The San Francisco Giants game against the Colorado Rockies on Monday started ominously.
The first pitch of the game, a 92-mph slider from Chad Kuhl to LaMonte Wade Jr., was outside by somewhere between a mile and a kilometer (who knows the difference, really). It was called a strike.
See, here it is, hiding behind that purple ball.
Wade overcame the grave injustice to get on base with a single. The next batter of the game, Thairo Estrada, then struck out on an equally egregious call. Here, look at lucky little No. 6.
Ominous. But it is Coors Field, after all, where ominousness reigns supreme.
And then came something you do not see every day. In fact, then came something I don’t think I’ve seen any day. Following a Joc Pederson single, Wilmer Flores hit a ground ball up the middle. In an impressive-looking play, Ryan McMahon flipped the ball to Alan Trejo who gunned the ball to C.J. Cron for an inning-ending double play.
But wait! The Giants would challenge, and it looked like they would win. But wait again! Out comes Gabe Kapler and suddenly we find out that the Giants are throwing the rarest of rarities: the double challenge.
Kapler averred that the Rockies had gotten neither the out at second nor the one at first, and after a long-distance call to New York City, it was concluded that the Kap man was correct. Instead of the inning being over with no runs, the Giants were awarded a run, and had two on base with one out.
Of course they did nothing with it, which you could have predicted, but, you know ... so it goes, or something.
The ominousness (ominosity?) continued in the third inning (at which point the Giants were trailing 3-1), when Brandon Crawford made a spectacular defensive play and, before you had time to digest how cool it was, David Villar was making a double-error, bobbling with his glove and misfiring with his arm.
So yes, there was a successful double challenge and a double error. To add to it, Rockies right fielder Michael Toglia had a double triple, while the Giants had a failed attempt at a double steal. The teams combined for four double plays, which is a double-double of double plays.
And on those notes, Villar had an awfully rough stretch. The double error in the third was followed by a defensive foible in the fourth (which wasn’t technically an error but was a bad play), which was followed in the fifth by getting thrown out at home (by the length of one Sean Hjelle) on the aforementioned failed double steal.
It was a rough day for the rookie at that point, and it was a rough day for the Giants which was perfectly and accidentally summed up by Dave Flemming when he said on the broadcast that, “Jakob Junis did pitch better than the 12 hits would indicate,” and gosh, if that stretch of a silver lining doesn’t define the Giants season then I don’t know what does.
Meanwhile, they’d dug a 6-2 hole, with the lone highlight being when Mike Yastrzemski took on dead center field for his first home run since August 12.
Mike Yastrzem pic.twitter.com/SOFpZucZXJ— SFGiants (@SFGiants) September 20, 2022
But Coors Field is Coors Field, and you’re never out of it. The Giants weren’t out of it. They small-ball rallied in the fifth inning, using four singles, a hit by pitch, and a sacrifice fly to score a trio of runs and get within one. They kept it there with an obscene defensive play by Crawford.
BCraw is just showing off now pic.twitter.com/STZuXrBhtO— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 20, 2022
They gave up a sixth-inning run, and entered the ninth inning trailing 7-5.
Estrada, who has repeatedly missed the memo that the Giants aren’t supposed to be good this year, kicked off the inning by roping a two-bagger into the gap. Pederson grounded out, but Flores knocked Estrada home with a single, putting the tying run on base. Flores was replaced by the freshly-activated Austin Slater, to put speed on the baths, but it didn’t matter when Crawford hit a lineout that put the Giants down to their final out.
And the next batter was Villar. Villar, who had a game that he surely wanted to forget about as quickly as possible. It was his chance to rectify things, or double down on wanting to pretend September 19 doesn’t exist anymore.
He thankfully chose the former, drilling an 0-1 pitch down the line for a game-tying double.
Rallying in the Rockies ️ pic.twitter.com/a2ofLiRqc6— SFGiants (@SFGiants) September 20, 2022
To the 10th we went, and the Giants looked poised to waste the Manfred Man. Luis González struck out. Then J.D. Davis struck out. And just like that, the pressure was on. But Wade drew a walk, and up came Estrada.
And it’s now where the game comes full circle. Estrada drew a 3-0 count, then took strike one. Then he took what he thought was ball four, but it was called strike two.
In fairness, it was definitely a strike. But the Giants, frustrated all day by one of the worst strike zones I have ever seen, wanted one. And Estrada, after that first inning strikeout, really wanted one.
So he hopped and jumped. He winced and grimaced. He might have said something to the home plate umpire, and he definitely said something to Pederson in the on-deck circle.
And then, briefly so upset that he had to face a sixth pitch, he stepped back into the box and did this:
BROKE THE THAI pic.twitter.com/bRNxbpLk19— SFGiants (@SFGiants) September 20, 2022
Giants win 10-7. Because Coors Field, and because Thairo Estrada.