The San Francisco Giants are ... well, they’re a team.
I don’t want to argue about what they are. The run differential tells you they’re a good team. The pitching and hitting metrics tell you they’re a competent defense away from being a stellar team.
If you think either of those things, I am not going to argue with you. And if you think, “I just watched the last two weeks, or months of Giants baseball, and now I need prescription glasses even though I had perfect eyesight in May, this team is truly awful,” well ... I’m not going to argue with that, either.
Yet wherever you land on that spectrum, we can all agree on one thing: whatever the Giants are, the Los Angeles Dodgers are better. A whole lot better.
Take everything you think the Giants do well, and the Dodgers also do it well. Take everything you think the Giants do poorly, and the Dodgers do it well. Take some things you hadn’t even thought about, and the Dodgers do that well, too. Then multiply it by seven.
It was all on display in the Dodgers 8-2 win on Monday night, their fifth win in as many attempts against the Giants since the All-Star break.
They were the better team, and in a sport where a bad team still beats a great team about a third of the time, the outcome still managed to feel inevitable.
It was not without hope, albeit of the fleeting variety.
The Giants struck first, in fact.
Darin Ruf led off the bottom of the first by getting hit by a pitch, one of the few stains in Andrew Heaney’s night. With two outs, Wilmer Flores singled. Luis González followed it up with a bunt single that the Dodgers reviewed. My takeaway from the review was that, had González been called out, the review would have stood. But he was called safe, so the review stood in the good way.
It loaded the bases for David Villar. In a 2-1 count he took a pitch very clearly in the strike zone. It was called ball three. He walked home a run on the next pitch.
The Giants led 1-0 but it was labor-intensive. More pertinently, it was lucky. You can’t rely on rallies beginning with hit batters. González deserves credit for his bunt, but in a game of inches he was safe by a tenth of centimeter. The Giants, masters of the bunt hit, used to do it to take advantage of defensive positioning; now they seem to do it as an admission that nothing else will work. And you can’t rely on that.
Nor can you rely on an umpire missing a call in your favor to tilt a count in a key moment.
The Giants got all of those things. You could even claim they deserved all of those things. But you knew, even as it unfolded, they would not get all of those things again.
And you knew they needed more.
I don’t have the words for what it’s like to stare down the barrel of the Dodgers lineup. The guy who led off is an MVP. The guy after him will be an MVP, I have little doubt. The guy after him is an MVP. The guy after him is the best hitting catcher alive. The guy after him is Jake Lamb. The guy after him is a former top-two prospect who is putting it all together. The guy after him has hit 18 home runs in 64 games against the Giants. The guy after him is an MVP. And the guy after him has now played two MLB games and has already accrued as much WAR as Brandon Belt and more than Ruf.
A walk in the park, really.
Logan Webb, who did the impossible by shutting down the Dodgers at every turn a year ago, was not up to the task of defeating a team that would probably go .500 if they only played the AL All-Star team. The Giants killeriest of Giants killers, Max Muncy, tattooed a ball to dead center in the second inning, and while Austin Slater gave it — and the wall — everything he had, he fell a few inches short of robbery.
It was a double whammy. It gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. And it reminded you that the Giants have zero margin for error against the Dodgers. A home run robbery missed could not be overcome. A deficit could not be turned upside-down.
The Dodgers added three more runs in the third on a rally that felt almost playful it was so casual. Gabe Kapler let Webb get through five innings, perhaps as a white flag while he saved his bullpen for Tuesday, or perhaps because Webb getting tattered by the Dodgers is still probably a better option than anything that waited behind the outfield walls.
Webb gave up another run. The Giants got it back with a Flores solo homer that made you feel no emotion. You stared blankly, your eyes seven minutes past their last blink, and muttered, in a monotone, Wilmer Flores is pretty good I guess.
And then the Dodgers scored two more runs and ended the game on a wholly unnecessary style-points sliding catch by Trea Turner, because they’re the Dodgers, and that’s what they do.
They’re really, really good. And the Giants are ... well ... something.