The 1962 San Francisco Giants won 103 games in what was the franchise’s fifth season in the city by the bay. More than three decades later, in 1993, they repeated the feat.
On Tuesday, the 2021 Giants — a team that, as far as I’m aware of, no one who follows baseball had predicted to make the postseason — matched that record.
And on Wednesday they broke it, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 1-0 to win 104 games for the first time in the 64-year history of the team being in San Francisco.
If you want to go back to the New York days, it marks the Giants highest win total since the 1905 team won 105 games. I remember that year fondly.
I’d be lying if I said the Giants reached the mark in exciting fashion. A 1-0 game is inherently filled with a dash of intrigue and a pinch of drama, but the excitement has to be ordered separately, and the Giants failed to do that.
I’m not complaining. Favoring excitement over wins is the duty of the offseason-bound, not the postseason-bound. The Giants won, which is what matters. They narrowed their magic number to three, which is what matters. As of writing this, the San Diego Padres are on the verge of narrowing that number to two, which is what matters.
Oh, and also, Camilo Doval might be the greatest reliever in MLB history, which would seem to be relevant at a time like this.
We’ll get to that in a moment.
It was the team’s 17th shutout of the year, which means we need to start with the pitching. And if we’re going to start with the pitching, let’s start with the starting pitching.
Alex Wood has been more good than bad this year, but also more good than great. On Wednesday, he was great.
Wood went 6 innings into the shutout, and allowed just 3 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 6 batters. He threw 58 strikes with just 16 balls. He got 11 whiffs on a low pitch count. The D-Backs had just 3 plate appearances all game with a runner in scoring position.
The definition of a back foot slider pic.twitter.com/nE1QnZn3C9— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 30, 2021
Since returning to the rotation following a bout of COVID, Wood has pitched 13 innings and allowed 9 hits, 0 walks, and 2 earned runs, with 17 strikeouts.
Admittedly I just learned about baseball yesterday, but that would seem to be pretty decent.
It wasn’t enough for the win, as the Giants wouldn’t score until later, but I doubt Wood is crying about that. He looked great, the Giants won, everyone is happy.
Dominic Leone needed just 10 pitches in the seventh inning. Jarlin García needed just 11 pitches in the eighth inning.
And then Doval.
Doval needed just 10 pitches in the ninth inning. Eight of them ended up in the strike zone. Three were swings and misses — the foolish variety. His fastball averaged 99 mph, and the D-Backs wanted absolutely nothing to do with him.
Doval shuts the door again pic.twitter.com/jQ34rPG1J6— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 30, 2021
Ready yet? Get set— SFGiants (@SFGiants) September 30, 2021
It’s Dovallllll That pic.twitter.com/fM7vjvOcoz
If you think Wood’s numbers since returning to the roster are impressive, take a look at Doval’s. After getting lit up earlier in the year during his debut, Doval returned to Sacramento, appeared to download some new software into his arm, and return to the Majors.
He’s appeared in 13 games since getting recalled, and here’s his line: 12.1 innings, 5 hits, 3 walks, 0 runs, 16 strikeouts.
And now he’s getting closing opportunities in big games.
I’ve said this before and been wrong, but I think I know who the closer of the future is. And hot damn is he fun to watch.
The offense came in the seventh inning, and it came exactly as you would predict for a team with 237 home runs.
Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella led off the inning with a single that just cleared the head of the shift. Pinch-runner Steven Duggar stole second after catcher Carson Kelly dropped a pitch. LaMonte Wade Jr. bunted Duggar to third — just the 36th sacrifice bunt of the season for the Giants. And Kris Bryant hit a sacrifice fly that was juuust far enough.
And that was the run. It was small ball Giants, as would have fit with the 1962 team or the 1993 team, or, best of all, the 1905 team.
After all, that team had 138 sacrifice bunts, and just 39 home runs. It’s not the way to win 104 games in 2021, but apparently it’s the way to win one of them.