The San Francisco Giants struck early on Saturday, which was a very pleasant sight to see.
They didn’t score in Thursday’s first game, and then they backed it up by not scoring in Thursday’s second game. On Friday they waited until they trailed 7-0 to get on the board, giving all their runs the feeling of when your older sibling gives you some of their Halloween candy out of pure pity.
So when Alex Dickerson singled in the first inning on Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and scored on a double by Evan Longoria, you immediately felt your shoulders lower from their cozy nook next to your ears. You felt your jaw slowly release its tension, and your fists uncurl. You might have even felt a disconcerting sensation in your face; don’t worry, that’s called a smile. It happens sometimes when you watch baseball.
It was the Giants first lead since Tuesday. And given that they didn’t take the lead on Tuesday until the game’s final pitch, it was the first time the Giants were actually playing with a lead since Sunday.
It felt nice. Exciting. And a tiny bit scary and untrustworthy.
So it was comforting when Brandon Belt switched places with Longoria, and gave the Giants a 2-0 lead.
And it was comforting in the second inning when Mike Yastrzemski had an RBI double. And comforting in the third inning when Pablo Sandoval had an RBI single.
At 4-0 you could finally relax a little bit, and accept that the Giants would probably win the game.
And they did, 5-2.
If you watch baseball teams that aren’t the Giants, you might notice that many of them have terrifying middles of the order. The type that, when you see it coming up for the next inning, makes you think a run is more likely than not.
It’s pretty fun, unless you’re rooting against that team.
The Giants offense started the season by getting a lot of their runs from the top of the lineup, where Yastrzemski, Donovan Solano, and Austin Slater often found themselves.
But lately those runs have been coming from the middle, which is clad with proven veterans who are trying to kick the regression ball back onto the other side of the pitch.
Such was the case on Saturday. Batting third, Longoria finished 2-4 with a walk and 2 doubles to move his batting line to .301/.342/.505. Batting cleanup, Belt went 2-3 with 2 walks and a double (and a very hard out), moving his line to .329/.418/.620. And with the lead cut in half, Wilmer Flores, batting fifth, gave the Giants a very important — and emphatic — insurance run.
Combined, the middle of the order went 5-12 with 3 doubles, 1 home run, and 3 walks.
It was fun.
Trevor Cahill looked great to start the game, retiring the first eight batters he faced, with 4 strikeouts and only a single ball leaving the infield.
And then in the fourth inning something went wrong with his hip, and he was in visible discomfort. He stayed in for a few batters, but was clearly compromised, and then left with what the team called “left hip discomfort.”
With Drew Smyly and Jeff Samardzija already on the Injured List, here’s hoping Cahill just needs a few days of rest. It’s a good time for the team to have two off days in one week for the only time this year.
The bullpen was utterly fantastic. Jarlin García, Sam Coonrod, Trevor Gott, Tony Watson, and Tyler Rogers allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk in 5.2 scoreless innings. García continues to look tremendous. Coonrod hit 101 mph. Gott is rebounding nicely from his disastrous stretch. Watson is back to looking like an elite reliever. And Rogers overcame the rough start to get back to stymieing hitters.
It’ll be a while before we feel comfortable with the bullpen holding a lead, but they stated their case in strong fashion tonight.
The three-game losing streak is over. The Giants are back to their winning ways, and on Sunday will go for their first road series win of the year.
All in favor, say “Mat Latos.”