Entering Tuesday night’s game between the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds, four things were true. Well, basically infinite things were and are true, but four things pertinent to the soon to be revealed game narrative were true.
The first true thing is that the Reds led the league in home runs, with 18 through 10 games.
The second true thing is that, in 12 starts in a Giants jersey, Kevin Gausman had allowed just 2 first inning runs.
A Joey Votto and a Mike Moustakas dinger later, and Gausman had given up 4 first inning runs, just like that. Those Reds homers are no joke, and for the first time this season, Gausman looked fallible.
The third true thing is that the Giants had not exceeded 4 runs since the second game of the season, and had only even made it to the 4-run mark twice since then. They would need a breakout offensive game to have a chance to win, even if the Reds didn’t have another baserunner for the rest of the game.
The fourth true thing is that every metric that dives into the process, rather than the results of the Giants as an offensive unit suggests that the Giants are actually performing very well at the plate, and just getting wildly unlucky. A breakout doesn’t require a shift in ability, but merely a return to normalcy on planets Lucketron and Variancester.
In the bottom half of the first inning, Mike Yastrzemski did this:
The THIRD two-run homer of this inning pic.twitter.com/CpZZLGloFV— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 14, 2021
And then Brandon Crawford did this:
And just like that it was tied — a duet of dual-run dingers met firmly by a duet of dual-run dingers. It was, according to the broadcast, the first time in the history of the ballpark that four home runs had been hit in the first inning.
The Reds would retake the lead in the second inning, but when Gausman held the damage to just a single run — and a 5-4 deficit — it felt as if he hadn’t allowed a run at all. Oracle Park was popping with baseball-friendly air, and it was only a matter of time before another Giant guessed the secret password to Club Long Ball.
That Giant was Evan Longoria.
Longo long ball ties the game pic.twitter.com/HHjBwiJ7J2— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 14, 2021
Baseballs will never forgive Longoria for the crimes committed against their family.
It was a few batters later that the Giants were able to not just catch the Reds on the straight stretch, but whip past them before diving into the turn. And it came courtesy of an important geographic discovery by Austin Slater, who became the first human (in 2021) to find Triple’s Alley.
Triples Alley never disappoints pic.twitter.com/I2VrvIx9LO— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 14, 2021
The Giants would give back the lead on a truly remarkable confluence of shenanigans. Wandy Peralta took the mound in the seventh and issued an infield single, followed by one of the stingiest balk calls you’ll ever see, followed by a wild pitch, followed by a bloop in which Brandon Crawford and Tommy La Stella ran into each other like two drunken frat boys chasing the last alcoholic popsicle in the cooler.
But the Giants would get the lead back in the bottom of the seventh, and what was most remarkable about that is that you fully expected it.
From there on it was Tyler Rogers time and ... holy smokes. Rogers worked three swinging strikes (around a double, admittedly), to Nick Castellanos, Joey Votto, and Mike Moustakas. Three very good hitters. Three very good hitters who looked very, very foolish.
Tyler Rogers had one of the NL's best power hitters swinging out of his shoes pic.twitter.com/4aDid7rWLf— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 14, 2021
These were swinging strikeouts pic.twitter.com/LkV3uEG4As— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 14, 2021
I don’t even know why I bother to waste my time writing words about baseball when people like Kevin Gausman are so much better at doing it.
Kevin Gausman on Tyler Rogers in the eighth inning: "He's going to hit a lefty in the face one day and the guy is probably going to swing at it, which is crazy to think about."— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 14, 2021
Then in came Jake McGee and ... look, eventually Jake McGee is going to blow a save. Eventually Jake McGee is going to have a string of appearances where he looks shaky. It happens to every closer, every year.
But for now your heart rate doesn’t rise when the ninth inning rolls around and the Giants are clinging to a lead, and that feeling is very new.
It’s OK. You can enjoy it. Sometimes new things are nice.