The Giants have lost eight in a row, but that’s not actually the bad news. The bad news is that there’s no silver lining. There’s nothing to root for. Thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness, the Giants have no stars to be a calm in the storm or September call-up to dream on for the future. It’s all bad and hard to imagine it magically getting better just because the calendar flips over to a new year.
But that’s just a pessimist’s macro view. The micro view is that the Giants played another bad game in their 8-game losing streak and nothing they did that might be considered “good” was actually good. Yes, it’s that old chestnut: the positives are a mirage and the negatives are reality.
The killing blow of this 6-3 loss came in the bottom of the sixth inning, with three runners on base and Jonathan Schoop at the plate. He was one of the many hitters the Brewers acquired around the trade deadline, a curious call for a team without starting pitching, but it seems to have worked — the infusion of quality bats offset peaking or negatively regressing lineup stalwarts the team had and mitigated whatever poor performance they’ve gotten from their starting pitching (it helps to have a solid bullpen).
Anyway, Schoop spun on a flat slider (Bumgarner’s 24th pitch of the inning) and sent the ball screaming over the left field wall in a hurry for a grand slam that made the score 5-2. If you didn’t watch the game you might be thinking, Huh. A grand slam. That stinks. But that misses the context of the situation.
Madison Bumgarner retired 15 in a row from the end of the first inning through two outs into the sixth inning when he finally walked Christian Yelich to break that streak. Before it began, however, Ryan Braun hit a booming double off the top of the wall in left field that drove in Lorenzo Cain and tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the first inning. Braun looked peeved to have just missed hitting a home run.
But back to the streak for a moment: it was pretty great.
Madison Bumgarner is not the same pitcher he once was, and he relied a lot more on offspeed and breaking pitches today than we’ve seen recently. At least in today’s start, his fastball and cutter were just for show, so it was all about the curveball and slider — but he made it work! He looked very settled and focused.
In the fourth inning, during Bumgarner’s streak, Braun crushed a ball to deep left center field that was maybe 4 feet from being a home run or hitting the wall again. Braun looked annoyed with himself then, too, and he and Bumgarner may have exchanged some words as Braun went back to the dugout.
Bumgarner would next face Braun in the bottom of the sixth with two runners on base, having just ended his 15-out streak. He decided he wasn’t going to let Braun settle into the batter’s box with a feeling of confidence, so the first pitch was a fastball up and in. Braun spun out of the way and stumbled up the third base line, perhaps too dramatically for Bumgarner’s tastes because the next two pitchers were thrown at Braun. Bumgarner hit Braun on that third pitch to load the bases.
It also caused an on-field to-do:
"If you want some, c'mon." - Bumgarner to Braun after hitting him with a pitch pic.twitter.com/lBeM7ZyvSK— Ahmed Fareed (@FareedNBCS) September 9, 2018
From a tactical standpoint, Bumgarner picked a helluva time to litigate cocky baseball remarks from someone who made an out and/or failed to hit a home run off of him. Many Giants fans will email me tonight to tell me 1) they miss Grant and 2) that I don’t understand how Bumgarner was just showing fire and trying to get his lifeless teammates into the game.
Madison Bumgarner goes high and inside on Ryan Braun three straight times. The third pitch hits Braun and the #Brewers bench slowly makes their way into the field. Just words exchanged between Bumgarner & Braun. pic.twitter.com/qBZ7ttihah— Stephen Watson (@WISN_Watson) September 9, 2018
They may have a point about the Giants being lifeless because they didn’t really get too involved in the half scrum that started to form after Bumgarner hit Braun. BUT! I do question the rationale behind a pitcher trying to fire up his teammates when his teammates have the lead and he’s making it a point to go after the one player who got after him. That seems like the opposite of being a team player and all about focusing on punishing someone who did you wrong. Again, the opposite of teamwork and leadership.
But Bumgarner is a red-ass! Braun’s a cocky cheater! This part of the game!
Well, Bumgarner threw at Braun more than once and then Jonathan Schoop made the larger point that the Giants didn’t really have a margin for error. In that respect, it probably didn’t matter what Bumgarner did in that inning or in any other, because the Giants were probably destined to lose this one no matter what.
Let’s just not pretend there was anything cool or heroic about what Bumgarner did. He tried to put someone in their place for “showing him up” and instead he got embarrassed.
Whenever I read Zach Davies (today’s starting pitcher for the Brewers) I think of former starter Kyle Davies (they are not related), and then I wonder what he’s up to. My first guess was that he’s pitching for the Royals or White Sox or is in, like, the A’s or Astros minor league system. As it turns out, he’s in none of those situations (he last pitched in 2016 for the Yakult Swallows), but by total happenstance, today is his 35th birthday. So, happy 35th birthday, former Brave, Royal, and Yankee, Kyle Davies.
As for Zach Davies, he pitched five effective innings, utilizing his power sinker to get multiple groundouts. The Giants never looked over-matched against him, but given their slow bat speeds and poor strike zone judgment, the result felt like they were.
Corbin Burnes relieved Zach Davies to begin the top of the 6th and after getting Longoria to fly out, Brandon Crawford scorched a 108 mph ball that spun off the pitcher’s mound that flustered shortstop Hernan Perez into an error (should’ve been called a hit). The next batter, Austin Slater, took a fastball down the middle that Erik Kratz couldn’t catch and was called a ball, but Brandon Crawford didn’t see Kratz miss and lose track of the ball so he wasn’t able to run to second base.
Of course, Crawford has a knee issue so that might be why he wasn’t prepared to take off at the first sign of trouble, but it felt immediately like a missed opportunity. Burnes pumped two fastballs at the knees and away from Slater to get to a 1-2 count, and then Brandon Crawford got the idea that he should make up for that missed passed ball opportunity and steal off of Burnes.
It was a good thought — Burnes’ interminable pre-pitch hold suggested to Crawford that even on a bum knee he could steal second easily. He was right. He took off on Burnes’ 1-2 pitch and stole it extremely uncontested. Slater wound up swinging through the pitch and striking out.
We’ll never know what would’ve happened if Crawford had gotten to second base on the passed ball, but it would’ve changed the complexion of the at bat. With a 1-0 count and a runner at second base with only 1 out, Burnes probably changes his approach a little bit and Slater does, too. He might think about choking up just to shoot the ball up the middle, for instance.
We do know that Crawford stealing second when he did distracted Slater’s at bat.
Again, we won’t know how the inning would’ve turned out had Crawford made it to second base on the passed ball or even what might’ve happened if Crawford hadn’t ran at all (I mean, the Giants didn’t score and that is probably the most likely outcome for either changed scenario because, hey, it’s the Giants), but this might’ve been more of a turning point than the grand slam, because it might’ve been one of the direct causes of it.
Maybe the Giants score a run this inning. A 3-1 game changes a lot about what happens in the bottom of the sixth.
But let’s end this sucker on a positive note. I think I figured it out. Stomping all over the Giants’ stats and hearts will bring together every single team they face the rest of the season. Look at how fired up Craig Counsell got!
He’s saying, “Forty fishsticks for that sheep, okay?!”
Look at the Brewers coming out to congratulate Schoop after the grand slam and stare down Bumgarner!
That is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. pic.twitter.com/Aneqg3ATWv— Jason Collins (@Jcollins205) September 9, 2018
That’s some team unity and that’s not something you can just buy off a store shelf or acquire in trade. That’s hard earned stuff, and the Giants are helping other teams mine it. The Giants are making teams happy! Go Giants!