I’m going to be very up front with you. Too up front, perhaps. And, in the words of the great Charles Barkley ...
My least favorite rule in all of baseball, above even the free runner in extra innings, is the stolen first base on a strikeout.
I understand the arguments from proponents of the rule. The play isn’t over if the ball isn’t caught (which conveniently ignores that the play still isn’t over when the catcher picks up the ball), a pitcher should be punished for throwing a bad pitch, there needs to be a conclusion to the play, blah blah blah.
I hate it. Why is a hitter rewarded for swinging at a pitch so bad that the catcher can’t catch it? Why can’t they steal first on a ball that goes to the backstop? Why not on strike two? How does any of this make any sense?
Now, with all of that said ... rules are rules, and you win or lose by them fair and square.
Which is what the Giants did.
In the top of the seventh inning, with the Giants clinging to a 3-1 lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks at a very hitter-friendly ballpark, LaMonte Wade Jr. stepped up to the plate. The bases were empty and there were two outs. He took a first pitch ball, then proceeded to take a four-seam fastball for a strike. He fouled off the next pitch and then, in a 1-2 count, swung and missed at what figured to be both strike and out No. 3.
Except Bryan Holaday didn’t catch the wild pitch from Jake Faria, and Wade sauntered to first despite having his third of four strikeouts on the night.
That was the beginning of the end. The inning should have been over, but it was just getting started. Tommy La Stella hit next and drew a four-pitch, four four-seam fastball walk, then was lifted for a pinch runner, putting a cap on a brilliant return from the 60-day IL, as he hit 2-2 with a pair of walks.
Buster Posey followed and, filled with rage and frustration from hitting two missiles that mistakenly had their heat-seekers set to Nick Ahmed’s glove, bashed a double to score a run.
Then Posey — as well as Austin Slater, La Stella’s personal runner — both scored on the second home run in as many nights by Alex Dickerson.
Dickerson seems to be finding his bat, and I can’t quite put to words how huge that would be for the Giants down the stretch.
Suddenly it was 7-1, and while the Giants wouldn’t score again, they kept the shenanigans going in the inning, with Brandon Crawford hitting a single, stealing second, and taking third on another wild pitch.
The 7-1 lead would hold until the Diamondbacks committed their 27th and final out, which I guess technically means that the whole bit I went through about stealing first deciding the outcome of the game wasn’t really true. That said, while we can’t successfully butterfly effect any given baseball game, it’s not outrageous to suggest that the Diamondbacks might have found a second and third run easier to come by if trailing 3-1 than 7-1.
They also might not have, which means we need to give credit to the man who got the Giants to 3-1: Donovan Solano. Like Dickerson, Donnie Barrels is starting to find his 2020 swing, and it’s paying huge dividends.
Solano started the scoring with a solo home run in the fourth inning.
He then added a two-on, two-out, two-strike single that, with help from a clunky defensive play, scored two runs.
All of that was plenty enough for the pitchers, who all had admirable performances.
Kevin Gausman bounced back from three rough starts to look like his usual dominant self, giving up just 5 hits, 0 walks, and 1 earned run in 6 innings, while striking out 8 with 19 whiffs. Jay Jackson made his first appearance since revealing the vile and disgusting racist messages he received after his last outing, and struck out the side. Tony Watson once again looked like the dude who pitched for the Giants in 2018, and not the guy the Los Angeles Angels were trying to get rid of. José Álvarez needed just eight pitches to secure the ninth inning.
It was a total team effort then, with the pitchers, the hitters, and the ridiculous rulebook all coming together in perfect harmony to lead the Giants to victory.