Phew. They did it. They really did it. The Giants surpassed last season’s win total this afternoon with a 3-1 defeat of the Texas Rangers. Mission. A. Ccom. Plished. Despite losing their franchise player for the rest of 2018, the year has to be considered a resounding success. The plan worked.
People might quibble about the Giants’ place in the standings and composition of their talent relative to the rest of the league, but for all the mistakes the Giants have made over the course of the season, they made very few today. This afternoon’s rubber match was all about the mistakes made by everybody else.
If you were a Texas Ranger today, you made some mistakes. Yovani Gallardo, what were you doing throwing this pitch to Steven Duggar?
Gallardo had spent most of that at bat working Duggar down and away or just down in the zone. With two strikes on the batter, he tried to get too cute and jam the rookie up and in with a fastball, thinking he’d get a swing-through. Instead, Gallardo’s fastball — which had right-hand run (away from lefties, in to righties) all day — leaked right out over the heart of the plate. Duggar never looked uncomfortable the entire at bat and promptly crushed the pitch for his first career triple. And, of course, those two runs wound up being the game-winners.
Reliever Chris Martin executed the Rangers’ game plan against Duggar in the bottom of the seventh inning much better than did Gallardo did in that at bat, with a 96 mph sinking fastball that just darted at and below Duggar’s knees. Duggar got a bad strike called against him for strike two in that at bat (it was a close pitch but out of the zone), and then Martin threw a perfect, unhittable strike that froze Duggar for strike three.
Duggar’s still figuring out the league, but he’s putting together quality plate appearances, and we can only hope that he’s in the Matt Duffy mold of being a young hitter who’s able to make adjustments and even make more adjustments after the league readjusts to him. He’s also really fast and fun to watch, two thing’s we’ve not been able to say about a Giants center field in... well, forever.
But back to that unfair strike two call in Duggar’s at bat. John Libka was behind home plate today and in Andrew McCutchen’s leadoff plate appearance for the Giants in the bottom of the first, Yovani Gallardo threw three strikes that were all called balls. I’m going to use the crude MLB.tv strike zone to illustrate my point:
McCutchen flew out to end that PA, and only thanks to a Longoria triple followed by a passed ball (that should’ve been scored a wild pitch) gave the Giants a run in the first. The strike zone did not ultimately wind up costing the Rangers the game (more on that in a moment), but the inconsistency was surprising. It became infuriating in the top of the sixth inning when Nomar Mazzara was ruled to have been hit by a pitch.
That... was not... a hit by pitch. It hit his bat. And then Nick’s Hundley. Bruce Bochy challenged the call and in no time at all — the first surprise of the transaction — the replay official(s) in New York came back with a ruling: the call on the field would stand; Mazzara had been hit by a pitch.
If replay is going to be a joke, then that means the umpires are a joke, and there’s no reason to not spend a chunk of our lives ripping on them. If replay can’t correct mistake calls, then what’s the point of it? We’ve already seen replay be bad enough to change a stadium’s ground rules, and now we can’t agree on visual evidence. More to the point, it’s very strange that it took very little time to affirm this call than it does on “out at first” calls.
In conclusion, and finally, the Major League Baseball video replay system is an embarrassment to the sport. Much like Pete Rose or the national broadcasters paid to cover the game who instead use the length of the broadcast to take a steaming dump on how the modern game is played.
But back to the Rangers... again, everybody else made mistakes today except the Giants, something we don’t get to see very often these days.
Rougned Odor in the ninth on Friday night: game-winning 2-run home run
Rougned Odor in the eighth on Saturday afternoon: game-tightening 3-run home run
Rougned Odor in the seventh on Sunday afternoon: attempted bunt for hit with runners at second and third and two outs.
We may never understand why Odor chose to bunt in that situation, but we’ll never forget that he chose to bunt in that situation. That play gave the game to the Giants. If I’m to put myself in Odor’s shoes for just a moment: he was facing Tony Watson, a fantastic left-handed reliever. No one expected him to bunt. Everyone expected him to try and hit a home run. I don’t know, Odor, I think you should’ve tried to hit a home run there.
Instead, it was the Giants who didn’t try to get too cute with today’s game. They played to their strengths — Derek Lastname was reliably solid, with three walks, three hits, four strikeouts and lasting into the seventh inning — and executed as well as they could given the talent on hand: