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Giants nearly get no-hit by Germán Márquez

Márquez took a no-hitter into the eighth, but Evan Longoria saved the day.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Pulling off a four-game sweep is tough, and it’s especially tough when the opposing starter pitches as well as Germán Márquez pitched today. From the moment Márquez struck out Steven Duggar with a nasty backfoot curveball to begin the bottom of the first, it was clear that the Giants were in trouble.

The Giants didn’t get a baserunner until Kevin Pillar was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning. They didn’t get a hit until Evan Longoria sent a grounder between third and short. It was a beautiful hit, perhaps Longoria’s crowning moment as a San Francisco Giant. It was arguably his biggest hit since his walk-off to end the 2011 season.

We know that Longoria’s hit was legitimate because it got past Arenado at third. If Arenado can’t make the play, no one can.

It would have been a little on the nose for the Giants to get no-hit when they’re going for a series sweep. You expect them to turn in a feckless performance, but even then, there’s bound to be just a little bit of feck. Even just a negligible amount of feck. Enough to round down to zero.

Before Longoria notched his hit, Nolan Arenado made the kind of play that makes one believe that the no-hitter is inevitable. Brandon Crawford shot a ball directly at him and it hit off Arenado’s glove and bounced several feet away. Any other third baseman wouldn’t have been able to recover, but Arenado teleported over to where the ball landed and slung it across his body to get the out.

When Arenado made that play, it felt like that would be as close as they were going to get. No-hitters always come with a circus play from the defense and there it was. Then when Longoria let a middle-middle fastball go by, you knew they were never going to get a hit. They blew their chances. That first fastball to Longoria was the worst pitch Márquez made all day and Longoria just let it go.

The defense behind Márquez made a few other nice plays to preserve his no-hit bid until the eighth. Ian Desmond needed to dive for a Gerardo Parra liner to center in the third. Charlie Blackmon robbed Joe Panik of a hit in the fourth. Ian Desmond tracked down a ball at the warning track in the fifth.

If the Giants were no-hit, it would be the first time since Homer Bailey shut the Giants down in 2013. Before that, Kevin Millwood no-hit the Giants in 2003. With the offenses that the Giants have trotted out in the last few years, it’s surprising the Giants haven’t been no-hit more than twice in the last 20 years.

Considering how many no-hitters the Giants have thrown in the last decade, you had to figure they were bound to get knocked off their high horse eventually.

An actual positive to take from the game was that Travis Bergen and Trevor Gott continue to impress. So many contending teams are looking upon their bullpens with horror, but the Giants are thriving with two guys they got for free.

When the other teams are desperate for relievers and they start sniffing around Will Smith and Tony Watson, we’ll be glad that we’ll have Bergen and Gott to slide into their places.

With as shaky as Derek Holland’s command was, it’s a mercy that the only damage done against him the first two times through the order was a Trevor Story double to drive in Nolan Arenado. With as hopeless as the Rockies offense is, all he really had to do was throw strikes. Holland is more than capable of doing that, but today he didn’t have it. Holland depends on his sinker to get him strikes, but every other sinker was a foot off the plate on his glove side.

Holland wasn’t getting the calls he perhaps thought he should have, but the Baseball Savant strike zone map didn’t have him getting squeezed.

The frustrating thing was that Holland seemed to get every hitter to an 0-2 count, but he couldn’t put them away. Holland never looked right, but the Rockies offense made him look effective, at least until the fifth.

When Charlie Blackmon stepped into the batter’s box to mark Holland’s third time through the order, Holland was at 81 pitches. He should have come out then. He didn’t look good the first two times through the order, and the Rockies had their good hitters coming up.

The bullpen is probably still feeling the effects of Friday’s marathon game, but Bumgarner managed to go seven innings yesterday, so everyone but Reyes Moronta and Will Smith had a day off, and the Giants have an offday tomorrow. Even if Bruce Bochy wanted to see how far Holland could take him, there’s no reason to have him face Nolan Arenado with two on and one out. He gave up two hard-hit singles, and he had already walked Arenado twice.

Arenado’s homer was among the more predictable things that have happened this season. Arenado has been unusually quiet this series and this season. He’s been in a funk. Why would you make things easy on him? You woke the dragon, Boch!

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what Bochy or Holland did. The only way they could have beaten Márquez was by attrition. They would have had to let him throw 10 or 11 shutout innings and go into another 18-inning stalemate.

Let’s be thankful it didn’t come to that. Some of us have plans for later tonight.