After all, the Giants jumped on the Padres early. They loaded the bases with one out in the first inning before Kris Bryant knocked them all in with a double.
It was a 3-0 lead, and drag your finger across the inning-by-inning line score and you’ll think that was that. The game was decided in the first inning. The score fluctuated, as scores are wont to do, but that first inning gave the Giants a lead they would never relinquish.
Technically those facts are, as the name suggests, factual. But with all due respect to Bryant and his beautiful swing, the game was won in the bottom of the fifth inning.
They took a 3-0 lead into the inning, courtesy of a surprisingly strong start from Scott Kazmir. Perhaps the Giants knew what they were doing when they they selected the contract of Kazmir, who had not exactly put up sterling numbers in AAA or earlier in the Majors. He cruised through four innings, setting the side down in order twice, allowing just three hits and a walk.
The fifth inning was not as kind to him, but we forgive him; he was already two innings past where he was supposed to get.
Kazmir led things off by issuing a walk, then allowing a single, then offering up another free pass to load the bases. With a lefty in Jake Cronenworth coming up, Gabe Kapler rather surprisingly opted to leave Kazmir in the game. The result was one that nobody could have predicted: a catcher’s interference by Buster Posey, just the fourth of his career.
It scored a run. It kept the bases loaded with no outs. It put the tying run in scoring position.
And just as the Giants had done the thing we predicted back in March by starting Scott Kazmir in one of the most important games of the year, they did the other thing we predicted back in March by bringing in Camilo Doval to get them out of the biggest jam of the game.
The day before, Doval did this:
So with Manny Machado extending his arm, asking for a dance with triple digits, Doval threw three straight sliders in the 80s, and Machado swung through all damn three of them.
Tommy Pham put up a bigger fight — and forced a few of those 100 mph heaters — before Doval induced an inning-ending double play.
Doval was so good they had to check his pulse pic.twitter.com/QF6gDqq4zN— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 23, 2021
It was one of the best relief appearances of the year, highlighted by one of the most dominant pitcher-vs-hitter showdowns we’ve seen this season.
And that was the story of the game.
Sure, you can find other stories, if you want, including good ones. The offense took off in the sixth and seventh innings, pushing the lead to 8-1. Posey had a four-hit day with a pair of doubles, while Brandon Belt reached safely three times.
And yeah, you can find bad ones, too. The Padres put up a three-spot in the seventh against Jarlin García to make things interesting. They put up a two-spot in the ninth inning against Tyler Rogers, put the tying run on base, and brought presumptive NL MVP Fernando Tatis Jr. — who already had a home run in the game, his 40th of the year — to the plate, representing the walk-off run. Tatis hit a ball to deep left field that everyone thought was gone. I still think it might leave the ballpark, to be honest. I’m waiting for a recount.
So yeah, those were stories. There were a lot of stories in this game. Baseball has a lot of stories.
The Giants never trailed and, after the fourth batter of the game, never led by fewer than two runs. The Dodgers lost, pushing the Giants lead in the NL West to two games with 10 remaining.
It was still drama, and it was still torture, and all of that should be inspire both fear and admiration.
But the story was Kazmir and Doval. Kazmir who got the train to the station. Doval who managed to turn the caboose into a chocolate fountain with a free cash machine once it got there.
Forgive me for repeating the phrase we’ve all been saying since May: just as we all expected.