And for six-and-a-half innings, they led anyway.
It only took a few minutes for the Giants to take the lead, with Alex Dickerson launching one deep into (Chase Field closed dome-confined) Arizona night.
Take it from me, your resident Giants couch blogger: It was a Sunday afternoon, so if you jumped up and yelled the phallic chants associated with Dickerson home runs, I can promise you no one at all would give you funny looks from outside your window. Not a soul.
Have I made this joke before? Yes. But it’s not my fault if the situation keeps...ahem...arising.
That was all the Giants needed for quite some time, as Johnny Cueto was wheeling, dealing, and some other third verb that rhymes with “wheeling” and means good things.
Cueto entered the seventh inning having given up just 2 singles and 2 walks, while striking out 6. He wasn’t doing the world’s greatest job at keeping the ball in the strike zone, but he was masterfully limiting hard contact, and often contact at all. The Diamondbacks bats, feeble souls that they are, simply couldn’t find anything. It was tremendous work by Cueto, and arguably the best he’s looked since having Tommy John surgery.
And then Eduardo Escobar hit a game-tying, seventh inning home run, and it suddenly became painfully apparent that the Giants had only one hit through seven innings.
To their credit, it seemed as though they had stopped at one hit because they thought they didn’t need more. It was fair logic; if they could just get trough the innings quickly, rather than wasting time with silly notions like hits, they could get started on their off day that much sooner.
But Escobar threw a wrench in those plans, and the Giants were ready to respond. Brandon Crawford proved that apparently the Giants could get their second hit whenever they wanted, by leading off the eighth inning with a single. Following a Mauricio Dubón strikeout, Wilmer Flores entered the game and ripped a double into the corner to put runners at second and third.
Suddenly the Giants were in business.
Mike Yastrzemski was plunked by a pitch, and the bases were loaded. Dickerson again came through, this time with an RBI single, which Evan Longoria raised with a two-run single that juuuuust found the right spot.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than to be good, and as the Giants proved on Sunday, it’s almost always better to just be both. Be greedy, dang it.
That gave the Giants a 4-1 lead, and while that might not have felt like enough earlier in the year, the bullpen has been stellar lately, and Arizona’s offense has been mostly useless against San Francisco this season. It would prove to be the final score.
About that bullpen.
It was a mess early in the year, and it’s been utterly sensational as of late. The way I see it, there are a few reasons for that:
- Relievers are pitching better, which might be unsustainable.
- Relievers aren’t getting hilariously unlucky, which is probably sustainable.
- Starters are going longer, thus allowing Gabe Kapler to be more selective.
- The Giants are getting more leads, thus encouraging Kapler to use his best relievers.
On Sunday it was Tony Watson, Tyler Rogers, and Sam Coonrod who got the job done. They allowed no baserunners in 2.1 innings, with Coonrod making things look easy to earn his first career save, and Rogers throwing eight of nine pitches for strikes.
But it was Watson who had the funniest appearance. He took over for Cueto with two outs in the seventh, and a runner on first. He managed to pick that runner off, and that was his night.
With the Giants scoring in the next half of the inning, Watson was awarded the win.
I’m sure there have been funnier wins in baseball history than that, but that’s certainly one of the best in recent memory.
The win gave the Giants their first road series win of the year, and moved them to within two games of .500. Their schedule to start September is light, with two road games against the Colorado Rockies, followed by a four-game home set against the Diamondbacks (again), and a two-game home series against the Seattle Mariners.
They sent a pretty clear message to their front office that they would like the chance to compete this year, and not have their top performers shipped off ahead of Monday’s trade deadline.
And they sure made it look good in the process.