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The comeback comes up short

The difference was Cody Bellinger’s grand slam which could have been avoided in a lot of different ways.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

The Giants entered the ninth inning down by four. Considering that deficit matches the most runs they scored in a game, it was a nigh impossible task to pull off, and they almost did it. If Pablo Sandoval had hit the ball another few feet to the left or if he had been a step faster, the Giants would have tied the game in the ninth inning.

Neither of those things happened, and the Giants were denied their stunning upset against the Dodgers in the first two months of the season. They’re usually good for one of those a season. Last year, it was the Andrew McCutchen game. A few years ago, it was the Ross Stripling game. Before that, it was the Guillermo Quiroz game. They lost this opportunity, but at least they made it interesting. That the Giants have already avoided the sweep and thus far haven’t been thoroughly trounced should be enough.

The Giants didn’t pull off the comeback, but this game had something to offer since Madison Bumgarner hit his first homer since September 3, 2017. It was a vintage Bumgarner homer, too, as he stared at it longer than he would permit an opponent to stare at a dinger they clubbed off him.

After watching Drew Pomeranz pop up on a bunt attempt, I very briefly entertained the thought of writing a paragraph about how I had finally resigned myself to the designated hitter coming to the National League. Pitcher’s like Andrew Suárez, who had never had an at-bat between junior high and MLB, are just going to be increasingly common, and pitcher dingers will just become a relic of the past.

Of course, Bumgarner hit a dinger tonight, and down in San Diego, Zack Greinke hit two. Long live pitcher dingers.

If only Bumgarner could have pitched as well as he hit because he sure didn’t look great on the mound. In the first two innings, he gave Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger two extremely hittable pitches, and Bum was lucky they didn’t put them in the seats. You can tell that the pitch was especially bad because when Bellinger missed it and yelled, “FUDGE!” at the top of his lungs, Bumgarner didn’t give him the stink eye. Instead, Bumgarner must have been thinking, “Yes, that’s an appropriate response to not destroying that pitch.”

Bellinger got another pitch to destroy in his next at bat, and this time, Bellinger did horrible, unspeakable things to that baseball. I won’t be posting a video of it because it was extremely graphic. All that can be said is that ball has passed away. Please respect its family’s privacy in this moment of grief.

All night, Bumgarner struggled to throw the ball where he wanted. To set up that bases loaded situation, he walked Ryu on four pitches. Even if he got squeezed on ball four, he still put himself in a 3-0 hole against a pitcher trying to bunt, and he missed his spot.

Before that, Bumgarner couldn’t make a clean throw to first. The irony is that because of that error, none of the five runs that Bumgarner gave up in the third were earned.

It’s worth pointing out that Bumgarner could have still gotten out of the inning had Connor Joe displayed the field vision that Steven Duggar showed the inning before. In the second, Bumgarner escaped trouble when the Dodgers put on a hit and run with runners at first and second. Max Muncy hit a soft liner to center field, and the Giants were able to double up Chris Taylor at first. It was an easy double play to turn, but it also would have been easy to screw up. Steven Duggar and Brandon Belt deserve credit for making good decisions.

In Duggar’s case, he made the longer throw to get Taylor since AJ Pollock would have made it back to second. As for Belt, he might have been tempted to keep his foot on the bag and stretch out, but he registered that the throw was off line and went out to get it.

Joe, however, had an easy opportunity to double-up Ryu at second base but either no one was talking to him or he wasn’t listening.

If Joe had made the heads-up play or if Bumgarner made a clean throw to first or if Bumgarner threw a strike to Ryu, maybe the Giants win this game

It’s easy to forget about Hyun-Jin Ryu even though he’s been around for five years and he’s faced the Giants more than any other opponent. He’s been hurt off and on for the last four seasons. He’s been overshadowed by Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and now Walker Buehler and Julio Urías. When he had an opportunity to enter free agency last fall, he quietly accepted the qualifying offer instead. He even wears number 99 which is usually reserved for randos in Spring Training.

But every time he makes a start against the Giants, I’m reminded that, oh yeah, the Dodgers also have Hyun-Jin Ryu. It’s a real bummer because Ryu is quite good. Last season, in 82 1/3 innings, he struck out around six batters for every walk he issued, and he kept his ERA under 2.00.

For the first five innings, the Giants couldn’t touch him. The only hit they got until the sixth inning was a ground ball up the middle. Because of the Dodgers’ defensive shifts, Kiké Hernández took hits away ten feet from the right field line and twenty feet to the left of second base, but it wasn’t as if those balls were scorched.

The Giants finally made some noise in the sixth, but they couldn’t fully capitalize since Bumgarner had the hardest hit of the inning.

Kevin Pillar won’t be cutting into Steven Duggar’s playing time, but tonight Duggar played like he would. The incumbent below-average hitter, excellent defender went 2-for-4 and threw in a nice diving catch to sort of save a run. The trailing runner, Alex Verdugo, was in scoring position because Duggar lobbed the ball into home which gave Verdugo a chance to advance but nevertheless.

Duggar wasn’t allowed to dive all spring since he was recovering from a dislocated shoulder. For the rest of the game, he looked like he was nursing his shoulder, but I’m sure he’ll be fine. Everything’s fine. Really.

Pillar himself arrived in the Giants dugout shortly after Bellinger’s grand slam, and he managed to get into the game as a pinch hitter. He struck out, but I suppose he can be forgiven considering he had to uproot his life and travel across the continent to make it to the game. He’ll start tomorrow night in right field. when the Giants can go for their first series win of 2019.