It’s 11:11 p.m. and the San Francisco Giants game against the Los Angeles Dodgers just ended. I’m sitting here staring at my notes, trying to make sense of what felt like seven different games that transpired over the course of the last four-and-a-half hours.
I have a hodgepodge of tentative headlines, crafted from various innings as separate narratives took form.
Giants prove that it’s hard to win when you can’t hit with runners in scoring position
Yes, the Giants went 3-22 with runners in scoring position, an encouraging performance that makes you want to pull your hair out.
Giants prove that it’s hard — but not impossible — to win when you can’t hit with runners in scoring position
Ahh yes, that one was crafted a little later, when the optimism set in before the pessimism that predated more optimism that predated more pessimism that predated more optimism that predated relief.
Giants do something more important than winning
Selling myself snake oil? Perhaps. But some growing was done by one Joey Bart (more on that later), and it was more important than the win that I didn’t expect them to emerge with when I wrote that headline.
Brandon Belt singlehandedly ends the Belt Wars, leads Giants past Dodgers
I’m still a little sad I didn’t get to run with this one. Belt struck out in his final at-bat, but still finished the game 4-5 with 2 home runs, 1 double, and 1 walk.
Giants lose on 47 mph blast
A Justin Turner putt looked like it might be the game winner for a while, and I’ve never written a more morosely hilarious sentence.
Giants fall behind, come back, fall behind, come back, fall behind, come back, fall behind, and come back
I didn’t really know how to end that headline, because I had no idea if they would win or not. But the Giants trailed the Dodgers 3-0, and then tied the game. Then they trailed 6-3, and then tied the game. Then they trailed 7-6, and then tied the game. Then they trailed 8-7, and then tied the game. Which led us to:
Giants finally take the lead on 367th pitch of the game
Yes, for 366 pitches the Giants either trailed or tied the Dodgers. And on the 367th, Donovan Solano sent everyone (except me) to bed.
This is one of the most memorable games in the last few years — the wild comeback against the Cincinnati Reds from 2019 is the only thing that comes to mind as being in the same tier — so you’re damn right that we’re gonna watch that home run again, but from a new angle.
Wow. OK. Yeesh.
Take a deep breath. No, not you. Not everything is about you. OK, you should probably take a deep breath, too, but I’m talking to myself here.
Now, with the walk-off hit out of the way, let’s rewind and see how we got there.
The Dodgers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, courtesy of a Max Muncy blast, because that’s what he does against the Giants. It felt like it was a long day in the making. Which it was, but not really in the way we all envisioned.
In the bottom half of the inning, Belt returned the favor with one of the more impressive home runs I can remember him hitting: a no-doubter to right-center off of a left-handed pitcher.
But the Dodgers scored another trio of runs in the third inning, in what proved to be a disastrous night for the battery of veteran Johnny Cueto and rookie Joey Bart.
Bart and Cueto were not on the same page from the start of the game. The pitcher shook off the catcher more than I can ever remember seeing Cueto do, and Bart repeatedly was missing pitches, getting crossed-up, and seeming confused. They had no rhythm, which, at this stage in Cueto’s career, is the one thing he really has working for him.
Without rhythm he can’t shimmy, shake, and quick pitch, and if he can’t do those things he’s just another pitcher.
And on Tuesday he was just another pitcher. He was visibly frustrated, and the poor results followed; or maybe it was the other way around. Bart made trip after trip to the mound, using up six mound visits on the day.
That carried over into the batter’s box for Bart, who seemed a bit shaken. He went 0-5 with 3 strikeouts, including one with a runner on third and less than two outs. He also grounded into a double play with the bases loaded.
And that, in turn, carried over to a few mental mistakes (more on those soon).
All in all it was a crummy day at the office for Bart, and I don’t say that to rag on him. I say that as encouragement.
Bad games happen.
We’re only a month into the season, and Mike Trout — arguably the best player in baseball history — already has four games with multiple strikeouts and no hits. Hell, Bart’s own teammate, MVP candidate Mike Yastrzemski one-upped his rookie, going 0-6 with the strikeout hat trick.
Bad games happen. It means nothing. We move on.
And so, after the 6 runs allowed by Cueto, the Giants started to crawl back into it. A fifth inning double by Belt made it 6-4. Bart’s double play was disappointing — the Giants had the bases loaded and no outs, and only got one run — but it made it 6-5 in the seventh.
And that was the score they trailed by in the bottom of the ninth, when Belt caught up with old friend Kenley Jansen.
That not only tied the game, but did something truly remarkable. It made this the diary of Belt’s last 11 plate appearances:
That’s 11 straight plate appearances successfully reaching base (and it should have been 12 had the umpire been paying attention in Belt’s final appearance), a Giants record in the post-Bonds era.
To the tenth we went, and Bart’s rough night got worse. After Jarlin García impressively got Cody Bellinger to strike out, he spiked a pitch in the dirt, and Bart ended up blocking it with his face (which was cool, but I’m sure painful). He did a good job keeping the ball in front of him, but couldn’t find it, which allowed Justin Turner to head for third.
Bart then made the ill-advised decision to throw to third, but airmailed the ball into left field, gifting the Dodgers the go-ahead run.
And then he made another mistake in the bottom half of the inning, but not only got away with it but was rewarded for it as well. He was the automatic runner on second to start the inning, and curiously tried to take third on a Steven Duggar ground out to the left side of the infield.
But Corey Seager — who was once a rookie as well — had empathy on Bart, and didn’t want the rook to have the type of Nick Anderson experience that cripples a career, so he neglected the easy out at third and went to first instead. Bart would score on a two-out single by Mauricio Dubón.
To the eleventh! And here we meet the morbid headline that almost was, when Tyler Rogers (who was stellar) was nearly handed the rudest loss of his career:
Justin Turner ... calculated. pic.twitter.com/7raLukoyaF— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) August 26, 2020
That gave the Dodgers an 8-7 lead, and if you flung your plate into the bathtub in disgust, let Dodgers HR know, they’ll reimburse you. Tell them Tommy sent you.
The Giants didn’t really have another comeback in them ... did they?
The Dodgers, who were running low on relievers, turned to Dennis Santana, prompting my Dodgers-covering colleague to say, “if this game gets to the 12th, I’ll take it.”
It didn’t. Evan Longoria knocked a one-out single to score the freebie runner, giving Longo a four-hit day (with a walk to boot).
Belt was finally retired, and then Solano did that beautiful thing he did that made everyone happy.
Except the Dodgers. But we don’t really care about them, do we?
I’d be remiss to not mention the bullpen, which has been the Giants biggest weakness this year, and Gabe Kapler’s bullpen management, which has been a close second.
Well-rested from an off day and some quality starting pitching, the bullpen was ready when called, and my goodness did Kapler call. He used nine of the team’s 10 relievers (only Tony Watson’s butt stayed warm on the pine), and they delivered. They combined for 7 innings, 4 hits (one being the aforementioned 47 mph dribbler), 4 walks, and 7 strikeouts. They gave up just 2 unearned runs — the pair of free baserunners in extra innings.
It was spectacularly managed, and even more spectacularly pitched.
Now, with all that said, I’m going to sleep. But first: let’s watch it one more time.