The Giants Need the Dodgers in Order to Become Their Best

Through 56 games, the Giants built upon an incredible 2021 season by being even more incredibly mediocre. For every flash of brilliance thus far, there's been a flash of panic as players have performed historically poorly. This is perhaps best exemplified by last night's 4-2 loss to the Rockies, in which a promising start by newly-minted ace Logan Webb was cut short en route to a 4-error performance that saw the Giants lose their first home series against Colorado since 2019.

It's been a slog. The Giants have not recorded a shutout this year, despite entering with a rotation that was sneakily one of the most promising in baseball, and one that's picked up a gem in Jakob Junis. They've been shutout three times this year. That's not to say the Giants haven't been good or even great at times, but the Giants threw six shutouts in the first calendar month of 2021. There's been a sizable gap between the ceiling that they showed last year and the one they've scratched around at this year.

But perhaps more importantly, the Giants haven't played the Dodgers this year. Oh, sure, they played two games as part of a weird makeup schedule-induced road trip that saw a COVID-ravaged Giants team limp into LA, but that was nothing compared to a full house in Oracle Park tonight. All it took was the hated Dodgers coming into our house to help the crowd slip back into those raucous 2021 vibes.

The Dodgers came in wearing their all-blue (including dark blue pants that make the outfit a questionable monochrome) City Connect uniforms, and as Duane Kuiper commented, they're the kind that make every fanbase except a team's own go "huh, I don't know." Giants fans, having gotten used to the City Connect Creamsicles, very much fall into that bucket as well. But as Kuip eloquently put, there are guys who can make any jersey look good. And the Dodgers have a lot of them. The Giants do not. Yet on the Dodgers' inaugural visit to Oracle Park in the 2022 season, it was the Giants' roster that played the prettier game.

That emergency "who's that guy?" pickup in Jakob Junis? All he did was outduel Walker Buehler, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Junis threw some hittable pitches early on, like the double from Chris Taylor that scored the first run of the game in the second inning, but he filled up the strike zone and for the most part kept the Dodgers in the yard on a night in which the ball was flying. He gave up a solo home run in the 5th to Gavin Lux that might have stayed in the park on a cooler night, and when two runs in five innings is the extent of the damage Los Angeles can rack up against you, you know you've had a pretty good night.

Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford capped a hit parade in the second that gave the Giants a lead they would thankfully not relinquish, and Darin Ruf smacked a deep home run to left field that helped chase Buehler out of the game after four innings, his shortest start of the season. Joc Pederson continued to prove that his modest salary was in fact the biggest value signing of the offseason with a scorching line drive past Dodgers' 1B Freddie Freeman to drive in two more runs in the fifth, and Ruf kept the scoring going with an RBI single and later another home run in the 7th.

It was a much-needed offensive outpouring for Darin Ruf, who recently took a short bereavement leave after the death of his father. Personal tragedy is always an incredibly tough situation to go through, but the Giants have stuck by Ruf, to their credit. Almost no hitter has been as negatively impacted by the depressed offensive conditions as Ruf, who could have a half-dozen more home runs to rest on if not for absolutely blistered balls falling mysteriously short on the warning track. But with the weather heating up and the air waiting to receive fly balls like an open oven, Darin Ruf did his damage against a talented LA pitching staff. Walker Buehler, David Price, and Justin Bruihl are no slouches, but neither is a healthy and confident Darin Ruf. In an ideal world, he's the 1B/DH platoon player that the Giants should have been salivating over once the DH made its way over to the National League.

San Francisco did their best to flush away a rough Colorado series with an explosive opening against the Dodgers. Now, the Giants will have to prove that they can keep up the pace. The Dodgers clearly have more athleticism with Trea Turner and Gavin Lux than the Giants do with Brandon Crawford and Donovan Walton- but that didn't stop the Giants from finally putting together a complete offensive game. As I wrote last year, all it took was one incredible game against LA for the Giants to finally find their groove. Will history repeat itself? Only time will tell, but if the Giants want to make noise this October, then this must be the first of many steps in the right direction.

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