Baseball is a long game. Usually a very long game. Sometimes an impractically long game.
And because it’s so long, it’s hard to pinpoint one moment — good or bad — as being the moment when the outcome is decided.
But sometimes it’s remarkably easy to pinpoint one moment — good or bad — that perfectly encapsulates how the outcome was decided.
Enter Friday night’s contest, a three-and-a-half hour opera that crescendoed in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Here’s what happened:
Joey Bart led off the inning with his second single of the day, on a hit that was 2% contact and 98% steak and potatoes muscle. Steven Duggar pinch-ran, and Mauricio Dubón singled to put two on. Mike Yastrzemski was plunked with a pitch, and the bases were loaded with no outs.
The Giants needed a sacrifice to tie the game. Two sacrifices or a single to take the lead.
Alex Dickerson — their second-hottest hitter — stood in the box. He got the count to 2-0, then fouled off a pitch. On the 2-1 he lifted one to right fielder Kole Calhoun.
It was shallow, and Calhoun has a nice arm. There were no outs, so the Giants could afford to be picky.
There was no reason for Duggar to try and score.
If you didn’t watch the game, you probably can see where this is going. Duggar, who’s been having a rough go of it, gets into a game for his legs, tries to play the hero, and gets thrown out at home by 10 feet, right?
Duggar did the right thing. He bluffed home to try and get a throw that might get airmailed, and calmly retreated back to his trusty studio apartment at third base. But Dubón — who was at second base — somehow missed the memo and took off for third.
Halfway to third, Dubón did the oh crap I left my mask at home U-turn, but it was too late. He was out by a mile returning to second, resulting in a demoralizing double play.
The Giants wouldn’t score in the inning, or in the next one, and dropped the game 6-5.
Did they lose on that play? No. Technically speaking they lost when Brandon Crawford swung and missed at a pitch about four inches outside with a full count.
Would they have won if Dubón hadn’t made that Little League mistake? We’ll never know.
But it sure is the trailer for the game; the two-minute segment that perfectly depicts the plot so that you don’t actually have to waste a few hours watching the movie. And in this case, the movie is an Academy Award-winning documentary on how to play well enough to put yourself in situations that are hair-pullingly frustrating when you inevitably poop the bed.
All of that is to say, Dubón is far from the only person to blame, especially since he had 2 hits (including a double), and made a few tremendous catches in center field.
You could also blame the entire offense for going 2-12 with runners in scoring position and and leaving 11 Giants on base.
You could also blame Evan Longoria, who went 0-4 in such situations.
You could also blame Tyler Anderson, who gave up 4 earned runs in as many innings.
You could also blame Sam Coonrod, who gave up 2 earned runs while recording just 1 out, which is technically improvement, since it’s 1 fewer run than his last outing, with 1 more out.
You could also blame Gabe Kapler, who brought Coonrod into a close game despite said prior outing.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. You win as a team and you lose as a team, and on Friday night the Giants lost as a team, each player doing their part to contribute to scoring fewer runs than they allowed.
The one exception is Brandon Belt, who went 2-4 with a home run, a double, and a walk. Since August 16 he’s hitting 26-52 with 5 home runs, 8 doubles, 1 triple, and 9 walks to 9 strikeouts. It’s legitimately one of the best offensive stretches in Giants history.
The home run was a mammoth, and worth watching if you want to wash the stank of the game off.
The Giants have played the Diamondbacks well this year, going 5-2. But the two losses have been comically cruel. The first ended an eight-game losing streak for Arizona, and this one ended a five-game skid.
This says more about the funny schedule than anything else, but the DBacks have won just twice in their last 15 games, with both of those wins against the Giants. Arizona hasn’t beaten a non-San Francisco team since August 18.
The Giants have plenty of time to turn around this critical four-game series. But that sure was an ugly start.