I’ve gotten used to the San Francisco Giants winning. I’m guessing you have, too.
The Giants entered Thursday night’s game having won 15 of their last 20 games, a staggering rate for an entire third of this pandemic-shortened, wacky, wild, stupid, mesmerizing, ridiculous excuse for a season.
Having 15 wins in 20 games is a helluva stretch, no matter who you are.
But — there’s always a but — 14 of those 15 wins came against teams that currently have losing records. That’s not the Giants fault; you can only play the teams in front of you, and a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers serves as the only team the Giants faced in that stretch that is currently set to be part of the playoff field.
It made you glance out of the corner of your eye with excitement and curiosity as the Giants got ready to start a four-game series with the San Diego Padres. And it made you glance out of the other corner of your eye with downright terror and pessimism.
Round 1 goes to the terror and pessimism.
You can only learn so much from one game, so I’m not going to pretend like we now know the Giants have been faking us out for the better part of a month. It’s just one game, even if that one game is a 6-1 loss.
But whew. If you were thinking of the narratives going into the game — and maybe I was the only one doing so, since it’s kind of my job — this sure was an emphatic contest.
The Giants stood in at the top of the first inning. They had won five in a row, eight of their last 10, and the aforementioned 15 of their last 20.
Mike Yastrzemski struck out. Then Alex Dickerson grounded out. Then Donovan Solano struck out.
Up came the Padres, and if you still had a positive narrative on your mind, it was that the Giants pitching was going to be strong again.
Trent Grisham singled. Fernando Tatis Jr. singled. They stole bases. Manny Machado popped out. Mitch Moreland doubled. Austin Nola doubled.
And by the time Trevor Cahill had recorded the second out of the game, the Padres had already hung a trio of sweet, sweet runs on the Giants.
It felt a little bit like the high school kid who wins a few street fights, gets talked up by his friends, and heads to the local boxing gym to show the people who actually train at boxing what’s up.
In reality, it was just one game, no more meaningful than any other, especially since the Giants aren’t battling the Padres for their playoff spot. And this time tomorrow they might have just won 33-2.
But taken without the context of what will happen in the next few days and weeks, it felt like the Giants got humbled and put in place.
Let’s hope they didn’t.
The other story for the Giants came on the pitching front. Drew Smyly — who made only three appearances before suffering a finger injury on Aug. 1 — returned from the Injured list before the game. The Giants had already set their order for the four-game set, and it didn’t include Smyly. So you figured he would probably get into a game as a reliever, and make his case to be added to the rotation going forward.
I’d say he made that case strongly.
Cahill went 3 innings and gave up 5 hits, 0 walks, and 4 earned runs, while striking out 3. He gave way to Smyly who went 4 innings and gave up 2 hits, 1 walk, and 1 earned run, while striking out 8.
Smyly threw 59 pitches with 42 strikes. He saw 14 batters and struck out 8 of them. He had some mistakes — namely a towering home run that was the first hit in Jorge Oña’s career — but was dazzling for most of the appearance.
I expect that his and Cahill’s roles will be swapped this time next week.
The Giants only managed one run, but at least it was pretty.
It wasn’t the only pretty play of the game for the good guys. Check out this grab by Mauricio Dubón, who continues to impress in the middle of the grass.
But that was kind of it. Better luck next game.
The good thing about baseball is that next game comes soon.