The Giants puttered along, staying within striking distance of the Cubs, but never looking quite on their level. Chicago jumped out to a 3-0 lead, behind something that those April and May Giants knew nothing about: home runs.
Robel Garcia and Kyle Schwarber had a pair of dingers, the former’s being one of the more impressive splash hits I can recall seeing by someone whose name doesn’t rhyme with “hairy swans.”
Ro, ro, ro your boat...— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) July 23, 2019
Robel Garcia hits a blast into the bay to give the Cubs an early lead! pic.twitter.com/y5Obn9YBEV
The Giants kept pace, with Shaun Anderson limiting the damage, and the bullpen pitching beautifully. The offense showed grit, but an inability to hit the ball hard, far, or when it was needed most. Through seven innings, the Giants had nine hits, but only a double by Stephen Vogt had gone for extra bases. They’d scored two runs, but allowed four.
And then the eighth inning came around, and the Giants continued to make a compelling case for being a competent baseball team - a case they’ve been making for two months now.
Pablo Sandoval led off the inning, and he was in dire need of a hit. Not only had Sandoval struggled mightily since the All-Star break, but he was 0-3 in the game, with all three outs ending an inning, including a double play with runners at the corners. And get a hit he did, roping one into the right field corner, and hustling to beat out a nice Jason Heyward throw at second base.
After a Vogt strikeout, Brandon Crawford sent one back up the middle to plate Sandoval, and cut the lead in half. But a tailor-made ground ball from Kevin Pillar threatened to once again cut a rally short.
Apologies for spouting cliches, but baseball is a game of inches. The Giants trailed, in part, because Anthony Rizzo scored the Cubs third run on a single to right field, when a divine throw from Austin Slater was an inch late because Vogt reached for the ball rather than letting it come to him. They trailed, in part, because when Mike Yastrzemski scorched the stitching off a ball with two on and two out in the seventh, it was just close enough for Kris Bryant to making a diving grab.
And they took the lead, in part, because Pillar punched Dominic Toretto’s nos button when heading up the line, and beat out the throw to keep the inning alive.
Then Austin Slater did this:
And then Joe Panik did this:
And then the Giants led 5-4.
Will Smith did not pitch the ninth inning. This is almost surely because Smith had pitched three times in the last four days, and the Giants have openly been trying to keep their pen rested.
Still, with the trade deadline less than a week away, it’s worth noting. If nothing else, it served as an audition opportunity for Sam Dyson, who was given closing duties. Dyson quickly retired two batters, before getting into a little bit of a mess, walking Victor Caratini, and allowing a single to Addison Russell. But, with Tony Watson warming up in the pen, Dyson got Schwarber to pop up and end the game.
Speaking of relief arms, Drew Pomeranz made his first bullpen appearance of the year, and was magnificent, allowing no baserunners in two innings, while striking out four. He threw 23 of his 29 pitches for strikes, and got six swing-throughs.
Two innings is far too small of a sample size to draw any conclusions from, but still - be my guest.
The Giants are now 51-50. It’s the first time they’ve been over .500 this baseball year. It’s nearly the first time they’ve been over .500 this calendar year.
The Giants came back to win for the 16th time in 19 games. Sam Dyson took the mound to "Cat Scratch Fever" and snuckled out a save. They are over .500 for the first time since they were 61-60 on Aug. 14 of last season.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) July 23, 2019
They have won 16 of their last 19 games. They’re 29-16 since June began.
A come from behind, one-run win is fuel for the fires of both the “Giants are good!” and “LOL holy unsustainability” campgrounds.
And yet, above all, they’re fun. They’re in it. And they believe they’re in it. If that isn’t evident, watch the clip of Panik’s double again, and listen to Duane Kuiper - tell me that he makes a call of a go-ahead hit in the eighth inning with that much verve in May, and I’ll show you a liar.
The Giants just might mess around and go on another seven-game winning streak. They just might mess around and drop seven in a row and remind us why they’re only one game above .500 even after this wild run.
I dunno. You dunno. They dunno.
But I’ll bet you’re paying attention.