There were four things that led to the San Francisco Giants beating the San Diego Padres 1-0 on Monday night, extending their win streak to three games — their longest since the final trio of games before the All-Star break.
But rather than following the tired trope of a chronological sports recap, let’s instead start at a very good place to start: no, not at the beginning (sorry, Julie Andrews), but at the climactic moment.
It’s the bottom of the seventh inning, and the Giants lead 1-0. After getting the leadoff batter out, Alex Wood allows a single to new Padre Brandon Drury. It was the final pitch that Wood would throw on an exceptional day — spoiler: he’s one of the aforementioned four things.
In comes John Brebbia with one on and one out, and the fourth pitch he throws is tattooed into the corner by Ha-seong Kim. It has all the marks of a game-tying double.
But Luis González, whose breakout offensive season has been partially negated by a year full of defensive foibles, dug it out gracefully and got it in quickly. And Brandon Crawford, who’s all-world defense has lagged far behind his expectations this year, did that magical hop wherein you jump, catch the ball, and land loaded to fire it off, which he then did. And Joey Bart, unfairly criticized all year for carrying the ignominious label of “not Buster Posey” dug it out on one side of the line and swiped across his body as Drury did his best Superman impression.
There’s always a “but,” and in this instance the “but” is that Drury was called safe. Yet Bart, sturdy captain that he is, immediately pointed for a review. And Gabe Kapler — perhaps knowing that anything even remotely close deserved a replay at that juncture, or perhaps wanting to show a public display of faith in his young franchise backstop — seemed to order the review without waiting for confirmation from his replay booth.
And after a few tedious moments, the call was overturned. The lead stood. The lovely play by González stood. The elite play by Crawford stood. And the tag by Bart — perhaps the defensive highlight of the season — stood.
Gonzo➡️Craw➡️Joey— SFGiants (@SFGiants) August 9, 2022
RELAY RACE GOLD MEDAL pic.twitter.com/WnwXdXjq5T
On the broadcast, Dave Flemming and Javier López called it the team’s best swipe tag since Posey nabbed Prince Fielder at home during the 2012 World Series. I won’t go so far as to echo that sentiment, simply because it’s way too easy to forget about a random second inning tag in an April 2015 game.
But I will say that what Bart did cannot, in a vacuum, be topped. The positioning. The receiving. The swiping. The springing into a stance to check the runner at second.
It was, frankly, as good as it gets.
So how did the Giants get here from there? Well, with brilliance from Wood, who made light work of the terrifying Padresian lineup. In 6.1 innings, Wood gave up just three hits — all singles — and no walks. He hit one batter, but that batter — Jake Cronenworth — worked for it. He needed only 89 pitches.
Not many pitchers can make Juan Soto take a swing like this pic.twitter.com/viUuvR6mjx— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 9, 2022
His funky delivery had the Padres off rhythm all game. He’s a weapon, still, and if the Giants intend on making a run — the win pulled them to 5.5 games behind San Diego for the final Wild Card spot — then they’ll need this version of Wood with regularity.
And they got there by doing just enough offensively, with a performance that would have resulted in you losing many of your hairs had the pitching and defense not been so sublime.
In the first inning they put runners at the corners with no outs. Three strikeouts later, they hadn’t scored.
In the fourth inning they loaded the bases with no outs. A Thairo Estrada sacrifice fly scored the game’s lone run, then Bart walked to load the bases with one out, before another rally came to an abrupt halt.
That was the offense. It shouldn’t have been enough. But it was enough. So instead of being frustrated, we get to rejoice.
And now for the fourth and final key: Camilo Doval.
The closer entered the ninth staring down a veritable murderer’s row of hitters: Juan Soto, Manny Machado, and Josh Bell. That’s arguably the best hitter in baseball, one of the leading candidates for MVP, and a guy having an offensive season on par with both of them.
Doval got Soto to ground out quietly. He got Machado to line out softly.
And then, on the sixth pitch to Bell, Doval reached into his pocket and calmly pulled out one of the best cutters you’ll ever see.
103 MPH HEAT FOR THE WIN pic.twitter.com/t09QLtrAuX— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 9, 2022
When I say “one of the best cutters you will ever see,” I am not being hyperbolic. It was an historic cutter.
Camilo Doval’s 102.9 mph pitch to strike out Josh Bell to end the game was the fastest pitch of his career and the fastest cutter in the pitch tracking era (since 2008).— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) August 9, 2022
Joey Bart. Alex Wood. Camilo Doval.
And just enough offense.