The first inning of the San Francisco Giants series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks ended the way that no one ever could have predicted when the Giants were lining up World Series opponents and knocking them down seven, nine, and 11 years ago: with Buster Posey patting Madison Bumgarner’s badonkadonk, as the man who called Posey his “best friend” after the 2014 World Series stepped into the batter’s box as an opponent.
The last inning of the Giants series finale against the Diamondbacks ended the way that everyone would have predicted if they watched a lick of Giants baseball in 2021: with LaMonte Wade Jr. hitting a walk-off single.
In between — and preceding MadBum’s emotional at-bat, which featured a cap tip and a standing ovation — baseball was played. Some good, some bad, all setting the stage for Wade to deliver the knockout blow that gave the Giants their first lead of the night, and continued the narrative arc of an absolute legend.
Things could not have started worse. Actually, if we’re being super literal with the term “started,” then things could not have started better. Here was the first play of the game.
National League MVP candidate Brandon Crawford starts this game with a gem. pic.twitter.com/aAxjkc5STP— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) October 1, 2021
Brandon Crawford will not win MVP, but he will receive lots of votes, and he will deserve every damn one of them.
But after that? That’s when things could not have started worse.
Scott Kazmir, who was brilliant in his return to the lineup a week ago, followed up Crawford’s gem by walking Henry Ramos. Then he walked Daulton Varsho on just four pitches, which I’m told is the league minimum for the unintentional type of freebie.
That led to a Carson Kelly single, which gave the Diamondbacks the lead, but don’t worry, we’re just getting started here.
The next hitter, Christian Walker, hit a high, dangly pop up, providing ample time for both Donovan Solano and Austin Slater to get under it.
Here’s how their conversation went, or so I imagine:
“You take it.”
“No, you take it.”
“No, you take it.”
“No, seriously dude, you take it.”
“Honestly, I really don’t want it, can you please take it?”
To compound matters, Slater picked up the abandoned pop-up and, with second base staring at him a short distance away with an easy out, tried to get the runner going to third.
You can probably surmise how successful he was or was not.
It loaded the bases, and Kazmir was able to work a ground ball out of Pavin Smith, which figured to be an out at first, even if it ceded the run. But between throwing the pitch and having it hit, Kazmir had been blasted with the Men In Black memory blinky thingy and forgot three key things:
- To cover first base.
- That you can simply tag a player instead of stepping on the bag, which comes in handy when you’re late covering first base and find yourself running side by side with the batter, while holding the ball, like two horses in a horse race, except one of the horses is holding a baseball.
- How to step on the bag without spraining your ankle.
A run scored, an out was not recorded, and Kazmir’s night was over, with an injury conveniently giving Gabe Kapler the bright green light to pull a starter who simply didn’t have it.
Scott Kazmir has been taken out of the game after injuring himself while covering first base pic.twitter.com/rkoEdCa8Yd— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) October 1, 2021
In came Kervin Castro who, after recording an impressive strikeout, walked in a third run, setting up Bumgarner’s first at-bat in front of Giants fans since signing with Arizona.
Standing ovation for MadBum pic.twitter.com/bIe9ofsFkA— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) October 1, 2021
Mercifully, Bumgarner would not hit another one of his legendary rand slams, and the Giants would stick with a manageable 3-0 deficit.
They got one back immediately, when Slater led off the bottom of the first with a single, and scored on a booming double by Darin Ruf, who returned to the lineup after a stint on the IL.
They got another back in the third, when Slater again led off the inning with a single, again advanced on a Ruf hit (this time to third on a single), and tapped home plate on a Posey sacrifice fly.
And they finally found the equalizer in the fourth, when Brandon Crawford was left no choice but to show his old teammate his new and improved swing.
But the D-Backs wouldn’t go away easily.
They retook the lead in the fifth inning on an RBI triple by Ildemaro Vargas, aided by a right field defensive effort that may have knocked $20 million off of Scott Boras’ asking price when the Kris Bryant negotiations begin.
But they got it right back when Slater had a — you guessed it, $100 to you — leadoff single, and scored on a double by Posey, his first career hit against Bumgarner.
From there it was just a matter of seeing if the bullpen could get things to the Wade Hour.
Castro had done his job, albeit with a wild hair or two, and Johnny Cueto, returning from the IL, had limited the damage to a single run in 2.1 innings (though again, that run should probably be charged to Bryant’s ERA). Zack Littell struck out 4 in 1.2 innings. Dominic Leone and José Álvarez handled the seventh.
And then Tyler Rogers was tasked with something he hadn’t done in months: pitch two innings. He was up to the task. Very up to it.
Everyone did their job to get Wade an at-bat with the game on the line. And in the ninth, it finally came.
Following a Crawford fly out, Wilmer Flores started the excitement with a loud double that was a few revolutions of backspin away from clearing the fence. Solano was intentionally walked to set up a force play, before a brilliant pinch-hit at-bat by Curt Casali resulted in an eight-pitch walk, moving pinch-runner Steven Duggar to third.
The rest was history. Wade’s history, which is becoming fairly predictable.
In the ninth inning and beyond, Wade is now hitting 16-28, with 14 runs batted in. He has invented the closer position for offensive players.
And as a result, the Giants magic number is two as they enter the final series of the year. Win the series, and the NL West is theirs. Lose the series 1-2, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have to sweep their series just to force a tiebreaker game.
It’s a pretty good place to be.