With the MLB season suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, there are no baseball games and limited baseball news. So I’m creating a hypothetical season — complete with news and recaps — until baseball resumes. All news and recaps will have the hypothetical tag, so you can at least know when you’re suspending reality. And you can click “hypothetical season” above the headline to see everything that has happened in this “season.”
Occasionally, baseball is poetic. We don’t always expect it to be, but it’s half of why we watch. When it works — when it really all fits together the way that it should — it’s the epitome of poetry.
Every game has little pockets of poetry. The sound of a fastball landing in the sweet spot of a catcher’s mitt, the crack of a bat barreling a ball into the gap, and the trajectory of a majestic home run can give any book on my shelf a run for its money.
Occasionally those poetic elements are a little larger, such as Thursday, when the Giants beat Trevor Bauer, which made me giddy.
Saturday night’s game between the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves wasn’t total poetry, but from a Giants perspective, it came decently close.
Buster Posey, returning home to Georgia, hit the go-ahead home run against Cole Hamels, a pitcher he’s been dueling for much of his career, and it gave the Giants their first series win of 2020.
See? Poetry. At least from where I’m sitting.
Hamels and Drew Smyly were both strong. Through 6 innings, each pitcher had allowed 7 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs, with Hamels striking out 7, and Smyly striking out 5. When the seventh inning rolled around, Brian Snitker gave Hamels the green light to come back out. His breaking balls were a little bit less crisp, and his velocity down about 2 mph from where it had peaked earlier in the game.
Brandon Belt, who got a rest day, led off the inning as a pinch-hitter. There would be no Smyly in the 7th, Gabe Kapler was correctly deciding. Belt flew out to right field, but the contact was hard enough that you thought maybe Hamels would get the ax. After all, next up was the top of a nearly all-right handed lineup.
But Hamels stayed in, and the next batter, Wilmer Flores, hit an absolute bullet right at shortstop Dansby Swanson, who made the catch for the second out. Again, you thought Snitker might come for Hamels. His pitch count was a clean 100, he was starting to allow lots of hard contact, and the heart of the lineup was fast approaching.
Alas, managers will manager, and Snitker was apparently looking for either the clean 7-inning start for Hamels, or the chance for his starter to earn the win should the Braves score in the bottom half of the inning (spoiler: they did not). Old habits die hard, or perhaps bad habits die hard, or perhaps bad process leads to bad habits leads to bad results.
Take your pick.
Either way, Hamels stayed in to face Posey, who spat on a few pitches, fouled off a few more, and finally put one about eight rows deep in the bleachers. Naturally Hamels then stayed out (some damage was done, so why limit it now?) to face Hunter Pence who almost made Snitker look even more silly, but his first swing put the ball about 10 feet wide of the foul pole, and his second swing put the ball on the warning track.
So the 3-2 lead would have to suffice, and thanks to a surprisingly strong bullpen (and a save by Trevor Gott), the 3-2 lead did, indeed, suffice.
In their seventh series of the season, the Giants have their first series victory. They’ll go for a sweep on Sunday, with Kevin Gausman on the mound. They’re now 9-12, and have countered a four-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak.
Call it poetry or call it whatever you want. It’s nice is what it is.