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Phillies again forget how to catch baseballs, Giants again remember how to win

I think they’ve found the formula.

Casey Schmitt jumping in the air to avoid a slide at second base by Kody Clemens Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

When the San Francisco Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 on Monday night, I wrote about how comforting it is when other teams exhibit the bad habits that your brain has tricked you into thinking only the Giants do. I used the Giants (perceived) inability to hit well with runners in scoring position as an example to set up the game story: the Phillies utter silliness with their gloves.

I thought about both of those things on Tuesday night as the team’s had a showdown in the deep depths of a foggy NorCal night.

First it was the whole runners in scoring position thing. Alex Cobb, who has been nothing short of brilliant lately, started for the Giants and right off the bat didn’t have it. He got ahead of the leadoff batter, Bryson Stott, 0-2, which turned into a nine-pitch walk. He got ahead of the next batter, Trea Turner, 0-2, which turned into a single.

And then, just to remind you that baseball is weird, he fell behind one of the greatest hitters of all time, Bryce Harper, 2-0, and got him to ground into a double play.

It was more of the same in the second inning. Cobb was laboring, but surviving. He gave up a one-out double, then issued back-to-back two-out walks to load the bases. It took him 46 pitches to bend through two innings, but he hadn’t broken.

The third inning featured a one-out walk and a two-out walk, but Cobb again survived. And it was then that the Giants broadcast blessed us with an amazing factoid that, if taken out of context, you would assume was about the Giants. But it was about the Phillies: they were hitless in their last 26 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Pain (if you’re a Phillies fan). Catharsis (but you’re a Giants fan).

And then, in the bottom half of the inning, the Phillies defensive foolishness began.

After Blake Sabol singled and Joey Bart flied out, LaMonte Wade Jr. ripped a single into the outfield. Brandon Marsh came up throwing, it just wasn’t particularly clear to whom. The throw ended up where it shouldn’t oughta been, which allowed Wade to move to second, putting multiple runners in scoring position, and eliminating the inning-ending force play.

We can’t butterfly effect the game, but if we assume everything stayed equal, the foible didn’t really help the Giants. Singles by Thairo Estrada and Michael Conforto gave them a 2-0 lead, which probably would have been the case either way.

But again. Catharsis. Other teams doing frustrating things. What a treat.

In the fourth inning, Cobb’s bending finally resulted in breaking. Back-to-back-to-back one-out singles scored a run, while putting the runners at the corners.

Remarkably, it was the first run that Cobb had allowed on US soil since April 19. What a streak.

And then came the frustration for Cobb. He was called for the most ticky-tacky of balks, which served the dual pain of removing the force play and scoring the tying run.

I won’t pretend to understand much about balks, except that that was a weak one to call and Cobb was none too pleased.

He was also rattled for perhaps the first time all year. He threw a wild pitch on a 1-2 count to Turner, allowing the runner to move to third. Then he threw a second consecutive wild pitch, which struck Turner out, only for Turner to steal first base. But it was so wild that it bounced back to home and didn’t allow the run to score.

It was both incredibly lucky and incredibly unlucky, all at once, and you probably felt like things would devolve from here.

They wouldn’t. Taylor Rogers came in and made Harper swing and miss three times in one at-bat which, I’m told, is not what you’re supposed to do as a hitter. A ground out to Nick Castellanos later, and the Giants had escaped the inning with the tie intact.

And that’s when the Phillies clankmittery began in earnest.

Casey Schmitt — who later in the game got Pac Bell’d/AT&T’d/Oracle’d in a “welcome to SF” moment — had a one-out single, and Joey Bart later stepped to the plate with two outs and Schmitt on first.

Bart has done many good things this year, but hit for power has not been one of them. Oddly enough he’s still in search of his first home run this year, and entered the game with just four doubles in 77 plate appearances. Two outs and a runner on first isn’t the worst time to swing for the fences, and Bart did exactly that. The problem? He accidentally grabbed his lob wedge instead of his driver, and managed to hit the ball with an exit velocity of 83.3 mph (per Statcast), a launch angle of 64 degrees (per Statcast), a distance of 145 feet (per Statcast), an expected batting average of .010 (per Statcast), and a height of 2,890,109 feet (artist’s interpretation).

The Phillies fielders did that dance that you see Florida folks do with alligators, where they’re moving around, all looking at the same spot, but no one willing to actually get close to the bloody thing. And the ball, which in fairness, was spun around in the wind like Dorothy’s house, went flying from foul ground to fair territory where it landed gracefully.

With two outs Schmitt was running all the way, and had almost scored from first by the time the ball returned to earth.

Thanks for the gift, Phillies.

The gift kept on giving, as a Wade single scored Bart in the most tense and tenuous of fashions, as Estrada forgot to get behind the plate to motion for Bart to slide, leaving the Giants catcher to come home standing, missing a tag out by a centimeter and a broken angle on a rogue bat by an inch.

Disaster averted, two-run lead regained.

It was all the Giants needed. Tyler Rogers flirted with trouble in the seventh, allowing back-to-back singles to open the inning, but then forced a double play. Camilo Doval gave up a two-out home run to Kyle Schwarber in the ninth, but between you and me, I think that was just for dramatic purposes. Who can blame him.

Giants win 4-3 and have officially stopped their skid by winning a series. They won despite their best pitcher this season having far and away his worst outing. If you’re a mega pessimist I suppose you could find that discouraging, but it’s not. It’s very good.

Tomorrow they go for their first sweep of the year. Hopefully not their last.