The San Francisco Giants had a golden opportunity.
After taking the season opener of their four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, the Giants had a chance for a mighty meaningful second game. A win would put the Giants up three games on the Dodgers, guaranteeing that even if they got no-hit over the final 18 innings of the series, they’d depart LAX (after a two-hour car ride to the airport and three-hour wait in the TSA line) with a lead in the NL West.
A good, solid loss would have been understandable. You expect a fair amount of them against a team as good as the Dodgers. You respect them, almost. We teach our kids to lose smoothly. Think Michael Jordan striking out in Space Jam.
Rather than hit you with a straightforward, plot-twistless loss that made you gear up for the remaining two games of the series, the Giants presented you with a dish that is much, much worse.
Yes, the Giants brought a heaping platter of, “well, we should win this game” to the table, and it was a hit. Everyone ate it. Soon it was gone, and all the Giants were left with was an empty plate with an inscription on it reading, “well, ya didn’t.”
The Giants hit four home runs. What’s even better/worse, is that they hit four unanswered home runs, in a span of four innings.
First it was Alex Dickerson in the second inning, turning a deficit into a lead.
Alex Dickerson answers IMMEDIATELY back. pic.twitter.com/TIOfIW16NF— SFGiants (@SFGiants) July 21, 2021
Then in the third it was LaMonte Wade Jr. welcoming Josiah Gray to the big leagues in the kindest/rudest way.
Then in the fifth inning it was a pair of lead-extenders, first by Thairo Estrada, who showed that the spirits of Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval still live in the Giants by taking a fastball well above the zone to dead center.
And then by Mike Yastrzemski, who is heating up, which is great, because watching Yaz hit home runs is somewhere between petting good dogs and eating bánh mìs on the list of things I love to do.
Yaz hammers a two-run shot into the Giants' bullpen pic.twitter.com/G8E7ZzDbSE— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 21, 2021
Just like that, the Giants led 6-1. I’m not going to say you were comfortable. I’m not going to pretend it felt sufficient. Perhaps I need some rewiring after the last few years of Giants baseball, but no lead feels safe, even though the Giants have the best record in baseball.
Indeed, this lead was not safe, even though the two biggest Giants Killers in the Dodgers lineup — Max Muncy and Justin Turner — exited with minor injuries.
But Giants Killers, like lizard tails, merely grow back when damaged, and this time they grew back in the shape of Chris Taylor, an unfairly handsome man who hit a home run in the fifth inning off of Alex Wood, and again in the sixth inning off of John Brebbia, and suddenly the Dodgers were within a run.
It stayed that way until the ninth, when in came Tyler Rogers, who did not have it. He did not have it on his first pitch, and he did not have it on his 11th and final pitch, and he did not have it on any of the nine pitches in between.
He walked Taylor on four pitches, then walked Matt Beaty on five pitches, and then — remember that bit about the lizard tail Dodgers growing back stronger? — gave up a walk-off home run to Will Smith (on the only swing any batter had against him), who was hitting in place of Muncy, the dude who already has eight home runs this year against the Giants.
I’m not going to show you the video and make you sit through it. I’m just going to show you a Rogers quote so you can remember that it’s not all bad.
Tyler Rogers: "I'm going to have a Bud Light and rinse this one off and be back out there tomorrow."— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) July 21, 2021
Same, Tyler. Same.