Every baseball season has at least one gut-testing loss that you look back on at the end of the year and somehow feel even worse than you did when it happened. It’s like taking a sip of milk straight from the carton, realizing it’s no longer good, putting it back in the fridge because you’re too lazy to throw it out, then remembering to throw it out four months later but stopping to take another sip first.
Think of the final Friday of last season (the Sam Coonrod game, if you will). Or the first two games against the Oakland A’s. Or that one series against the Colorado Rockies in that one June of that one year. You know the one.
The San Francisco Giants, sticking true to their new, modernized organizational philosophy of efficiency to the max, got that game out of the way early. Day 1 early, to be specific.
The Giants were on cruise control through seven and a half innings, carrying a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth. And then they gave up the lead in the most inexplicable and (hopefully) unrepeatable manner, before one-upping themselves in extra innings to lose.
Let’s work backwards, for the sake of our happiness. And as we do so, let’s remember two things:
- One game does not in any way a trend make, but
- The Giants made a lot of moves this offseason to address a truly horrendous bullpen and ...
... that bullpen was horrific.
It all ended in the 10th inning, when the Giants didn’t get walked off, but walk-walk-walked off. Which is to say José Álvarez took the mound with the magical free runner on second base, walked the first batter he saw, walked the second batter he saw, and walked the third batter he saw, and that was the game.
The combination of the free runner rule, and the three-batter minimum for pitchers, made for something I never thought I’d see: a reliever entering at the start of an inning, and simply walking everyone he faced until the game was over.
I wasn’t prepared for it.
But the loss was hardly just on Álvarez. The Giants were chilling heading into the bottom of the eighth, and then managed to give back their five-run lead — and then some — using every trick in the book.
And when I say every trick in the book, I mean every trick in the book. The Giants walked three batters. They hit a batter. They committed an error on what had a chance to be an inning-ending double play, but instead became a two-run affair. They allowed a bloop, and a shift-beater.
They took a 6-1 lead into the eighth, and emerged on the other side, 45 minutes and three relievers later, with a 7-6 deficit.
That’s just a remarkable dedication to finding a way to lose a game after half of your fan base has gone to bed because things feel safe and secure (though to be fair, those fans should know better, and deserved the lesson that was taught to them).
The disaster spoiled a spectacular Opening Day performance by Kevin Gausman, who made it through 6.2 innings while allowing just 2 hits, 2 walks, and 1 earned run, and striking out 6.
It spoiled a night of long balls that were a joy to see (even if the broadcast missed the first one).
Evan Longoria dingered on his first pitch of the season.
Buster Posey dingered in his first at-bat since 2019.
Austin Slater picked up where he left off a year ago and hit a Slater Tater the other way.
And on an 0-2 pitch in the ninth inning, pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson briefly made you forget about the bullpen tomfoolery.
It was, in many ways, an encouragingly dismal performance. Knowing what we know of the players on the Giants, the reasons for the lead feel sustainable, while the reasons for blowing it feel like the shrug emoji followed by the baseball emoji followed by one of those random symbols at far right side of the emoji list that you add just to be vague and because three emojis looks better than one.
Kevin Gausman is a good pitcher, and we can expect him to pitch well. The Giants offense is good, and we can expect it to hit well. Matt Wisler, Jarlín Garcia, Tyler Rogers, and José Álvarez are good relievers, and we can expect them to relieve well.
They just didn’t in Game 1, and you’ll be looking back on this in October thinking, “wow, if only the Giants bullpen hadn’t collapsed in hilarious fashion on April Fool’s Day, they would have had the first perfect season in MLB history.”