Because the Giants — who probably won’t make the playoffs this year, and definitely don’t care anyway — aren’t playing for this year. They’re playing for the future. And a huge piece of that future — 2018 first-round pick Joey Bart — was making his debut.
So what happened in the game was academic. Because in the long run, it wasn’t about the ensuing nine innings. It was about flipping a page, finally ending that prologue that rambled on for about seven pages too many, and starting the first chapter of the Giants future.
But if you just focus on that, you’ll miss what actually happened in the game. Things like:
- The Giants scored 10 runs, the most they’ve scored in a game all year, and the most they’ve scored at home since June 30, 2019.
- They hit two home runs, giving them 17 in 11 Oracle Park games, after just 63 in 81 home games a year ago.
- They won their third game in a row for the first time all year, and took home a series win for the first time since the July 31 - Aug. 2 series against the Texas Rangers.
Those are all good things! There were some bad things as well, but there were more good things than bad things; roughly twice as many good things as bad things, as the 10-5 final score indicates.
The Giants didn’t waste any time setting the tone for the game. They scared you in the top half of the first inning, when Kevin Gausman got in trouble, gave up a run, and needed 23 pitches to get out of things.
And then they reassured and eventually titillated you in the bottom half of the inning, when Austin Slater had a leadoff double, and scored on yet another home run off the bat of Wilmer Flores.
Another game, another Wilmer Flores homer pic.twitter.com/2y2WK2t1Rl— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 21, 2020
That’s 6 homers on the year for Flores, and I shudder when I think about where this team would be had they not signed him over the offseason.
Bart got to make his hitting debut later in the inning, and he — or more accurately, the Angels — made your heart stop when he became the first Giant in 53 years to be hit by a pitch in their first plate appearance.
Given that being plunked by a pitch was what derailed his red-hot 2019 Minor League stint, it was a tense moment. But thankfully Bart was fine, and trotted to first with a glistening 1.000 on-base percentage.
Joey Bart gets hit by a pitch in his first AB pic.twitter.com/In2y8vknes— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 21, 2020
And then the Giants went to work in the second inning. Mike Yastrzemski nearly put one over the fence in triple’s alley, but instead settled for a two-run double.
Bart had a golden opportunity, but struck out with the bases loaded and one out. His buddy Alex Dickerson (who was making a rare second inning pinch-hit appearance, due to the Giants knocking José Suárez out early) picked him up by walking in a run, and the offense was in motion.
Flores added another two-run knock — this time a single — in the third inning, and, two hours after the game began, Brandon Crawford went the other way in the fourth inning for home run number 100 in his career.
Suddenly the Giants led 9-1, and though the lead didn’t feel as safe as it should, you found yourself missing just one thing: some Joey Bart.
He delivered in the sixth inning with a double that moved Brandon Belt to third base, and set up the tenth run of the game for the Giants.
And let me tell you, that first career hit was L-O-U-D LOUD.
First Major League hit for Joey Bart pic.twitter.com/jfvx6gKXrf— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 21, 2020
Just how loud was that? It had an exit velocity of 109.5 mph, making it the hardest hit ball of the entire game, for either team. And his defense was as advertised.
I’m already looking forward to watching him on Friday.
On the other side of things, Kevin Gausman did semi-strong work for the Giants. The start didn’t help his ERA — he ended up allowing 4 earned runs in 5.1 innings — but he gave up 3 of those runs once the game was basically decided, and there’s something to be said for that. The Angels were hitting him all day, as they had 9 hits against him, but he struck out 7 and walked 1, running his total to 41 strikeouts against 6 walks in 31 innings.
The bullpen had its ups and downs, and flirted with disaster, but only gave up 1 run.
And that’s enough for a win. Bart’s debut is the real story, but it sure feels nice when that story starts with a fun win.