7/31/21 Game Recap: Giants Outslug Astros, 8-6

After a few quiet half-innings to start the game, Donovan Solano cracked a solo home run in the bottom of the second to give the Giants an early lead. Duggar smacked a single, and it felt like maybe the game would fall back into that winning formula from the first half: Giants starter neutralizes the opposing offense, Giants get a few runs, bullpen mostly doesn't blow it, rinse and repeat.

So, of course, the game immediately got extremely weird for a very long time.

Immediately isn't an exaggeration. Curt Casali doubled down the left field line, but Duggar wasn't able to score (fast as he is) even with a two-out jump because it was a double hit to the only place on the field that let the left fielder pick up the ball 60 feet from the infield. Casali, by the way, got two hits against Zack Greinke, which I'm pretty sure is statistically impossible. But of course, this mini rally brought up Alex Wood, who despite teasing us with a two-ball count, struck out fairly easily.

Then came the third inning, which was a veritable hotbed of weirdness. In the top half, Wood got two quick outs. Then Altuve singled, because apparently every series now requires an opposing hitter whose bat is magnetized to the ball, and then Alydmes Diaz smacked one into the bleachers. Sequences like that happen, but what you don't expect is for Solano to bobble a soft ground ball (well, maybe you do) and then for a throw from Flores to clank off Ruf's glove over the course of three batters. Wood was lucky enough for the damage to be limited to three, but even that was enough to really start making you sweat.

I say this, of course, because Zack Greinke had not given up more than three runs at Oracle Park since an "atrocious" outing in 2012 when he gave up... 4 runs. So of course Yaz reached to start a rally, then got thrown out after a passed ball decided that it actually was very impolite for it to pass, and so excused itself back into Maldonado's hand, and Yaz got gunned down making a pretty no-brainer baserunning decision. Which means, of course, that Carlos Correa flubbed an easy ground ball the next batter, which means of course Wilmer Flores put one in the ambulance bay to tie it up. Perfectly logical, really.

Neither Wood nor Greinke were solid from that point on. Casali singled and Wade followed up with a splash hit that sailed over his mom's seat in the arcade, which... I mean, this is exactly the kind of story that the 2021 Giants seem to keep making. Mauricio Dubon's quote, "There are no pricks on this team," basically lives rent-free in my head these days. Then the Giants finally stopped playing with one hand tied behind their back, and Crawford and Solano made a couple of insane defensive plays, because of course they would.

Unfortunately, Wood had a HR-BB-2B sequence that tied things up (the home run courtesy of Diaz, who seems to be the other Nemesis of the Series), which really put a damper on any happy-fun-carefree times the Giants probably wanted to have today. So of course Darin Ruf hit another home run to bring the lead back to the Giants, who proceeded to load the bases against Greinke. So, of course, Casali and Dickerson struck out to bring home zero runs with the bases loaded. It's just that predictable, folks.

You couldn't be blamed for thinking that this was going to be one of those games where whoever scored last would take home the win, because one thing we've learned is that this Astros team just doesn't give up. Martin Maldonado homered in the sixth off Jay Jackson, who's had a tough couple of appearances lately, but the Giants answered back in the bottom with three straight two-out singles, which I guess is just how they're doing things now. Hey, whatever scores runs.

And so we went to the late innings, where both teams deployed their bullpens to their fullest strength. I won't pretend to know much about the Astros' roster construction, but they picked up a few additions at the trade deadline that performed fairly well against the Giants. The Giants countered with what may be an early preview of their postseason closing line, a Leone-Rogers-McGee 1-2-3 punch that aimed at closing the game out.

Here, we saw what's probably the defining difference between the Astros and Giants. The Giants don't, as we know, have any bright, shiny star power that the baseball world was fawning over at the season's start. What they have is extremely valuable anchors (Gausman, Posey, Rogers) surrounded by depth and platoon pieces being mixed and matched to their absolute best. The Astros have incredible star power, and a notable few weaknesses, such as their bullpen. The Astros weaknesses ended up being the difference in this game, given that the Giants late-inning lineup was good for 9 consecutive outs to close the game.

The Astros relief corps held the Giants hitters to just one run, a beautiful arcade shot by Yaz that redeemed his earlier almost-splash-hit, but even that ended up being more than the Giants needed. It also set the record for the most home runs (combined) hit in one game at Oracle (8). It hasn't been easy, but the Giants have clinched baseball's best record through this series, and have the opportunity to take it despite a rollercoaster couple of games.

This series has been unlike most others, insofar as the Astros are just really hard to put away, but seem to be giving the Giants opportunities that the Dodgers and Padres hadn't. Which makes these two teams clashing pretty prime entertainment. The Giants scored six runs before they had their second at-bat with RISP. I don't know if that's relevant, but I needed to throw that out there. This series has been weird, but it's been good and promises to continue that trend. The Giants and Astros will duke it out in the rubber match for tomorrow's matinee, a 1:05 Pacific start time. Kris Bryant will make this Giants debut, which means no matter what, the Giants will have at least one win tomorrow. Sounds like a good deal to me.

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