Dodgers were quite good.
And then the game was over. A high chopper by Brandon Crawford, a slick defensive play by Logan Forsythe, and the game disappeared into the warm Los Angeles air, gone to hide where forgotten things go when they realize they no longer possess memorable traits. Or, perhaps, they never did . . .
Okay, so the game wasn’t entirely devoid of weird things. The Dodgers got a critical run off of a home run by Matt Kemp. A few innings later, the Giants pulled within one when Pablo Sandoval smacked a ball over the fence.
Kemp left the Dodgers after the 2014 season, and he left as a star. In the three subsequent years, he posted WAR marks of 1.0, 0.9, and -0.5. In this season, his return to Los Angeles, he has a wRC+ of 155, and has legitimately been one of the NL’s top outfielders.
Sandoval left the Giants after the 2014 season, and he left as a star. In the three subsequent years, he posted WAR marks of -1.2, -0.2 and -0.8. In this season, his first full year back in the Bay Area, he has a wRC+ of 122, and has been a vital cog in a wheel that is (moderately) still spinning even as the absence of Brandon Belt morphs into the absence of Evan Longoria.
So yeah. Baseball is weird.
I live in Los Angeles. And a little known fact about Los Angeles is that, if you take The 101 to The 10 to The 405 to the El Segundo exit, you’ll drive by a little factory titled “The Los Angeles Dodgers Factory of All-Star Replacement Players”. It is here where Ross Stripling was manufactured, in a lab, by some poor engineering student who doesn’t know the weight of his own sins.
Stripling is the embodiment of the Dodgers machine, which (don’t look at their record, please, I’m trying to make a point here) keeps churning out quality players even as their stars go down.
Stripling is what the Giants wish they had gotten out of Ty Blach or Chris Stratton. He was a fifth-round draft pick, who worked his way through the minors with good, but not great stats and peripherals.
And now he is helping the team absorb the loss of one of the sport’s greatest pitchers ever with relative ease, because that’s how the factory designed him. With surgical precision he knifed through the Giants lineup, striking out six in 6.1 innings, and walking none.
It was impressive, or it would be if the Giants weren’t a basesonballsaphobic team of players eager to strike out.
On the Giants side of things, Derek Holland looked like Derek Holland. He looked like someone who had once been an ace, as 12 swing-throughs and seven punch-outs in just 5 innings showed. He also looked like someone whose role in spring training was “be here in case two of our three good pitchers get injured”, as 105 pitches and more hard contact than a home run derby proved.
Holland wasn’t helped by his defense, as Austin Jackson dropped a ball on the warning track for a three-base error, but honestly, I wasn’t even mad at Jackson. The Dodgers were crushing what Holland was throwing, and it only seemed fair that they get rewarded for it.
And finally, baseball’s finest full sentence namesake, Pierce Johnson, returned to the team, and pitched two stellar innings. He’ll be gone tomorrow when Brandon Belt is activated, but . . . come on. I’m not gonna go a whole recap without mentioning the dude who’s name is literally a genital body modification.
I guess baseball really is weird.