For six innings, Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers was shaping up to be a dud, a real 2022 special: sleepy offense, questionable defense, decent pitching asked to carry too much of the load.
Giants starter Carlos Rodón gave up 5 runs and striking out 7 over five innings. For the most part, the All Star starter looked sharp, generating 17 swings and misses over his outing, but he had trouble closing out innings which would be the theme all night for San Francisco’s pitching.
After two quick outs in the first, Freddie Freeman forced Rodón to pump the brakes by depositing an 0-2 fastball into the bleachers. In the second, Trayce Thompson doubled on a two-out, two-strike slider. Thompson ended up at third after a throwing error by Estrada, which proved inconsequential in terms of the final score, but foreshadowed late-inning developments and illustrated fine literary techniques when constructing a narrative.
In the 3rd, a Justin Turner fly ball with two men on and two out was lost in the lights by right fielder Luis González. By the time the ball landed 10 yards behind him, two more Dodger runs had scored.
The frustration started to show here. Any hopes of maintaining the momentum established pre-All Star Break had exited through the gift shop. Rodón turned his back to the outfield, swearing under his breath. González looked up into the southern California night for answers, but there were none: no laser pointer from the nosebleeds or great strobe light in the sky, not even a laughing god to blame.
By the end of the 3rd inning, LA was up 5-0 and the esteemed Giants broadcasters Jon Miller and Dave Fleming turned their attention to Billie Eilish.
She was in the stands tonight. (Did you know she’s a Dodger fan?) Fleming was good to point out for the listeners at home that she is a world famous musician and went to some lengths to list her many professional accolades. Miller thought it was pretty cool that she got up and danced when one of her songs played over the loudspeakers at the stadium. They both got a chuckle out of the fact that someone as famous as her can still be so ecstatic and thrilled when they make it onto the ballpark jumbotron.
For six innings, the San Francisco Giants were comatose, splayed out and anesthetized. This has been their story all season long…
But a pulse was detected in the 7th when Evan Longoria launched a solo shot to left off reliever Phil Bickford. Bickford then walked González and gave up a single to Thairo Estrada. The pulse was still faint, but there.
Managers Dave Roberts and Gabe Kapler did a little match-up tango with lefty Alex Vesia ultimately coming in to face pinch hitter Austin Slater. Vesia hit Slater to set up the bases loaded. Suddenly, one beautiful swing of the bat could tie the game for San Francisco, and somehow, inexplicably, with two-outs and Darin Ruf up, that’s exactly what happened.
Ruf hits a grand slam to tie the game‼️ pic.twitter.com/vH4nuR3IdU— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 22, 2022
Even Billie was shocked into a grin.
I don’t want to overplay its significance, but at the time, Ruf’s grand slam felt like something that could 180 a season. It felt destined to be a staple for highlight reels and television documentaries to come. A late-inning comeback against arch rivals. A team squabbling for direction, for spirit, for hope finds it with one swing of the bat. It was life—Life!
Life Moments have been few and far between for us fans and when it happened, I felt like jumping in my car and ripping donuts in a K-Mart parking lot while blasting ‘bad guy’ over the stereo.
But I write all of this in the harsh reality of the following day.
The comeback was a tease. The slim lead San Francisco took in the 8th didn’t stick. The offense loaded the bases again but had spent all their big-hit tokens the previous inning.
The bullpen then blinked against a lineup of genetically modified baseball zombies without eyelids.
Dominic Leone hung a two-out slider to Trayce Thompson and he tripled home the tying run in Gavin Lux. Lefty Jarlín García, brought in to face lefty Cody Bellinger, walked him on four pitches and then offered up a batting practice change-up to Mookie Betts who cashed it in for 3 runs. Some more salt for your open wound? All of LA’s 9 runs came with two outs.
So what are the takeaways from a game like this?
Never watch baseball again? YES! NO! MAYBE???
Restock the bullpen? Farhan’s on it. He probably reached out to Trevor Rosenthal the moment after Dominic Leone threw this pitch.
Or look on the bright side? This season and series is far from over. A loss is a loss is a loss: a 5-0 shutout amounts to the same as a barn burner in the grand tally of a season—but if Darin Ruf got to choose, he’d take the loss with a grand slam.
As fans, we would too.