The San Francisco Giants haven’t been good at very many things this season, but on a sunny Saturday afternoon in St. Louis, they looked very good at one thing: tanking.
On the whole, the team has emphatically not embraced the tank. For the most part, they’ve been trying to win these September bookkeeping games, both in the lineups they’ve put out, and the in-game management decisions that have been made. For the record, I have no problem with this.
And while I’m pretty sure the Giants were trying to win on Saturday, they kind of looked like they were trying to lose.
In the bottom of the second of a scoreless game, with Jedd Gyorko on second, Dereck Rodríguez allowed a hard single to his counterpart, Adam Wainwright. With two outs, Gyorko was running on contact; but even with that headstart, Gyorko runs like a middle-aged dude playing flag football at his weekend cookout. Gyorko also looks like that, but that’s entirely beside the point.
Chris Shaw came up throwing from left field, and looked like he was going to have Gyorko out at home, easily. But for
inexplicable tanking reasons, Evan Longoria cut off the throw, and instead opted to target Harrison Bader, who was caught in a pickle. The inning ended with the play, but not before Gyorko scored.
After nine innings, the score was 4-4. That played saved the game for the Cardinals, and saved the tank for the Giants.
But San Francisco wasn’t out of the woods yet - the tank required refueling.
Despite the magnitude of the affair for the Cardinals, they played the good host, and attempted to give the Giants the game. After Hunter Pence’s one-out single in the 10th inning, Gorkys Hernández hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield.
First baseman Matt Carpenter doinked the ball off his glove, and dove on it like a fourth-quarter fumble. In a bout of beautifully poor decision making, Carpenter tried to sidearm a throw to first, from his belly. At best, he resembled a person who didn’t understand the correct form for making snow angels. Use your back, doofus.
At worst, he waited until Hernández had already beat out the play, and then proceeded to pass with all the accuracy of an adolescent boy trying to pee into the toilet. Or, you know, any boy or man trying to pee into a toilet.
The Giants ended up with runners at the corners with one out.
They did nothing with it.
Then, in the bottom of the 10th, they brought in Mark Melancon, the pitcher who gave up two runs while earning the loss yesterday, who has pitched on back-to-back days just three times all year, and who should probably be on the DL preparing for next year.
One monstrous Tyler O’Neill dinger later, and the Cardinals won, 5-4.
If you’re rooting for a higher draft pick and non-Dodgers teams winning critical games, the Giants could not have played more perfectly. There was suspense. There were opportunities. The game hung in the balance, the win percentage moving side-to-side like Will Ferrell’s head in A Night at the Roxbury.
The tank driver toed the line between success and failure beautifully, leading the viewer in different directions before finally achieving the desired end goal.
It was masterful, really.
I wanted Aramís García to do one thing today, and one thing only: hit a home run. In a morosely amusing season, I think it would be nothing short of hysterical if García were to match Buster Posey’s home run total.
Posey has five; García three. So it’s unlikely to happen, but a dinger today would have put us on watch for the rest of the year. These are the things that keep the games entertaining.
García failed in this quest, but he didn’t let anyone down. He had the first four-hit day of his career, going 4-4 with a double and two runs batted in.
With the impressive showing, García’s OPS now sits at a glittering 1.000.
It seems unlikely that the Giants won’t throw a bunch of money at Nick Hundley, given the seemingly mutual infatuation and Posey’s health concerns. But you have to wonder if, even with the small sample size, García is making the team consider allocating their resources in slightly more exciting ways next year.
After a rough start to the game, Rodríguez settled down and pitched beautifully for a long stretch. Over four innings, from the start of the third to the end of the sixth, Rodríguez needed just 40 pitches, and allowed only two baserunners. At one point, he retired 10 batters in a row.
But alas, his fellow rookie battery mate spoiled things. In the top of the seventh and the Giants trailing 2-1, García took his at-bat with a pinch-hitter in the on-deck circle. A two-run, lead-grabbing single later, and Rodríguez was allowed to stay in the game.
In the bottom half of the inning, Rodríguez started things off with a four-pitch walk, and then an absolute beast of a dinger to Yadier Molina. Instead of two runs in six innings, he ended up with four.
That’s some next-level tanking by García - simultaneously taking the lead while setting up the team to blow it.
I want to make a quick detour to talk about something that we (rightfully) never talk about: baseball fashion.
Baseball is mostly devoid of fashion choices and notes of interest, but two notable fits were on display today.
On the bright side of things, Alen Hanson rocked a gold pendant that would almost be enough to make Flava Flav interested. It was awesome. I recommend more players do this.
On the horrendous side of things, Molina is apparently outfitted by Jordan Brand now. Jordan Brand being, you know, the subdivision of Nike that is named after Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan being, you know, the former professional baseball player.
Also of note is that Jordan was a former basketball player, which I think may be a bit more pertinent to his branding.
Look: I love basketball, I love Michael Jordan, and I love basketball fashion. But seeing a baseball catcher with giant Jumpman logos adorning every aspect of his gear is just wrong. It’s tremendously wrong.
Molina was catching baseballs while an eight-inch Michael Jordan dunked across his kneecaps and xiphoid process. I did not like it one bit.
One of the great things about baseball is that it often provides you with things you didn’t know you wanted. But then you get them and you realize, wow, I needed this. Hunter Pence hitting a ball three times in one swing might apply here. Barry Zito galloping down the first base line like a well-caffeinated stallion might be another.
But then, occasionally, baseball gives you something you know you didn’t want, and it proves to be just as bad as you knew it would be.
A.J. Pierzynski providing color commentary for a Giants-Cardinals game is that thing.
With that said, the one cool part about Pierzynski was listening to him talk lovingly about Adam Wainwright, and catching him. It made me realize how great it would be to have Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain in the booth, talking about Buster Posey for a whole game, or, perhaps in six years, Posey in the booth calling a Madison Bumgarner start. I’d be on board with that.
There are no excuses for being this bad, especially with this payroll. But early on in the broadcast, Pierzynski mentioned the severity of the Giants injuries and . . . yeah. It bears repeating.
The Giants never really had a left fielder this year, but they had clear-cut starters at the other seven non-pitching positions. Of those seven, three have had season-ending injuries, two have missed large amounts of time due to injuries, and one has looked sub-replacement level for two months while openly playing through an injury. The only fully healthy one of those seven is currently wearing pinstripes.
Add to that the fact that the Giants number one starter missed half the season, and the second and third starters are out for the year and, yeah . . . the Giants haven’t earned the right to be good, but they sure haven’t been given any favors, either.