There are two types of people in this world.
The first type of person gets halfway through a bad book and closes it, never to look at it again. They realize that if the book is bad at the halfway mark it will also be bad at the end point, and they should spend their time reading something else.
The second type of person gets halfway through a bad book, shrugs, and powers through to the end. They can’t have an unfinished book in their internal library. The itch wouldn’t be scratched. The tally wouldn’t be marked. What if it gets good at the end?
There’s also a third type of person that just doesn’t read books at all but I don’t acknowledge those people.
I am the first type of person, but because my job is to write about what happens during San Francisco Giants baseball games, I was not allowed to be my authentic self while reading the book that was the San Francisco Giants Thursday day game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. I was forced to power through the overly flowery sentences, the pairings of two or three clichéd adjectives with each other, the excessive use of semi-colons, and the faux-deep descriptions.
I’ll be honest, doing so didn’t exactly sway my opinion on this topic. Through eight innings I watched the Giants take just two at-bats with a runner in scoring position. I watched them go 0-8 in their quest to get the leadoff runner on base. I watched them go three up, three down four times. I watched them fall behind 4-0 and show no signs that even denting the deficit was possible.
I was 250 pages into the book and wondering what dirt the author had on the editor if this thing had actually made it into publication.
And then the ninth inning came around and whoa wait, did the author hire John Steinbeck to ghostwrite the final chapter? Is that what’s happening here?
The Diamondbacks mercifully pinch-hit for Merrill Kelly in the bottom of the eighth. It was defensible, seeing as how he’d thrown 102 pitches, which was his highest count of the year. But he’d also allowed just 3 hits, 2 walks, and 0 runs in those 8 innings, albeit with just 4 strikeouts. It was a gift that Arizona removed him, even if the gift was understandable.
Taylor Clarke took the mound for the top of the ninth, tasked with the generally uninteresting job of closing the door on a 4-0 lead. Kris Bryant — hey, he’s a Giant now, did you know that? — was not interested in the Giants going quietly, and worked a six-pitch at bat that ended with a blistering double down the left field line.
Alex Dickerson followed and quickly fell behind 0-2, but worked the count full before lining a single into right to put runners at the corners. Suddenly things were interesting.
Brandon Crawford smelled blood in the water and jumped on the first pitch, gapping it to deep right center. The Giants were finally on the board, with runners at second and third and the tying run in the box.
The Giants won't go down without a fight pic.twitter.com/9rV8WnqX1H— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 5, 2021
That was enough to get Tyler Clippard in the game to face Donovan Solano, who quickly fell behind 0-2. But the DBacks had already started gifting season, so they offered up another one, plunking Donnie Barrels to absolve him of his 0-2 count and load the bases.
With Steven Duggar pinch-running for Solano to give the tying run better legs, Brandon Belt stepped into the box, in his first game since June 23. Taking advantage of a shiftless defense, Belt lined one into right field. The runners had to freeze, so only one run scored.
Still, it was a great position to be in. The Giants had the bases loaded, with the tying run now at second base, and still no outs. Prime position.
Except. The author of this story wasn’t going to write a straightforward final chapter. There always have to be twists and turns. So, with the speedy Austin Slater pinch running for Belt, the Giants best hitter came up to pinch-hit: Buster Posey.
You felt calm. You felt confident. You felt arrogant, even.
Posey struck out.
Suddenly your outlandish optimism turned to rigid pessimism as Wilmer Flores stepped in to pinch-hit, and you realized just how likely it was that the game would slowly deflate in your hands in the form of a double play.
Instead, Flores had a shallow fly ball for the second out.
The wild comeback would rest on LaMonte Wade Jr.’s shoulders. Wade who, yes, has been great this season, but was also 0-4 on the day after going 0-5 with 4 strikeouts on Wednesday.
Wade fell behind 0-2, then took a close pitch for ball one. He fouled one off, then took a close pitch for ball two. He fouled another one off, then took a close pitch for ball three. And on the eighth pitch, with the Giants a strike away from defeat, Wade lined one into right field to tie the game.
I was briefly worried at this point. The Giants had tied the game and if they found a way to lose — still very plausible — the intriguing final chapter would’ve reverted to form in the last paragraph.
But they didn’t and it didn’t. Tyler Rogers set down the ninth inning easily, and the Giants scored the tenth inning ghost runner on yet another double by Bryant. Jake McGee stranded the Diamondbacks free runner, and the Giants won 5-4.
In hindsight, one of the biggest moments of the game came courtesy of Alex Wood, who was mostly awful, though some highly suspect defense from Solano did him little favors.
In the third inning, Wood loaded the bases with no outs, and the Diamondbacks leading 3-0. He walked Jake Hager on four pitches to make it 4-0, with the bases still loaded and no outs. We were inches away from a blowout.
Instead, he stranded all three batters, keeping the deficit just within reach. It was ugly and awful at the time, but it helped set up the ending.
So here’s what I learned today: a good final chapter can make an otherwise awful baseball game worthwhile.
Still doesn’t work with books though.