For quite a while it looked like the San Francisco Giants were coasting towards the most frustrating and predictable of losses. A day after beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 13-0, the Giants were making you utter the age-old line, “They couldn’t have saved some of those runs for today?”
It’s pretty predictable. The last five times the Giants have scored at least 12 runs and won in a blowout they’ve turned around the next day and scored 3, 4, 4, 4, and 2 runs. That’s not an anti-Giants fact, it’s just a baseball fact. Score like it’s the home run derby one day, and you’re all but guaranteed to leave your fans clamoring for a rollover plan the next day.
Through six innings on Wednesday the Giants had taken it to an extreme. They had just one hit — a second-inning leadoff double by Thairo Estrada that amounted to nothing. They’d grounded into two double plays. They’d sent only three batters to the plate in four consecutive innings. They’d even leaned on their home turf to help increase their frustration, as evidenced by Joc Pederson getting Oracle’d for the umpteenth time this season — his third-inning flyout was hit 104.9 mph and traveled 404 feet, only to land in a glove of all the silly places.
The relievers were pitching admirably in a designated bullpen game, highlighted by a career-high 2.1 innings of work from Tyler Rogers. But Sam Long had struggled, and as a result the Giants trailed 3-0.
A day after securing a baker’s dozen runs, the Giants looked destined to flitter helplessly to the land of one-hit shutouts.
So it goes.
And now, a brief interlude to check in on 18-year old Brady...
When I was a freshman in college I was sleep deprived. Very, very sleep deprived. You can blame it on many things, namely an overwhelming schedule made more overwhelming by truly awful time management skills, and compounded by a desire to force an alcohol-fueled social life on myself despite said overwhelming schedule.
I got in a habit that, to this day, I’m both proud and ashamed of. If I woke up at 7:53 a.m., I could throw on some clothes, rush to the dining hall, fill up a plate (hash browns with ketchup and Tabasco) and a glass (berry smoothie), and get to my 8:00 a.m. class with enough time to set up both my notepad and my breakfast station before the professor waltzed in.
It takes a lot of vulnerability admitting that, though I hope you’re impressed by me.
We now return to the baseball game...
The Giants did exactly that. They waited until the last minute. They hit the point in the game where every reasonable person had given up on them ... where their future selves will look back and say, “Really? You didn’t think to, like, show up earlier?”
With one out in the seventh, Brandon Belt, wily ol’ Oracle Park veteran that he is, showed Pederson how it’s done.
It is my personal belief that you should receive credit for two home runs when you hit the ball over there. I will not be taking questions at this time.
That opened the floodgates. The Giants had registered only one hit to 19 outs at the time, but suddenly the hits were coming in droves. Estrada followed up with a single. Mike Yastrzemski doubled his buddy to third, where he scored on a hard-hit David Villar sacrifice fly.
The Giants had trimmed the score to 3-2, and even though Brandon Crawford would strike out to end the inning, a happy ending felt attainable.
And that’s when the pinch-hitting began.
It was only last week that the Giants — who led the Majors a year ago with 18 pinch-hit home runs — knocked their first pinch-hit big fly of the season.
And in the eighth they added to it, as Gabe Kapler emptied the bench. First up was the only pinch-hitter who mattered: Wilmer Flores, who dealt recently-named All-Star Joe Mantiply a very rude (or lovely, as the case may be) blow.
Tied game. The pinch-hit train continued, as the Giants only used bench players in the inning, though they left Darin Ruf stranded after a single. They’d depleted their pine by using all five of their bench players — Flores, Ruf, Yermín Mercedes, and Luis González as hitters, and Joey Bart as a defensive substitute since Flores had hit for catcher Austin Wynns.
But they’d tied the game. And after Camilo Doval, sporting short hair now, made easy work of the ninth inning, emptying the bench had opened the door for a walk-off win.
It couldn’t be that easy, of course. Belt led off the inning with a single but, with no one left on the bench, was forced to be his own pinch-runner despite a nagging knee injury slowing down his already tepid speed.
When Yastrzemski stepped up with one out and hit another booming double, you initially thought it should score Belt ... but then you remembered the circumstances at hand. It couldn’t be that simple, could it.
But with the walk-off run at third and just one out, the table was still set for the Giants to be rewarded for their late arrival. Villar stepped into the box against old friend Mark Melancon, and had quite the impressive at-bat, as he spit on four straight pitches that flirted with the strike zone to earn a walk.
Pretty impressive for a dude playing in just his 10th career game, who surely had visions of being the hero.
Instead he took his free pass, and opened the door for Crawford to get to be one.
Crawford said “Thank you,” and the Giants won 4-3.
I leave you with two glorious images:
If you can show up late but still get the job done, do it. Life is short but sweet.