There’s no Giants baseball on the Fourth of July since 1981. That year, a midseason strike cancelled the games. Before that, the Giants hadn’t missed Independence Day since 1941. Today is a perfect opportunity to
spend time with family and friends watch a five-and-a-half-hour game that happened nine years ago. In 2010, the Giants faced off against the Rockies in Colorado in what wound up being a 15-inning bummer of a game.
You can watch the game in its entirety (commercial breaks and all) on YouTube in glorious 360p.
To set the stage for the game, the Giants’ season was in danger of slipping off the rails. There’s probably no such thing as a must-win game in July, but it really felt like the Giants needed a win to correct their course. They had lost seven games in a row before snapping their streak in an 11-8 win the night before. They entered that game in fourth place in the NL West at 6.5 games back* of the Padres. Before their skid began, they were just 2.5 games back but ahead of the Rockies and Dodgers.
*The Giants are currently 5.5 games back of the second wild card so they’re totally in this thing.
2010 doesn’t feel that long ago, but these things really highlight how much time has passed:
· This was Buster Posey’s first Fourth of July game as a big leaguer
· The Rockies broadcasters were real steamed about Miguel Olivo’s All-Star snub
· Jason Giambi was in the Rockies starting lineup
Matt Cain started the game, and he didn’t have his best stuff, but he kept the Rockies to three runs in seven innings. As was the custom of the time, the Giants failed to score until Cain no longer factored into the decision.
The Giants faced a 3-0 deficit entering the eighth inning. As they hadn’t been able to get anything going against Jason Hammel Bruce Bochy pinch-hit Nate Schierholtz for Matt Cain. Schierholtz swung hard at an 0-1 curveball and “popped it up to deep right field.”
There are few things as perfect as a broadcaster completely misjudging a ball followed by an 80-grade clank. An Andres Torres inside-the-park home run might be one of them. And hey, wouldn’t you know? That’s exactly what happened next.
Every inside-the-parker needs some kind of defensive screwup and this one needed Ryan Spilborghs to completely misplay a ball in the corner. Nothing will ever make up for the grand slam he hit the previous year, but this was a noble effort at recompense.
It was also important that Giambi was playing first base. We don’t have Statcast numbers going back to 2010, but this wasn’t exactly scorched down the line. But Giambi, who was basically done fielding at this point, didn’t even move his feet and let it get by him.
The Giants would later tie the game after three pitching changes within the inning, and that set off two straight hours of torture. After the eighth inning, the Rockies failed to get a runner in scoring position only once. Somehow, they kept working their way out of it.
Santiago Casilla made it through the bottom of the ninth with a well-timed strikeout and a Carlos González fly ball that just stayed in the ballpark. In the tenth, Denny Bautista loaded the bases only to escape with a groundball to second. Bautista went out for the 11th and immediately walked Dexter Fowler. After Johnathan Herrera bunted him over, Chris Ray had to come in and get a double play.
Ray pitched a clean 12th and that gave way to the Giants who had their best opportunity to take the lead in the top of the 13th. Aubrey Huff hit a leadoff triple. All they needed was a sacrifice fly or a single or a groundball through the infield. But Esmil Rogers struck out Pat Burrell and Eli Whiteside and got Edgar Renteria to ground out.
In the bottom of the 13th, Wilson recorded one out before loading the bases for Carlos González and Todd Helton. Helton wasn’t quite the same hitter as he used to be, but he was still dangerous considering the situation and the park. González on the other hand was just coming into the height of his powers.
It looked like the game was lost when Wilson threw a 1-1 fastball to Gonzalez that would hit a right-handed hitter in the head. Wilson didn’t have the control to get through without shrimping in a run or leaving one out over the plate. But somehow, Wilson struck out González then ran the count full on Helton. In classic Wilson fashion, his command came back to him in the perfect moment and he painted the black to get Helton looking.
Things somehow became more stressful in the bottom of the 14th when Guillermo Mota walked Seth Smith to begin the inning. Smith then stole second and Whiteside threw the ball into centerfield allowing Smith to take third. The Giants loaded the bases with two intentional walks to set up a force at any base. Mota somehow struck out Clint Barmes to set things up for Miguel Olivo, All-Star snub.
Olivo hit a fly ball to left field that looked deep enough to win it. Torres camped under and fired home a blistering two-hopper to nab Smith at the plate. This was it. This was the play the Giants needed to get the momentum back.
All game long, the Giants had been scraping and clawing for just one more inning. Even though the Rockies hadn’t brought a run across since the sixth inning, the Rockies had been in complete control. But the Giants kept finding ways to give themselves one more chance. We didn’t know it at the time, but this game was a microcosm for the 2010 season. All year, the Giants played from behind. They didn’t take a lead in the NL West until September 16, and they needed all 162 games to secure the division.
The difference between this game and the 2010 season is that this game didn’t end with the Giants being victorious. Dexter Fowler led off the 15th with a triple and this time the fly ball was deep enough to get the run home.
This was one of the most deflating losses I remember watching. I thought the Giants’ season was over after this game. The Giants fell to 7.5 games back with less than half the season left to go, but that was as great as their deficit ever got. Even though the Giants had lost this “must-win” game, they wouldn’t lose back-to-back games for another month. They went 19-5 for the rest of July which gave them enough of a cushion for a dreadful August. The 2010 Giants could have let this loss define them, but even in defeat, they found a way to keep going. Sometimes that’s enough.