The San Francisco Giants didn’t win their game.
But they almost won their game. And they should have won their game, which admittedly is a very one-sided way of looking at things. It was a pitcher’s duel through and through, with the Giants losing 1-0. And when a team embarks in a pitcher’s duel, I’m legally required as a writer — and you’re legally required as a fan — to view the pitching success as being because the Giants pitching is great, and the hitting failure as being because the Giants hitters are inept, and never because the opponent is those things.
But not only that. You must also view the great pitching as being ol’ reliable, completely expected, should not have even considered anything else. And you must also view the inept offense as being a dismal and inexcusable failure. It should never be inept. It should be the opposite of inept. Uninept. Ininept?
You get the point.
Hold the opponent to one run not because the opponent hit poorly, but because great pitching is the bare minimum you expect from these chumps.
Score zero runs not because your opponent is starting the reigning third-place Cy Young finisher and closing with the reigning eighth-place Cy Young finisher, but because your hitters are useless farts and your front office can’t tell the difference between a baseball and a plump tortoise.
These are the rules.
So yeah. That’s the heart of what happened, but let’s get into the meat of it.
Alex Cobb pitched perhaps his best game since donning a Giants jersey. But more importantly, he finally got some luck.
Cobb has been one of the least lucky players in baseball this year. Entering the game he had a 5.48 ERA, but a 3.22 FIP and a 2.70 xFIP.
For context, 136 starting pitchers have thrown at least 40 innings this year. Cobb’s ERA — the stat that people will pay closest attention to, but that is least reflective of what he’s doing — was 122nd out of those 136, nestled between Mitch Keller and Humberto Castellanos.
His FIP was 29th out of those 136, in between Patrick Sandoval and Jameson Taillon.
His xFIP was 3rd out of those 136, smack dab between Shohei Ohtani and Dylan Cease (bad news: the Giants face him on Saturday).
Very good pitcher. Very bad luck.
Some of that luck reversed course Friday night.
In the fourth inning, Donovan Walton made an incredible reaction to a funky-moving baseball and shut down a rally before it had a chance to get started.
Donnie doing his best BCraw impression pic.twitter.com/wmfe1xmQvn— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 2, 2022
An inning later, Mike Yastrzemski saved two or possibly three bases with perhaps the defensive play of the season for the Giants.
Mike Yastrzemski for the 2987488th time pic.twitter.com/XiEMp2ls6t— SFGiants (@SFGiants) July 2, 2022
The next two hitters singled. Yaz didn’t just save a hit, but he very much saved a run.
The Giants pulled Cobb after just five innings, even though he’d allowed but three hits and one walk, and thrown a mere 67 pitches. It was only his third start since returning from the Injured List, and given that the two fifth-inning singles were quite loud, you can’t blame them for wanting to make sure his night ended on a high note.
But there was just one problem: the Giants weren’t scoring.
They loaded the bases against Lance Lynn in the first inning with a two-out rally: Wilmer Flores walked, Brandon Belt singled, and Yastrzemski walked.
But Tommy La Stella struck out, and the Giants would only have one more at-bat with a runner in scoring position all game, when LaMonte Wade Jr. would fly out in the fifth following Walton’s two-out double.
And while Cobb was the recipient of great defense, not all of the Giants pitchers were. Notably Camilo Doval, who paid the price of the defensive miscue of his teammate, Camilo Doval.
Doval worked an out to start the ninth inning of a scoreless game. But after getting Gavin Sheets to hit a grounder to first base, Doval proved incapable of catching the throw from Belt, which allowed Sheets to reach safely.
Now I want to defend Doval for a second. Dropping a good throw (and it was a very good throw) while covering first looks silly and a bit foolish. And it’s also one of those plays where I’m sure it is, at a minimum, 109 times harder than it looks.
Imagine trying to run from Point A to Point B. Sounds hard, right?
Now imagine trying to run there while keeping an eye on the player running from Point C to Point B, to make sure you beat him there. Then add trying to catch a speeding baseball while doing said running. Finally, add a sprinkle of watching the awkward protrusion in the ground that you’re running towards, to make sure that you do step on it, but not in the natural way, which would leave you screaming and writhing on the floor.
So yeah. It’s a hard play. And Doval didn’t make it. And it allowed a baserunner that, following an infield single and an outfield single, would score the game’s only run, with two outs in the ninth.
Not the best way to spend a Friday night, but then again ... Johnny Cueto, folks!