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Giants hold onto a lead against the Marlins, 6-5

Alen Hanson fouled a ball off his knee and had to come out of the game because something had to go wrong.

MLB: Miami Marlins at San Francisco Giants Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants won today, but the best news of the day is that they don’t have to play the Marlins again until 2019. The baseball gods are cruel, but I don’t think they’d be so cruel as to have both teams go on a tear and face each other in the wild card game. It’ll happen eventually. In 2023, Lewis Brinson will rob what should have been a walk-off homer from Joey Bart to propel the Marlins to their third World Series championship without a division title. But that’s five years away.

The seasonal series against Miami cost the Giants dearly. Not only did they drop five out of the seven games, but they had already lost their third baseman, their closer, and their dignity. Today’s game was somewhat of a respite from the childish nonsense and baseball blundery of the previous two. The Giants managed to hold a three-run lead in the ninth despite allowing the tying run to get into scoring position. No one did anything that could be seen as “disrespecting the game,” which prevents Mark Melancon from saying dumb things like “That guy disrespected the game.” Best of all, no one threw a baseball at another person’s butt (or head).

Still, something had to go wrong.

The Giants only had to send one batter to the plate to lose yet another player to a freak injury. Other teams have to deal with freak injuries, too—Brandon Morrow hurt himself taking off his pants at 3 a.m.—but I can’t think of any that have been as unlucky as the Giants. The Giants have had to deal with players getting hit in the hands, getting run into, hitting their head on a wall, getting appendicitis, get hit in the hands again, and now taking a foul tip off the knee.

That doesn’t even include the normal injuries Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija sustained or Hunter Strickland punching a door. You can expect pitchers to get hurt. You can expect Strickland to be a redass. But it would be great if balls and people could stop hitting the Giants.

I suppose it’s fortunate that Alen Hanson only has a contusion on his knee, and he didn’t fracture his patella. Still, a trip to the 10-day DL seems likely. After seeing him writhe on the ground in agony, I have a hard time believing he’ll be back tomorrow. Get well soon, Alen Hanson. Come back and rope some more doubles.

Derek Holland might not be one of the five best Giants starters when/if everyone gets healthy, but starts like today’s make that hard to believe. He was credited with three runs in 6+ innings, but for most of the game he was fantastic. He opened the game striking out the side. He walked two despite throwing 70% strikes. He got 17 whiffs, 9 of which came on the slider. Ultimately, he won the pseudo-pitcher’s duel between him and Jose Ureña.

For the first five innings, the Giants couldn’t touch Jose Ureña the first two times through the order, but in the sixth, the Giants finally broke through. The broadcast showed the opponent’s batting average split by times through the order and they were predictably worse the third time through. This wasn’t just a baseball broadcast being several years behind and presenting this as new information; Ureña has a 116 sOPS+ the third time through meaning he’s 16% worse than the league in the same split. All pitchers are worse third time through. Ureña is substantially worse.

Ureña also had the disadvantage of Don Mattingly resorting to his intentionally-load-the-bases-to-set-up-a-force-at-home-with-no-outs strategy. The reason he does this is because it slightly increases the chance of escaping the situation without allowing a run… by about 2%. So if Mattingly resorts to this strategy 100 times, it will work out twice. Over 100 times though, it’s going to increase the number of runs scored.

Ureña did not escape the inning. He gave up five runs in the inning, four after the intentional walk. Even though the opposing pitcher disintegrated before their eyes and Mattingly made bonehead move after bonehead nonmove (i.e. taking Ureña out), the Giants needed some fine hitting.

Brandon Belt worked a 3-2 count and blasted a borderline pitch to deep center. Swings like that further codify Belt’s plate vision. It’s not just that he can take the close pitches, it’s that he can also put good swings on the pitches at the edge of the strike zone. Lesser hitters might feel embiggened by their ability to hit bad balls and expand the zone. But not Belt.

Hunter Pence got what should have been the game winning hit in that rally. Eventually, he got the actual game-winning hit in the eighth inning. It’s been a while since Pence did something at the plate that didn’t just make me sad, so it was great to see him come up with not one, but two big hits today. The second hit was a broken-bat duck snort, but he deserves those, dang it.

The final two came off the bat of Gorkys Hernandez who worked his way from 0-2 to 3-2 in a fourteen pitch at-bat and eventually lined a single into the right-center gap. (Ureña totally had him struck out, though.)

Tony Watson came into the game with runners at the corners and nobody out. As soon as Bruce Bochy made the call to the bullpen, a paragraph formulated in my mind about how it was the right move to have Sam Dyson be the interim closer. This isn’t because I think Dyson is the Giants best reliever or even better than Watson, but because Watson needed to be saved for the high-leverage situations like this. But then Watson allowed both inherited runners to score. Those were the first two inherited runners he allowed to score all year.

I still think Watson should be kept in the fireman role, but his outing today didn’t offer much proof of that.

The Giants have made it through a terrible team they can’t seem to beat. Now they get to play, let’s see here, the Padres? Aw, beans.