There’s no such thing as a must-win game in early July. And there’s certainly no such thing as a must-win game in early July for a team that’s 20 games above .500 and atop baseball’s best division.
But if there were such a thing as a must-win game in early July for a team that’s 20 games above .500 and atop baseball’s best division, it would’ve looked like Friday’s game between the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Giants entered the game with a season-high four-game losing streak which had seen their sizable lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers shrink to a barely existent one. They had no hits in their last 23 at-bats with runners in scoring position. They had lost on Thursday in the series opener against the Diamondbacks, who entered the series with just four wins in their last 42 games. Arizona hadn’t won consecutive games in almost two months.
Not a must win. Just a, “for the love of all that is holy, please don’t ruin my weekend with a loss.”
The Giants obliged, and won. They’ve done a solid amount of obliging and winning so far this year, and honestly it’s been fun and I’m sorry, I can’t hold it in anymore. I can’t keep blathering on through this overly wordy lede that will eventually steer you to a step-by-step recount of what happened, I just need to get straight to the good stuff and show you what Thairo Estrada did in the ninth inning of his first start with the Giants.
If this is your first time reading about baseball, welcome, and please know that grand slams are the single most valuable thing you can in the game. Also, how did you get here.
Estrada got called up a few days ago largely because he’d been demolishing baseballs in Sacramento (and, in the interest of thorough reporting and capital-J Journalistic accuracy, he’s also been demolishing baseballs in the the cities that the Sacramento River Cats visit), and the Giants are doing this lovely thing where they call up people who are playing well and take advantage of how well they’re playing. I enjoy it. I endorse it.
I endorse it extra when it results in days like Friday’s, where Estrada finished a triple shy of the cycle, knocked in five runs, and generally looks ready to be a solid contributor for a team that just hit the halfway mark with 51 wins.
But while Estrada was the feel-good part of the Giants 11-4 win, and also one of the main reasons for the win (advanced analytics have shown a strong correlation between having more RBIs than your opponent has runs and winning), the Giants were not shy on storylines and highlights.
They did, however, take us on a grim but humorous journey at the start of the game.
LaMonte Wade Jr. opened the contest with a walk, and, following an out by Mike Yastrzemski, Buster Posey drew a one-out walk. The Giants would have two chances to get a hit with a runner in scoring position, but they would fail, moving their listless RISP streak to 0-25.
It was at this point that the Giants took the mic off the mic stand and started pacing around. They were deep into their comedy act and playing to the crowd. So when the second inning rolled around, Wilmer Flores drew a leadoff walk and Steven Duggar singled him into scoring position. Now they would have three chances, and you knew they were just delighted to let you down again.
Enter Estrada, who had a single for his first hit of the year.
A single that did not score Flores, who stopped at third.
Yes, after 25 straight hitless at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Giants finally found a hit, and it didn’t even do anything. Alex Wood then struk out, and Wade got the Giants on the board with a sacrifice fly, as the Giants smirked while reminding a groaning audience that not only can you get a hit without scoring a run, but you can score a run without getting a hit.
Then Yastrzemski singled in Duggar and the joke was over and the Giants went back to hitting like a normal team with runners in scoring position, which, honestly ... just more fun.
The first of three home runs came an inning later, from the long, hard bat of Alex Dickerson, whom the Giants would love to see find his rhythm.
Dickerson had a nice game, but the Giants wisely replaced him with Austin Slater later in the night, thus ensuring that, even if the game went into extra innings, he would not last more than four hours.
Speaking of ... things ... Wood showed off both sides of the coin in the fourth inning: the side that’s been struggling a bit lately, and the side that has the Giants so optimistic about him. With the Giants leading 3-0, the Diamondbacks loaded the bases with no outs, courtesy of a regular single, an infield single, and a hit batter. An Asdrubal Cabrera single knocked in two runs, making it 3-2 with two on and no outs.
And then Wood got out of the inning without allowing anything more.
Still, things felt a touch ominous until the next inning, when an RBI single by Flores and an RBI double by Estrada padded the lead a little. And then, in the eighth, Wade hit a mammoth blast to start to turn a small lead into a fun night.
I only have one question and it’s “how do you hit a baseball that far?” Oh, and also, “can you please not option Wade again?” Thanks.
The Giants won 11-4. They struck out only six times, and drew as many walks. They had 14 hits, half of which went for extra bases. Buster Posey played, which always makes me happy. Jaylin Davis had a pinch-hit double, on a ball with an expected batting average of .020. The three home runs put the team on pace for 10 grand slams, 242 home runs, and 102 wins.
The series is even and the table is set to win the next two games and go home happy.
Go home happy, Giants. You earned it.