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The 10 best regular season games of the decade

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Which of these are you likely to remember well into the 2020s?

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants

{checks the clock}

Okay, it’s still 2019.

For most of the month we’ve been looking back at the best postseason games of the decade, and that’s because we’re a greedy, spoiled lot who don’t realize how good we had it from 2010-2016. Anyway, for most franchises and most fan sites, the best they could do is push out best regular season games of the decade posts.

I definitely didn’t make the mistake of changing the format of this particular series from ten individual posts to a single post featuring ten games but not altering the posting schedule. No, no, that definitely didn’t happen. I wanted Sami to give the only perfect game in Giants history its own post. And it’s a good thing I 100% made that choice, because it stands perfectly on its own:

It’s rare that a two-run homer isn’t a player’s highlight of the game, but obviously for Blanco, that was the case. Blanco was a minor-league free agent before the 2012 season, and his catch in the seventh inning of this game instantly made him a Giants legend. Obviously no-hitters and perfect games are all about the pitcher, but the hallmark moments in these games tend to be defensive plays. Plays that seem to defy the laws of gravity and physics, due to the players’ sheer force of will to help their pitcher. As Cain says after the game, in that moment, he felt every single player on the mound with him.

The only thing I can add to it for the purposes of this article is this embed of Cain’s appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman the week after the perfect game. For those who are a bit younger, David Letterman was a famous late night talk show host and a late night talk show is a remnant from the days when you had to watch TV by a schedule generated by content networks who could only be viewed through cable or antennae.

The Giants put together their own lengthy video highlight package of the decade that mixes in the postseason, too (you should watch; it’s good!) —

— but even if there’s overlap, the rest of our list still warrants a gander. Here they are in no particular order:

May 25, 2013: Pagan walks off into our hearts

by Casey Cantrell

Some games are remembered for the drama. Other games are remembered for individual performances. Others are remembered for the stakes, or the achievements, or the trophies.

And others still are remembered for the singular moments—the weird, incomprehensible, unbelievable happenings that can happen when you give a man a wooden stick and tell him to hit a small, spherical ball as hard as he can.

As far as I can tell, there’s only one headline in McC history that includes the words “inside-the-park walk-off home run,” and for whatever reason, it only seems fair that it’s Angel Pagan’s name preceding those words.

I’ve written about this game before, so I won’t rehash all the details. Just know it had all the makings to be one of the most frustrating losses ever, thanks to a series of blown calls by home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, the infuriating tenacity of the Colorado Rockies, a Bruce Bochy ejection, and the added humility of losing in extras at home. Instead, Pagan gave us one of the most exciting, spectacular, outrageous highlights of the decade that had this Giants fan shamelessly yelping in falsetto as the center fielder and his gorgeous flow rounded third base.

To this day, Duane Kuiper’s call still gives me chills (“Pagan… IS BEING WAVED IN!) as the drama of the moment reaches a fever pitch.

This happened in 2013, so it ultimately didn’t matter. It was also found out later that Pagan injured himself on this play, and he was never quite the same after. It wasn’t a perfect game, and it didn’t win a World Series. It won’t show up in the record books unless you’re really looking.

In a way, though, all of these details make it even better. It didn’t need to matter; it didn’t need to be a part of some bigger story. It was just a moment of pure joy, derived from nothing other than the moment itself. It’s an image that stands alone, forever etched in our memories.

August 8, 2016: Brandon Crawford’s 7-hit game

by Bryan Murphy

Left unwritten due to time constraints and a change in our contributor agreements is a post about how Brandon Crawford is one of the best Giants of this decade. It’s remarkably easy to forget a glove-first shortstop who has had just one truly great offensive month in the past two seasons, but if his name doesn’t appear on the list of prominent Giants from this era, then it will be a completely useless list.

Of course the Giants aren’t the Giants without Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner and Bruce Bochy, but you need Brandon Crawford (along with Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt) to complete the set.

I could show you defensive highlights from his career every day of the year, but what made this regular season game so memorable was because of who history happened to: Brandon Crawford is not the one who lands in the record books because of his bat, and yet —

Doug looked at all the 7-hit games prior to this one and concluded, rightly, that Crawford’s is the best of the bunch.

Why Brandon Crawford’s game was better: Because Brandon Crawford was clutch. He drove in the first Giants run, he drove in the Giants run that tied the game at 7, twice in extra innings he got the lead run to third base with less than two out, and he drove in the winning run.

This game was also important because it gave us a grotesquely human moment of vulnerability involving Buster Posey. A slide in three slides . . .

