The San Francisco Giants weren’t supposed to play on Thursday.
(And yes, for those wondering, I did consider chasing the low-hanging fruit by making this intro about how they didn’t actually play on Thursday. It was there for the taking. I almost took it.)
When the 2022 schedule first came out, the Giants had Thursday off. They were in between cities, playing the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday and the Chicago Cubs on Friday, and the schedule-makers gave them a lovely day of rest on their road trip.
But when the lockout pushed back the start of the season, the schedule had to change. Rather than simply push all the games back, MLB took the lost games and shoved them into various spots throughout the year.
Which is how the Giants and Milwaukee Brewers ended up playing two of the most rare things in baseball: a one-game series, which the Giants “swept” on April 25, and a one-day, two-game series, which the Brewers swept on September 8. Which is today, for those of you who never bought your 2022 calendars because honestly, what is time.
So instead of flying to Chicago on Wednesday night and having a day on Thursday to eat hot dogs and take selfies with the bean, and whatever other things people do in Chicago, the Giants detoured to Milwaukee.
And for what? They could have just said “no” to the schedule-makers, and forfeited those two games to the Brewers. It would have accomplished the same thing in the standings. It would have been more fun for them. It would have been more fun for you.
But no. They showed up. They played their games. And in 18 innings they collected 7 hits, 3 runs, 27 strikeouts, and 2 losses.
Strong, “I spent the day in Wisconsin and all I got was this stupid t-shirt” vibes.
They lost the second game in the first inning. After struggling to do anything offensively in a 2-1 loss in Game 1, you knew the Giants couldn’t withstand a deficit.
So they got one immediately. Alex Young, who has been delightful since joining the Giants, was the opener. Despite using starters in both games, the Giants opted for openers in both jaunts as well. We’ll talk about that later (spoiler: we will not talk about that later).
Young walked the first batter he faced. He allowed a single to the second. He walked the third. Suddenly the Brewers had the bases loaded with no outs, and you had your pessimism loaded with no hope.
He got a sharply hit grounder to third, and while it probably wouldn’t have been an opportunity for a triple play, it was kind of set up for it. At the very least it should have been an easy double play to pump the brakes on a big inning, but Evan Longoria kicked it, two runs scored, no outs were recorded, and the game felt over. Young would retire the next two batters — one by way of a sacrifice fly, scoring a third run — and depart before making it through the inning.
That brought Sean Hjelle into the game, and if there was one silver lining, it was the 6’11 rookie on the mound. Hjelle was making his fourth MLB appearance after being called up as the spare player afforded to teams for doubleheaders (I find it funny that you get one extra player for doubleheaders whether rosters have expanded or not, but that’s neither here nor there nor anywhere important).
Hjelle had his best outing. His fastball touched 96, and forgive me for my lack of knowledge and research but uhh ... when the hell did that happen?? He gave up just three hits and two walks in five innings, with the lone run he allowed coming when an inherited runner scored from first with two outs.
And he struck out six batters, which continues a very funny trend for him: he has 15 Ks in 11 innings this year, after just 80 in 97 AAA innings. He’s never been a strikeout artist in the Minors, but seems to have it in the Majors.
Maybe it’s just small sample silliness. Or maybe baseball is just weird. Both seem pretty plausible.
Yet for all his excellence, Hjelle’s night came to an end when his 87th and final pitch hit Luis Urías on the head. Thankfully Urías stayed in the game, but never fun to see ... and hopefully something that doesn’t get in Hjelle’s head at all.
The Giants would eventually score some runs, on a meek seventh-inning rally and an eighth-inning blast from Joc Pederson, setting the score at 4-2.
Joc doing what Joc does best pic.twitter.com/9V4Nwd4X8Q— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 9, 2022
But it wasn’t their game. And it wasn’t their day.
And it’s not their season.