Scientists have yet to explain it. No manner of statistical extrapolation or heuristic analysis has so far provided a definitive answer for why the Pittsburgh Pirates play so well on the shores of McCovey Cove, but year in and year out, they find ways to dominate. Coming into today's game, the Pirates were 4-2 against the Giants this year, and 16-6 at Oracle after that fateful 2014 Wild Card game. Which is why it was so concerning that despite having nearly completely symmetrical records, with the Giants coming into the series at 61-35 and the Pirates limping in at 36-60, Pittsburgh was in pole position for a sweep today.
The action started in the first, as Alex Wood stepped to the mound to start the game. Mike Krukow, still delighted (as we all are) by the return of his broadcasting partner, let his joy overcome his fear of the baseball gods and the broadcaster's jinx, commenting that Wood had been unbeatable in games after a home loss. No sooner than he had spoken those words, Wood gave up a sharp single and a booming double on consecutive pitches, and the Giants trailed early once again. It continued a series of shaky starts and rough first innings that have been oddly prevalent since the All-Star Break.
But Wood got Jacob Stallings to strike out swinging to halt the Pirates' early momentum, and in the bottom of the first, LaMonte Wade Jr. went yard with a DEEP bomb to right center, and as Duane Kuiper remarked, "he put it in the 415, and this game is tied!" Well put, Kuip. The Giants were on the board, and you had the feeling that this was going to be another one of those tight games. At least, until Wade stepped up to bat again about half an hour later and put one over the fifth archway, giving the Giants a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
But even though the Giants would go on to take the rubber match, things were not smooth sailing the rest of the way. In the top of the sixth, Alex Wood was knocked out in a 2-1 game through a couple of bad breaks. After Bryan Reynolds took advantage of a location mistake and rapped a single to center field, a passed ball put him at second with only one out. Stallings came up to bat and hit what looked like an easy out, but Thairo Estrada flubbed the transition, putting runners at the corners. A walk loaded the bases, knocking out Wood and leaving him on the hook for all three runners on.
In came Jay Jackson, who represents the absolute ceiling of Zaidi's constant roster churning for bullpen arms. Jackson already solved a bases-loaded jam in his debut against the Cardinals by striking out Harrison Bader to preserve a 7-2 lead. Today, he performed even better, inducing a quick 4-6-3 double play, walking off the mound oozing passion and fire. He's been untouchable so far, not having given up a run or hit in 6.1 innings, and the energy he brings to games is contagious. So far we've seen his ceiling, and it's been impressive, combo-ing his fastball and slider fairly reliably. It remains to be seen what his floor is, but the debate remains open to whether or not he's the solidifying bullpen option the Giants have been looking for as the trade deadline approaches.
Having completely shut down the Pirates, the Giants turned the momentum around and broke the game open with three runs in the bottom of the 6th, starting with a Wilmer Flores home run that would have looked right at home with an approach shot on the 18th hole at Augusta. He short-armed a changeup inside, did his best sand wedge impression, and quickly put the Giants up 3-1 with a shot that just snuck over the 339 mark by the left field foul pole. A Duggar double, an Estrada single, a throwing error by Stallings, and a final single by Casali put two more runs on the board, putting the Giants in position to finally pull away.
Giants relievers continued to shut the door, with perfect innings from Jarlin García, Tyler Rogers, and Jake McGee putting things to a drama-free end to the matinee showing. Thairo Estrada gave himself an overall positive day with a home run he crushed over the center field wall, more than making up for his error with two RBIs on the day. Mike Yastrzemski pinch hit in the 9th and struck out, though, giving him 8 strikeouts in his last 9 PA. Please send him your energy, because I'd rather not see him do that against LA, who the Giants kept pace with today. The Padres fell to the Marlins, meaning that at the very least, the Giants won't have to worry about getting leapfrogged by two teams after the upcoming home series against the Dodgers.
Be sure to wash down the victory with whatever the Bud Light equivalent of a light, fruity, tropical drink is, and I'll see you all in the gamethreads at 6:45 PM on Tuesday the 27th, as the Dodgers and Giants battle it out for the final time this year.