. . . of which Grant wrote:

I tried sliding this year. Really, I did. It was the first time I tried it in 20 years, and I did it as a demonstration in front of a bunch of seven- and eight-year-old girls. I almost broke four of my own ankles and three knees. So I’m not going to throw the first stone, here. It’s just fascinating to see the moment of reckoning defined so well.

The Giants needed extra innings to beat a team they should’ve handled easily and secure a win they needed badly, but it wouldn’t have happened with Brandon Crawford shocking us all.

October 3, 2010: Game 162

by Bryan Murphy

The Giants clinched the NL West for the first time in seven seasons and vanquished a personal enemy in both Mat Latos and the San Diego Padres, a team that not only held the NL West lead for most of the season, but won a game with only one hit, making the Giants the first team in 52 years to lose a one-hitter.

They were aggravating, but the Giants held all the cards entering the final weekend of the season. All they had to do was win one of the final three games of the season. It went down to the final game, and it wasn’t until Jonathan Sanchez tripled in the bottom of the third — giving us the lasting image of Chris Denorfia diving hopelessly for a pitcher’s lined shot

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/MLB via Getty Images

— that the pins and needles of a pennant race began to fall away. The game didn’t even end with the 9th inning torture that had come to define the season.

It stands out because of Chris Denorfia’s dive the Giants finally broke through to the other side of their post-Bonds rebuild. That era was long since over, but the first chapter of their new book had begun, and we couldn’t have imagined at the time how long the story would sustain itself.

July 13, 2013: Tim Lincecum’s First No-Hitter

by Sami Higgins

The story of Tim Lincecum seems sad, in hindsight. A young superstar undone by the damage his pitching style did to his body, allowing his slight frame to confound batters everywhere for too short of a period of time. You want to see a talent like that have a full and lengthy career, but it was not to be. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t still have surprises for us along the way.

His 2013 season wasn’t quite as bad as 2012, but it was starting to become clear that this was just who he was now. Which is why this accomplishment was so special. It wasn’t a dominant Matt Cain throwing a perfect game in his prime. It wasn’t even Tim Lincecum in his Cy Young years. It was the beloved but declining former-ace who was struggling more than he was finding success. And he just showed up to Petco Park one day and decided to throw the first no-hitter the park had ever seen. His first of two against a franchise who has still never had one of their own. The sheer audacity is commendable.

Much like Cain’s perfecto, this game was never in doubt, thanks to the offense scoring early and often. Which allowed Bruce Bochy to leave Lincecum in for an almost alarming 148 pitches. Lincecum sweated out about 60 percent of his body weight during this game, nearly melting on the mound (as he was wont to do in the heat) but ultimately it was worth it, as he got another moment of glory in a career that, though shortened by injury, was full of them.

July 20, 2010: Donnie Two Times

by Bryan Murphy

Don Mattingly was Joe Torre’s bench coach but he was the acting manager after he and Clayton Kershaw were ejected earlier in the game. Tim Lincecum had thrown at Matt Kemp which had caused the home plate ump to issue warnings to both teams. Clayton Kershaw hit Aaron Rowand (lol) in response and that led to Mattingly being in a position where he had to talk to Jonathan Broxton with runners on base.

You know the rest.

I really wanted to put down the September 4, 2010 game where Juan Uribe beats Jonathan Broxton to hit a three-run home run, because that was a late-season game the Giants desperately needed for their pennant run and it involved a bunch of unlikely moments stacking up to a critical mass to push the Giants past their arch rival and Don Mattingly would later get his revenge on Bruce Bochy anyway by catching the Giants batting out of order — but this game also had a bunch of unlikely moments that led to a Giants comeback (in a Kershaw start no less!), too.

Plus, on the day we read that Don Mattingly has retired or been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Modern Era committee, we will smile and think to ourselves, “Donnie Two Times”.

May 3, 2019: 8-run comeback

by Doug Bruzzone

Tyler Beede was one of the big stories of 2019 Spring Training. He was feeling great, he was looking great, and he was bound to have a fantastic 2019.

In his first regular season start in 2019, he gave up 8 runs in 2.1 innings.

You would be forgiven for giving up on that game in the third inning. Over the last three years, you have seen that game a lot: the Giants go down big in the early innings, and then you half pay attention for the next two and a half hours while nothing good happens, and then they eventually lose and you get on Twitter and say something like, “At least the cold hand of death will someday take us all and every remnant of this game will vanish when the sun explodes.”

Maybe some hope stirred in you in the top of the fourth, when the Giants got three runs home. Maybe that hope died again by the bottom of the fifth, by which time the Reds had gotten two of those runs back and Bruce Bochy, wanting to give his star catcher a break, double switched Buster Posey out of the game for Stephen Vogt, who like Beede, was making his 2019 major league debut after a month in Sacramento.

