The San Francisco Giants gave it, as the kids say, the old college try.
I don’t know what the old college try is, but I recommend keeping it away from seventh innings going forward.
Things were going decently well for the Giants until then. As well as anyone could reasonably expect in a road game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But there was a sense of impending doom. The type of sense of impending doom that the Giants have spent the last few years developing, beta testing, tweaking, and absolutely perfecting.
In the third inning they loaded the bases with no outs, thanks to a leadoff bunt single (!!!) by Tyler Heineman, and regular old generic brand singles from Mike Yastrzemski and Wilmer Flores. Up came Pablo Sandoval, who hit a moderately deep sacrifice fly to score one run (spoiler: it was the Giants’ only run of the inning. Second spoiler: it was the Giants’ only run of the game.).
Outs by Alex Dickerson and Hunter Pence left the Giants with only one run to show from the most promising situation that baseball can give you.
It gave the Giants a 1-0 lead, which was exciting in theory, but in reality you knew it wasn’t enough against an offense sporting two MVPs in their prime, and a bunch of other really good dudes. It was like leaving a batch of cookies in the oven for about five minutes too long. On the one hand, you’re happy to have sweet treats, burnt and bitter and rock hard as they may be; on the other hand, you can’t help but lament what could have and should have been.
The fifth inning brought a similar opportunity, this time with the game tied 1-1. Again it was Heineman and Yastrzemski starting the party, with back-to-back singles that gave the Giants runners at the corners with no outs. But this time Flores struck out, followed by a ground ball off of Sandoval’s bat that provided a silly double play when Heineman tried to break for home and got caught in a pickle.
So, if you’re keeping track at home, that’s bases loaded with no outs, and runners at the corners with no outs, and a combined one run.
Yet thanks to some strong pitching from Johnny Cueto and the first two relievers — more on them later — they were right in the thick of things, with a 1-1 tie heading into the seventh.
Stupid baseball, with its stupid seventh innings. No one needs them! Get them out of here.
Tyler Rogers — submarine expert that he is — took over in the seventh, and my idiotic butt made the mistake of tweeting about how much of a joy it is to watch him pitch. And that, my friends, is where the wheels came flying off. I take a lot of responsibility for the seventh inning foibles — not quite as much responsibility as the old college try, but a little bit more than Rogers.
After getting a quick out, Rogers gave up a single to LA’s newest kajillionaire, Mookie Betts. A Cody Bellinger double put runners at second and third, and this is where things got hairy. Justin Turner grounded to second, and Donovan Solano — getting his first inning of work — tried to come home. It almost worked. It didn’t work. But it almost worked.
And so the Dodgers took the lead, and didn’t even register a second out in the process. Rogers then got that second out, before a two-run single from Kiké Hernández made the game feel entirely out of reach.
The Dodgers’ confidence did not match my pessimism, because they kept piling on. Kapler turned the ball over to Rule 5 selection Dany Jimenez, who promptly displayed a strong case of MLB debut jitters. He walked the first batter he faced. He walked the second batter he faced, which loaded the bases. Then he got what should have been an inning-ending groundout, but for some reason Solano opted to go to second — where no one was — rather than first.
And then Jimenez issued a bases loaded, four-pitch walk.
Just like that, the game was over, though Hernández put some salt in the wound by adding a two-run blast off of Conner Menez an inning later. And that made for the 8-1 final score that was, on the one hand, not at all indicative of how close the game was and, on the other hand, entirely indicative of how close the game was.
A few notes:
- It was not a good day for MLB debuts. Jimenez allowed 3 walks and 1 earned run in just 0.1 innings, and right fielder Joe McCarthy went 0-4 with a strikeout.
- The first person out of the bullpen was not who you would have expected: Drew Smyly. The Giants were not joking about abandoning the notion of starting pitchers, since they used someone who we all assumed would start over the weekend in relief on Opening Day. Smyly was spectacular, though, as his fastball hit mid-90s, and he struck out a pair of batters in just one inning. Rico Garcia also pitched well in handling the sixth.
- Johnny Cueto looked really good, though the results weren’t fully there. He gave up 5 hits, 1 walk, 1 hit by pitch, and 1 run in 4 innings, while striking out 3. He was really playing well with his timing and rhythm-disruption. It was fun.
- Prior to the game starting, the Dodgers displayed a video and held a moment of silence supporting Black Lives Matter, with all players kneeling on the foul lines holding a black banner. Well, all but one. Giants reliever Sam Coonrod declined to kneel, which was a major disappointment.
I should clarify that Coonrod also held the ribbon, but was the only player not kneeling.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) July 24, 2020
- After the pregame gesture, numerous Giants stayed kneeled for the national anthem.
Kapler, Yaz, Sandoval, Pence, Slater, Davis, Gott, Peralta, Viele, Richardson stay knelt for the anthem. #SFGIants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) July 24, 2020
- The Giants recorded eight hits (two each from Heineman, Yastrzemski, and Dickerson, plus one each from Flores and Sandoval), but didn’t have a single extra-base hit. On the whole, they had very little hard contact.
They’ll be back tomorrow night, in search of win number one. We’ll be waiting.