It would have been such a nice story. The Giants, coming into this game at 68-69, had a real chance to be a 69-69 team at 4:20 PM today. The official McCovey Chronicles Twitter account (follow, like, and retweet!) has been on this story for a couple weeks now:
Good morning. The #SFGiants are 61-61. The last two games of this upcoming 16-game stretch have 1:05pm start times, which means there's a 12.5% chance they could clinch a 69-69 record at 4:20pm.— McCovey Chronicles (@McCoveyChron) August 16, 2018
The Giants have only six outs left to clinch the rare 69-69 record.— McCovey Chronicles (@McCoveyChron) September 2, 2018
But it wasn’t meant to be. The Giants fell 4-1 to the Mets this afternoon, with the offense failing to show up yet again, and the team wasting yet another starting pitcher’s gem.
The Giants have spent all year in a will they/won’t they with .500, coquettishly flirting with it every chance they get. It’s been A Thing all year; Brady thinks the team is destined to end up at 81-81, while I don’t think that. But it would have given us a brief moment of fun for the team to be 69-69. We could have had jokes and laughed and said “nice” a bunch of times and then forgotten about it a couple days later, but instead we were left with disappointment.
Also feeling disappointment today: Chris Stratton. Stratton had a very good start, giving up just a Michael Conforto two-run homer on the day in six innings, but when you pitch for the Giants, and rely on run support from the Giants offense, you have to be perfect.
Stratton’s had an up and down year, solid in April and June, terrible in May and July. Today, Stratton did well; he only struck out two, but he didn’t walk anyone and he was a groundball machine all day. It was his third straight strong start after coming back fro a stint in the minors where he got some tips from Ryan Vogelsong, allowing him to make mechanical adjustments that have helped him improve. The Giants aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, but good performances from players like Stratton who are still looking to establish themselves in the majors will go a long way to helping them answer some questions for 2019.
Which brings us to Alen Hanson. When we last checked in with Hanson, he was having a very nice defensive 6th inning in yesterday’s game. Today, he outdid himself, since if Brandon Crawford couldn’t play because of a bad left knee, someone had to be Brandon Crawford.
And Hanson did just that. He spent all day making Crawfordesque plays at short, ranging far to his right, ranging far to his left, diving, picking line shots, and throwing low to Brandon Belt and making him scoop balls out of the dirt. It was a defensive showcase for Hanson, especially surprising because when he was raking earlier this year, he was a valuable player despite his defense. These last couple games, he’s been a valuable player because of his defense.
Here’s what some of that defense looked like today:
This is the @AlenHanson92 appreciation post— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) September 2, 2018
But Hanson was also the Giants’ main offensive contributor today too. He tripled and scored on a Chris Stratton sacrifice fly. The triple came on a ball that Brandon Nimmo played too aggressively:
Wheeeee— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) September 2, 2018
But it still counts! That was half of the Giants’ hit total for the day, so treasure it like a newborn baby. Every hit is a precious gift.
The Giants came out of the gate with a plan against Noah Syndergaard. The plan was to get to him early, because his stuff is too good to wait around. Yeah, it’s hard to hit a 98 MPH fastball, but it’s easier than hitting his curveball or changeup in a two strike count.
The thing about that plan, though, is that it looks an awful lot like wanting to get your at bat over with as soon as possible. Through 6 innings, Syndergaard threw just 72 pitches, and his pitch count was low enough that he was able to finish the game. It was his first career complete game, and of course it came against the 2018 Giants.
On the other hand, they were up against Noah Syndergaard. Noah Syndergaard is just really, really good at pitching. He had everything working today, striking out 11 Giants and looking like the phenomenal pitcher he’s been for his entire career.
But the Giants offense has been a problem for a while now. In one inning on Friday night, they scored 6 runs. In the other 27 offensive innings in this series combined, they scored a total of 3 runs. As much as you can justify not hitting in any individual game — Noah Syndergaard is good! Zack Wheeler is good! Steven Matz had a good game! — when that futility lasts for a whole series, there are only so many excuses to make. This weekend, the Giants couldn’t score more than one run a game, and it cost them their last two games.