Let’s hop in a time machine and fly back to a distant land, long, long ago: the fifth inning. The San Francisco Giants were trailing the Texas Rangers 3-1, and Jeff Samardzija had settled down after a three-run second inning. He’d retired the last seven Rangers batters.
But he didn’t look good. He hadn’t struck out a batter since opening the game by K’ing Shin-Soo Choo, and while he was staying in the strike zone, his pitches were getting hit hard.
Out he came for the fifth, determined to be the first Giants starter to make it through that inning. After a leadoff single by Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and an unsuccessful sacrifice bunt (a bunt? In this economy?), Choo exacted his revenge by taking the baseball for a lovely mid-afternoon dip in the bay.
And still Samardzija stayed in the game, though it did work out, as he got out of the inning unscathed.
Now let’s hop back in the time machine and head towards the future, this time fast-forwarding all the way to the sixth inning when, hold up, is that ... Samardzija I see? Still on the mound?
Yes. Yes it is. And is that him walking the leadoff batter and staying in the game? Oh, it absolutely is.
Finally, with two outs in the sixth, the Shark was pulled after allowing a single to his teammate’s brother, Scott Heineman.
No Giants starter had seen the sixth inning, let alone been given leash in the sixth while not pitching well, but here we were.
The message was loud and clear, and no, the message wasn’t “we believe in Jeff Samardzija.”
By the time you read this article, the Giants will be a few miles in the sky, headed for ten games in ten days in three cities: four against the Colorado Rockies, three against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and three agains the Houston Astros. That’s seven games in parks that show up in NSFW Google searches when hitters log into their computers late at night, and six games against some of the best offenses that the league has ever seen. And, to make matters worse, before they hit the halfway mark of the trip they’ll have to shave two players off the active roster.
In other words, once the Giants fell behind, they weren’t really playing to win the game. They were playing to not have a completely depleted pitching staff when they embark on the most treacherous portion of their schedule.
The funny thing is, they almost did win despite that. They dropped in a run in the sixth on an absolute mammoth of a dinger off the bat of Evan Longoria.
Extremely small sample size is, as the name indicates, extremely small, but Longoria’s swing looks tremendous. He’s patient, fully balanced, and making hard contact. He’s only been back for four games, but he’s hitting .429/.444/.786, and he looks the part. If anything, he’s been robbed of more hits, rather than gifted the ones he’s had.
Then, in the seventh inning, Chadwick Tromp took advantage of Oracle Park making the seamless transition to a hitter’s park by tying the game with his first career home run.
It felt like the Giants were going to win. They’d played the long game, and in the process stumbled into a prime opportunity for short term success.
But what is a prime opportunity if not a blank canvass for disappointment?
The Giants had brought in Andrew Triggs — who was added to the roster a few hours before the game — to help Samardzija get out of his mess, and he needed just two pitches to do so. And for that he was rewarded with the seventh inning.
Here’s how that went for him: Five-pitch walk, five-pitch walk, four-pitch walk, see ya buddy.
Triggs threw 16 pitches on the day, and 3 of them were strikes. I’m certainly not a professional mathematician (though I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night), but I don’t think that’s very good.
In came Tyler Anderson, and after a sac fly brought in one run, Joey Gallo did that thing that I warned you in the preview about him potentially doing.
The Giants did not have an answer for that, and went quietly into the foggy afternoon.
Gabe Kapler keeps trusting Hunter Pence, despite the disastrous start to his season, and it finally paid off, which was a glorious sight indeed. Pence blasted a triple in his first at-bat, and also drew a walk and made a mighty fine defensive play in foul territory.
After their performances on Friday and Saturday — and their failed comebacks on Thursday and Sunday — the Giants will probably be a bit disappointed to split their six-game homestand. But there are worse places to be than .500, and I think most of us expected the Giants to be in one of those places after 10 games.
Now comes the real challenge.