For eight and a half innings on Friday night, the San Francisco Giants played some of their very worst baseball. It was frustrating. Infuriating. A waste of a perfectly good Friday night.
And I’m not gonna talk about it.
Oh I had my plans, mind you. I had visions of walking you through LaMonte Wade Jr. trying to field a slow roller up the first base line that he should have left for Alex Wood, only for Wood to field it and run into a concrete wall of a teammate in a futile attempt at a tag.
I had the outline in my head for describing David Villar running 40 feet to chase down a pop up that was five feet from where Brandon Crawford was standing, giving Crawford an awkward airport hug while the ball crashed, uncaught, to the ground.
I had many a word that my bosses would prefer I don’t publish to paint the picture that was the defense, which Mike Krukow went so far as to call “as bad as you’ll see.”
But I’m not going to say any of them. Because I don’t think I’m being remotely hyperbolic or a prisoner of the moment when I aver that, after those eight and half innings of fermented and bottled hippo poo, the Giants played their best half inning of the year in the bottom of the ninth.
So let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about that properly, and in depth.
Let’s set the stage.
It’s a little after 10:30 p.m. Many fans have departed, and who can blame them? It’s a popping city. It’s a Friday night. We only live once and if you sat through the first three hours of that game, you were surely questioning if you were actually doing the most with your life.
The Milwaukee Brewers lead 5-2. Josh Hader is in to pitch the ninth.
Let’s talk about Hader for a second. You probably know Hader for one of two reasons.
The first reason is that he was one of the most high-profile cases in a long-string of athletes getting exposed for saying truly awful things on social media before they were famous.
The second reason is that he’s one of the most dominant relievers alive.
Here are some fun facts about Hader’s dominance:
- He’s pitched in six seasons and made the All-Star Game four times. The only years he didn’t make the All-Star Game were in 2017, when he was a rookie who only played half a season, and in 2020, when there wasn’t an All-Star Game.
- Entering Friday’s game, he had given up four home runs this year. He gave up three last year.
- Not including the postseason, he hadn’t given up a home run to a left-handed hitter since September 12, 2020.
- For his career, he’s allowed one home run for every 31.7 batters that he’s faced.
- Over the last three years, he’s allowed one home run for every 42 batters he’s faced.
- His career ERA is lower than Carlos Rodón’s 2022 season ERA.
Fun facts. Now let’s get to the inning.
The first batter is Joey Bart. The second pitch Bart sees is a sinker. He does the following to it:
Joey Bart just sent this ball into orbit pic.twitter.com/JzHhvz0Nu3— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 16, 2022
Time for a brief Bart interlude.
From May 1 through June 4 — when Bart was optioned — the catcher hit 5-48. His only extra-base hit during that time was a home run off of Albert Pujols.
Since returning to the roster, Bart is now 7-22 with two home runs and two doubles. This excites me. And I don’t mean to tell you what to do with your life, but it should excite you, too.
Yet for as exciting as Bart’s home run was, it was only that: a home run. The Giants still trailed by two against a reliever who had only allowed multiple runs in two appearances all year — although one of them was his last time out.
The next batter was pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores. He’s quietly been one of the team’s best and most consistent hitters, and a pinch-hit ace. Perhaps you let yourself dream about back-to-back homers.
And if you didn’t watch the game, you probably think that’s the set up here.
But no. Flores flied out. The tiny hit of energy provided by Bart’s dinger evaporated.
And then Darin Ruf stepped into the box, saw a changeup that fluttered over the meaty bit of the plate, and demolished it.
Ruf doing his best Joey Bart impression pic.twitter.com/U0nVx6l11b— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 16, 2022
Now you had life. Now you had hope. Now you thought, well, they’re probably gonna lose but whatever, at least we had some fun.
And when Austin Slater slapped a single the other way for his fourth hit of the day you started to believe, really believe.
But. There’s always a but, isn’t there?
No sooner had you started to realize that maybe the terrifying Hader wasn’t immortal after all then Slater got picked off.
But while your heart dropped into your stomach, and that dream you’d had for 12 seconds dissipated into the cold, foggy air, Slater ran his proverbial ass off and, with a little help from a throw as askew as the best man’s tie after the seventh drink, he somehow made it safely to second.
And now the tying run was in scoring position.
Up came Yermín Mercedes, and you know he had only one thought on his mind: dinger city.
He fell behind 1-2, but thankfully Mercedes had the extended warranty. He stayed alive by taking a close fourth pitch. He stayed alive by fouling off the fifth pitch.
And then Hader tested Mercedes’ safety features by firing a 97-mph sinker — his sixth-straight sinker — directly at his shoulder.
I would have cried. You would have cried.
Mercedes did not cry. But he took his free base, putting the walk-off run at first.
Next was Thairo Estrada. Estrada did not do anything spectacular, but the Giants used their rollover luck plan to use some good fortune a day after basking in the misery of bad breaks.
He popped one up to no man’s land ... just close enough to someone’s land that Slater couldn’t score, but enough in no man’s land to hit the grass unscathed, loading the bases.
The tying run was at third. The walk-off run was at second. The unnecessary but still fun run was at first, while also representing the potential for a game-ending double play.
And that’s when Mike Yastrzemski’s spot in the order came up.
There was only one out. A medium fly ball could have tied the game, but a ground ball could have ended it.
Hader threw one pitch to Yaz, a 96-mph sinker that ran across the plate.
Yaz swung. He hit it. And the moment the bat cracked the ball, Hader went directly into the Mat Latos walk.
You know the one.
Enjoy this beauty, Giants fans. It’s the best moment of the season.
And it’s the best thing in baseball: a walk-off grand slam.
What a truly
awful, blundering, craptastic wonderful game