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Giants blow a six-run lead, gift Athletics a sympathy win

The Giants opened the Bay Bridge Series with a bang. At first it was the good kind. Then it wasn’t.

Oakland Athletics v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

There have been a handful of games this season — oh, I would say somewhere between six and nine of them — where the San Francisco Giants have been an awe-inspiring, ridiculously fun team to watch. A team that works counts, makes pitchers sweat, gets tons of runners on base, and cashes in. The kind of team we’ve seen more and more infrequently ever since Barry Bonds was colluded against left town for no apparent reason. You watch a team like that and you think, well hell, this team is the real deal ... especially in a 60-game season.

The rest of the time, it’s all bullpen arms barfing everywhere and fielders swallowing their gloves and behaving as though they don’t understand the concept of a force out. That team is decidedly less enjoyable to watch.

We got BOTH of those teams tonight! Both of them! The first eight point one innings were great. They were GREAT. And then the ninth inning happened. And you know what? That inning wasn’t as good. I just have to admit it. It wasn’t as good.

The Giants lost this game thanks to one colossally lousy inning, and they absolutely deserved to lose. It was an all-timer bad inning. And I’ve watched other games this season.

The A’s won in 10 innings by a final score of 8-7. I can only assume the Giants felt bad that the A’s would be without their best player, Ramon Laureano, and gave them a sympathy win.

I have to believe that, because the other explanations are way, way too sad.

Hey, let’s talk about that ninth inning, huh? The one that the Giants entered with a 7-3 lead and then forgot how to turn a double play. And then ...

The bullpen wasn’t able to keep it clean, of course, as they gave up an entire-ass lead by horking five runs with one out in the top of the ninth. Trevor Gott served up a pipin’ hot one-out tater to Matt Olson, then walked Mark Canha on five pitches.

And then, as is the law this year, the Giants had one of those glove-swallowing moments on an infield grounder that could have been a double play or a force out, but ended up being NO outs and the tying run on deck when first baseman Wilmer Flores opted to not step on first base and then Brandon Crawford opted to take his foot OFF second base because he thought Flores HAD stepped on first base. Then Gott plunked Khris Davis to load the bases for tying run at the PLATE in Stephen Piscotty.

And then, of course, Piscotty crushed a game-tying grand slam. You don’t have to watch the below embed. I implore you not to.

And the top of the ninth kept going! Sean Murphy singled up the middle off Tyler Rogers and Marcus Semien came VERY close to homering on a double to left that put runners at second and third with one out. Rogers got the strikeout he needed on Chad Pinder, bringing up franchise star Matt Chapman, who had led off the ninth inning and had previously gone 0-4 in the game.

Miraculously, Rogers struck out Chapman on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, prolonging the final twist of the knife. Predictably, the bottom of the ninth went pretty much the way we all expected; the way most Giants gotta-win-now innings have gone since about 2007. You know, except for a few important years in there.

Wilmer Flores singled with one out in the bottom of the ninth, giving him a four-hit game. Then Hunter Pence managed to work an 0-2 count into a walk, pushing the would-be winning run to scoring position for defensive substitution Brandon Crawford, who hit a possible double play ball but legged out his end of it, putting runners at the corners for Pablo Sandoval, batting a brisk .163 on the season. Crawford ended up taking second on defensive indifference, and Pablo grounded a bullet directly to third base to end the threat.

We got runner-on-second bonus baseball, and it did not go well. Chapman started at second, went to third on a ground ball to the right side and came home on a Canha fly ball to Pence in right. 8-7 A’s lead, and that’s where it remained.

The Giants’ half of the tenth sounded a lot like “Bingo, bango, bongo.” The speedy Pablo Sandoval was the runner starting at second (quickly replaced by pinch runner Austin Slater), and even though sweet baby Yaz got an at-bat, it just wasn’t the Giants’ night. Well, not after the first out in the top of the ninth inning, anyway. The Giants got Brandon Belt, Dubon, and Mike Yastrzemski with three chances to bring in a runner from second and keep the thing alive. Instead, they got to face Liam Hendriks, one of the best closers in the game. He got the job done with a 1-2-3 inning, striking out the side with relative ease.

It wasn’t great, to be honest.

I guess the rest of this stuff will be the positive things about the game, since I largely wrote those before the Giants blew a 7-3 lead. Please forgive any residual positivity; it isn’t real.

Johnny Cueto is back! Possibly. In a sense. In the sense that the 2020 version of Johnny Cueto can be back. He was masterful in his last start, of course, until — the unpleasantness — but we don’t speak of that start around these parts.

Cueto went seven strong, with eagerly welcomed velocity and movement and sometimes a generous strike zone and sometimes a strike zone the size of a pea.

He shimmied into trouble, and he wiggled his way out of it. As good a Cueto start as one could have hoped for. Seven strong.

Of course, it really should have been SIX strong, as Cueto burbled up two runs in the seventh, but you can’t blame Kapler for riding the hot hand and/or not being able to fully trust the bullpen right now. This is going to be the story of Kapler’s management this season, for good or for ill: questioning when he gives the hook and when he doesn’t. It wasn’t his fault that the Giants couldn’t remember how a force out worked in the ninth inning, though. Or that his closer served up a game-tying grand slam. But it DOES suck.

But let’s appreciate Cueto. He isn’t Samardzija.

And there’s that other guy associated with Cueto now, maybe forever. We’re talkin’ about good old Hunter Pence, who broke the game open with a three-run homer in the bottom of the third that stretched the Giants lead to 4-0. It was a weird home run, as Pence homers are required to be: a slightly oppo blast to center, just carrying and carrying in defiance of physics before punking down into the center field bullpen. Good stuff.

Enjoy the blast here, in special cinematic Weird Pence Run iso-cam:

It’s so nice to have Pence highlights to enjoy. It sure beats him going 0 for ... what the hell month did the baseball season start this year? Craptember?

Did you know that Evan Longoria is, by WAR, one of the 15 or so greatest third basemen to ever play the game? Like, ever? It’s true! (He’s 18th on that list, but some of the people above him were nowhere near full-time career third basemen, so I’m bumping the guy.) We haven’t seen MUCH of that guy in San Francisco, but we’ve seen a lot MORE of him since he came back this season.

To wit, he got the scoring started tonight with a solo homer in the first.

And then he singled home Chadwinckington Tromp III and Mauricio Dubon in the fourth, pushing the Giants’ lead out to 6-0. Remember when the Giants had a six-run lead? That was neat.

It’s great to watch Good Longoria. I’m hoping he sticks around.

And of course, I would be remiss if I left out good old Donnie Barrels. Donovan Solano stretched his hitting streak to 16 games with a single in the third, and added a walk to pad that OBP as well.

Oh, and sweet baby Yaz homered in the bottom of the eighth to provide what was, at the time, a delectable insurance run. I guess we wouldn’t have gotten extra innings without it?

The Giants woke up today not knowing they’d face lefty Jesus Luzardo. They ended up making him throw 72 pitches and driving him out of the game after 3.1 innings. Then they borked the thing up beyond all recognition. But for a while, it was nice.

For a while.