Vogt, amazingly, turned out to be the star of the game. He doubled as part of a four-run rally against future Giant Wandy Peralta in the top of the sixth, then singled as part of a three-run rally in the top of the eighth, and finally launched a two-out game-tying ninth inning homer off Reds closer Raisel Iglesias to complete the comeback.

Evan Longoria would win the game with a solo homer of his own in the top of the 11th, but it was the Stephen Vogt Game, an unexpectedly thrilling ride that took the team — and Giants fans — from a miserable low to an ecstatic high. Sure, every trace of it will still be lost when the sun explodes in a few billion years, but now that’s a tragedy.

August 16, 2015: Bumgarner homers, pitches a shutout

Only two pitchers have thrown a shutout, struck out 14, and homered in the same game: Early Wynn (1959) and Madison Bumgarner.

Before the homer, he hit an RBI double, too.

Is this game necessarily better than his two-homer game on Opening Day 2017? Yeah, I think so. The Giants lost that game and, more importantly, kicked off the Mark Melancon era ahead of an historically awful season.

What about the game where Bumgarner and Posey both hit grand slams? Well, I’m listing that here, too. Maybe this section is just a compendium of cool Bumgarner home run moments. Here he is homering off of Clayton Kershaw:

And again:

Anyway, his list of accomplishments are so vast that it’s easy to focus on just those most famous deeds; but his legend extends beyond the playoffs.

June 25, 2014: Lincecum 2nd no-hitter

by Bryan Murphy

I was on recap duty the night of Tim Lincecum’s first no-hitter and I, predictably, did a butt job with it, so it was a relief when he did it again and Grant was chained to the laptop to compose the proper response.

This no-hitter doesn’t mean that Lincecum’s good again, that he’s going to be a solid contributor for the rest of his Giants career. It doesn’t mean anything but nine innings and no hits. Except it’s a glimpse at what Tim Lincecum can do when he knows where the ball is going. When he has his command and four pitches, the number of pitches thrown is a better indicator of his success than the number on the speed gun. He pitched much, much better than he did in his first no-hitter. He threw better in the Petco no-hitter, striking more fools out, but in this one, he pitched.

Looking back, what we feared is what actually happened: we weren’t seeing signs of a pitcher figuring out his next evolution. We were watching a pitcher showing his final flashes of his best stuff. He posted a 5.20 ERA the rest of the way and was moved to the bullpen ten starts later. He looked strong in a World Series relief appearance before succumbing to injury, and it was a quick fall after that.

But this game was the capper to a great career and a legend from the farm who brought an energy to the park that hasn’t been matched.

September 6, 2013: The Almost Perfect Game

by Roger Munter

I come to confess my sins: late on the night of September 6, 2013, I stared at the most magnificent of baseball gifts... and in my heart of hearts I was unmoved. I remember well thinking the most spoiled, bratty, privileged thought a baseball fan could possibly think? “Do I really want Yusmeiro Petit to reach the same level of triumph and glory as Matt Cain?” The previous year, after all, the horse of the Giants staff had immortalized himself by throwing the first Perfect Game in the Giants long, illustrious history, and as Petit inched closer and closer to his own date with history, I just wasn’t so sure I wanted Cain’s pristine glory to be shared with this journeyman who had appeared in just two games before September and was soaking up some meaningless starts in a long, lost season.

This was, I fully and shamefully admit, the most wrong-headed thing I could ever think. And I would like to take this moment to publicly apologize to Mr. Petit, who would go on to play such a meaningful role in the trifecta.

I should have been writing in agony and disappointment that night at the cruelty of fate. I wasn’t then. I am now. So close. Sooooo close.

This is the difference between euphoria and hard-swallowed, grim satisfaction.

GLORY:

NOT GLORY:

That’s it. That’s all it took. That foot caused Petit to join the six pitchers in MLB history who have lost a Perfect Game on the 27th batter rather than joining the 23 who completed the test.

Look at Petit after the ball leaves bat. That grimace, that squat, fate held in the balance. The essential baseball moment: will it/won’t it. It won’t. It didn’t. It wasn’t. Forever.

Petit would go on to other memorable moments with the Giants. He would set the all time record for consecutive batters retired (46) during the 2014 season -- a record that for many years was held by Giant Jim Barr, who barely missed perfect games on both sides of his streak. And of course, in October he would give the Giants one of the two most famous relief efforts in team history when he held the Nationals scoreless for six straight extra innings -- six straight bottom of the 9ths, as Brian Sabean put it.

I’d cheer him on lustily through those moments and more. But when he most needed my fan support I was diffident. And I bitterly regret it. Yusmeiro, you deserved better.