Sometimes baseball games are over in the first inning. That can happen in a few ways.
One iteration is what happened to the San Francisco Giants last week, when the Oakland A’s hit a home run on the first at-bat of the game, creating the final score after just one batter.
Another iteration happened on Sunday against the Washington Nationals, when the Giants simply gave up a ton of runs and stopped playing the good baseball that has come to define their season.
It started with Alex Cobb, who returned from the Injured List and had the shortest start of his career. He gave up a pair of singles to start the game, and you sensed that maybe something was up.
That brought up Nelson Cruz who hit what looked like a double-play ball. But Cruz hasn’t survived the wildness that is Major League Baseball for 18 years because he makes poor decisions. So he made the very smart baseball decision to not hit into a double play, but rather into a no-out error, because that is more valuable.
Jason Vosler never saw it coming. What a sneaky veteran move.
Instead of one on and one out, it was one in, two on, and none out. Cobb got an unproductive out, then issued a two-run single. He walked a runner. He walked a second runner to load the bases. He balked home a run. And then, because the crooked small-ball inning wasn’t funny enough, he gave up an RBI infield single to former Giants prospect Lucius Fox, who broke out of a season-opening 0-20 slump to collect the first hit of his career.
Suddenly it was 5-0 and, a walk later, Cobb was gone. The Giants went down in order in the bottom of the first, and you knew there was only one thing left to do: turn on the Warriors game.
The Giants eventually put runs on the board. The waited until the seventh inning, at which point they trailed 8-0, but they put runs on the board, and a nice handful of them, too. And they, too, did it with small ball, knocking in a run each with a Luis González single, a Darin Ruf walk, and a Wilmer Flores fielder’s choice in which he legged out a potential double play. The newest Giant, Mike Ford, then knocked in a pair with a single, and suddenly we found ourselves with a ball game.
I’m a sucker for a narrative. I won’t try to hide this.
So when the Giants cut the deficit to three runs, and thus increased their win probability to 11.8%, when it had been 0.4% at the start of the inning, I got excited. Not because the Giants might add a number to their win column. But because, if the Giants could convert on their 11.8% chance of victory, then every single team in baseball that complains about them breaking the unwritten rules would have to reconcile the fact that the Giants had overcome an eight-run deficit in the seventh inning.
Can you imagine the Nationals, who have already complained about the Giants running up the score, blowing a late-inning eight-run lead? TO THE GIANTS?
There are a lot of great Giants moments that I would trade for that one that we had an 11.8% chance of witnessing.
But alas. The inning ended with the tying run at the plate, and Jake McGee gave back three of those five runs in the eighth inning, rudely destroying your lifelong dream that you’d realized 13 minutes ago.
The Giants would lose 11-5, and you’d be left with just three silver linings:
- The Giants can’t lose tomorrow, because they don’t play tomorrow.
- The Giants next game is against the Dodgers. Let’s go.
- Jason Krizan, after more than 1,000 games in the Minor Leagues, knocked his first big league hit, becoming the second-oldest Giant in the San Francisco era to get his first hit with the team.
There were two players — one Giant, and one former Giants prospect — who collected their first hits, in the same game.
Baseball is beautiful, even when it sucks.