I really did not have any hope that the San Francisco Giants would enter Sunday’s game against the Oakland A’s and entirely reverse the run differential of the series. When you lose 6-0 in the series opener, that’s a hard enough task. When you lose 6-0 a second time ... well reversing that differential feels like an insurmountable task that’s compounded by the fact that you’ve already spent two days proving how not good you are.
But the 2020 Giants have always been up for a challenge, even a stupid one created by their own failures in the first place.
And so they went out in the series finale, against a team that has utterly owned them all year, attempting to make up a 12-run deficit. And they succeeded.
Of course, that doesn’t matter in the win column. A 1-0 win or a 10-9 both would have counted the same as a 14-2 win, which is what the Giants came away with. But it still matters. It’s fun. It gives a team momentum. It makes the Giants — who have struggled against good teams all year — feel like they can hang with any team on any night.
And did I mention it’s fun?
This game was emphatically that: fun.
At first it looked like it wouldn’t be. The Giants disappeared quietly in the first and second innings.
But things changed in the third, and youngster Luis Basabe was the catalyst. Basabe drew a one-out walk, and quickly stole second base off of Mike Minor. He then started dancing a bit at second, drawing Minor’s attention. The A’s lefty looked more concerned with the runner on second than the batter in the box (Chadwick Tromp), and honestly, if you looked at Tromp’s slash line, you probably wouldn’t blame him.
And yet Tromp has shown flashes of power throughout the year, and when a distracted Minor offered him up an offspeed pitch that came down and in, Tromp (who finished with 3 hits) thanked his selfless host and launched one deep into the bleachers.
And with that, the party was officially started. Darin Ruf, who — I cannot say this loudly enough — has proven to be one of the best signings in baseball this year, followed suit with a two-run shot of his own an inning later.
Ruf added a 2-run single later in the game, as well as a pair of walks. It moved his batting line to .303/.384/.579. He is a legitimate weapon against left-handed pitchers, and holding his own against righties pretty darn well.
But 4-0 didn’t feel like a comfortable lead. Not against a team that had scored 42 runs in 44 innings against the Giants coming into the game.
Brandon Crawford made you feel better, as he so frequently does. He is hotter than hot, and also swinging the bat incredibly well, and launched a grand slam in the sixth inning.
Crawford also had a double, and pushed his slash line to .283/.352/.483. When the year began, most of us thought of Crawford as a platoon player whose roster spot might only be certain because of the money owed to him.
And now he’s just casually rocking the highest batting average of his career. And the highest on-base percentage of his career. And the highest slugging percentage of his career.
Yes, it’s a demon season where everything is weird (and full of small sample sizes) but ... wow. The contracts of Crawford and Brandon Belt felt like potential burdens heading into the season, and now both players look like they’ll be huge parts of the 2021 Giants.
Like I said: this is fun.
Speaking of Belt, the other Brandon didn’t hit a ball over the fence but he did walk three more times, while also having a single. His on-base percentage rose to .409, putting him on pace to become just the second Giant since Barry Bonds retired to have an on-base percentage of .400 or better in a season (Buster Posey has done so twice).
There were other good offensive performances. Austin Slater had a pair of singles and a walk, which was a welcome sight. Mauricio Dubón and Daniel Robertson had 2-hit days, the latter in as many plate appearances. The Giants had 14 hits and 8 walks, and seemed to constantly have the table set.
On the other side of things, Tyler Anderson was able to get his revenge. After giving up 4 runs and getting ejected while only recording 6 outs on Thursday, Anderson was sprung into action ahead of schedule on Sunday, after Johnny Cueto’s start was pushed to Monday.
He was ready to make amends. By the time he recorded his sixth out on Sunday, he hadn’t allowed a baserunner — or said anything to the ump. He finally got into trouble in the sixth inning, leaving after allowing 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 unearned runs in 5.2 innings, with 4 strikeouts.
It was an entertaining start, not because of how he was pitching (which was good, if not dynamic), but because he clearly wanted to argue the strike zone but knew he couldn’t after Thursday’s faux pas. He was battling himself all day, and ultimately managed to not say anything that might get him in trouble with either the ump or his manager.
And that allowed him to stay in the game, and allowed Gabe Kapler to use his bullpen sparingly.
That, in and of itself, was a win.
And winning 14-2 was also a win.