One thing I do when watching San Francisco Giants games — especially when I’m then writing about them — is I try to identify a narrative as early as possible. It’s amazing to me how often the story or theme of a game, in just the first inning, pops out of the ground like a gopher and makes itself known.
The Giants were trying to build on their Thursday night 5-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 2 of the series, but you knew it wouldn’t be easy. The Brewers had an All-Star pitcher on the mound in Freddy Peralta, and were probably pissed after getting shut out the night before. And also there’s the whole, you know ... being good at baseball thing.
So when LaMonte Wade Jr. worked a nine-pitch at-bat to lead off the game, like he so masterfully does, but it ended in a strikeout rather than the walk we’ve grown to expect, and Blake Sabol followed it up with a strikeout, and J.D. Davis followed that up with a well-hit fly ball that found a glove, it felt like a hint as to what the narrative of the game would be.
And when the bottom half of the inning rolled around, it really felt like story of the game was being rolled out for all to see. Old friend Darin Ruf kicked off the inning with a single. William Contreras drew a walk. Willy Adames fell behind 1-2, then watched Alex Wood miss the strike zone on three straight pitches.
The bases were loaded. There were no outs. The game was telling us exactly what it would be.
But the fun thing about baseball is that, for as often as it reveals the story right off the bat — pardon the pun — it fakes us out with almost equal regularity.
On Wednesday, during the Giants ugly loss to the Minnesota Twins, it was clear off the bat that it was not their game. You felt the same thing after the first inning on Friday. You knew that feeling.
And then, two pitches later, Christian Yelich grounded into a double play, with the Giants ceding a run to get the out. It proved a smart call. Two pitches later, the inning was over.
Armed with new life, the Giants went to the second inning with the potential to maybe not get their butt kicked. Michael Conforto, currently one of the hottest baseball players on the planet (who is also playing well) started the second inning with a walk. Peralta, a righty, wanted no part of the the Giants powerful lefty.
Dave Flemming had barely finished a sentence about how teams are going to be willing to pitch around Conforto for as long as Mitch Haniger is struggling behind him when Haniger launched one to the deep part of the yard.
It bears noting that the Giants will benefit greatly from Haniger returning to his old self. For his career, he has a higher home run rate than Conforto, and one that rivals Joc Pederson. Yet this was his first homer of the year outside of the Coors Field on HGH bandbox that was Mexico City.
The Giants are playing like a very good team right now, with Haniger hitting like Madison Bumgarner. Haniger hitting like one of the better-hitting left fielders would be a substantial improvement over Haniger hitting like one of the better-hitting pitchers.
The very next batter, Mike Yastrzemski, hit what should have been a back-to-back homer, but Tyrone Taylor had the ultra-rare half-robbery ... the equivalent of stealing everything from someone’s bedroom, then hearing the garage door open and running out of the house.
Or, in more direct terms, Taylor got enough glove on the ball to stop it from being a home run, but couldn’t actually catch it, so Yaz ended up with a double. Patrick Bailey scored him with a single, and suddenly the Giants led 3-1 ... and the narrative was no longer what we all thought it was.
Come for the Patrick Bailey RBI, stay for Dave Flemming calling Mark Hallberg, “Mark Wahlberg.” pic.twitter.com/JNOPFM46LN— SFGiants (@SFGiants) May 27, 2023
But if the Giants grit, will, and, most importantly, talents at baseballing had started to turn the momentum of the game, then it was unfortunate happenstance that grabbed the wheel and yanked it fully.
In the bottom of the second, Brian Anderson led off and fell behind in the count 0-2. Trying to fight off a challenging sinker from Wood, Anderson slapped a ball foul straight into the Brewers dugout. Adames, in conversation with a teammate on the railing, had turned his head for a half-second at precisely the wrong time, and turned it back to right as the line drive came careening towards his face.
It was a scary moment — a very scary one. There’s nothing that makes you feel confident that someone is OK when a hard-hit baseball hits them in their unprotected face.
Adames, thankfully, walked out of the dugout on his own power, but everyone waited tensely for an injury update. When it came, it was about as good as one could hope: Adames is being held at a hospital overnight, but was, according to the team, “alert and responsive the whole time,” and has no fractures.
Here’s hoping that he is fine and back on the field soon.
On the radio broadcast, F.P. Santangelo noted that, in the aftermath of that incident, that all of the Brewers players would rather be anywhere else than playing a game.
The play reflected it. The Brewers went down mildly and in order in the inning, and then aided the Giants in fully putting the game away in the third.
Sabol led off and hit a ground ball at Owen Miller, who committed an error. Davis capitalized with an RBI double.
J.D. had Sabol RUNNING on this double ♂️ pic.twitter.com/3kPMPBA0F5— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 27, 2023
Conforto hit a comebacker, but Peralta, seeing that he had Davis caught in a pickle, threw the ball into the outfield. Haniger capitalized with a double.
After Yaz popped up, Casey Schmitt hit a single. Patrick Bailey followed up with an infield single that, while deserving of being scored as a hit, could have been an out with crisper defense. Brett Wisely, rounding out the rookie trio that occupied the back third of the lineup, fell behind 0-2, then worked the count until he saw a fastball over the plate, and promptly put it over the fence.
Just like that it was a seven-run inning and the game was over. It was fun, but you felt sorry for the Brewers. It’s bad enough to not want to be out there because of an injured teammate, but it’s a whole lot of salt in the wound when you’re getting blown out and still have six and a half innings left to play.
Wood, despite walking five batters, mostly cruised through 5.2 innings, making it far enough to earn a decision for the first time this year. Tristan Beck finished off the final 3.1 innings while allowing just one baserunner, and he’ll always be able to remember that his first career save came in a 14-run win.
The Giants added two more in the sixth on a rally, and two more in the seventh on a home run by Davis.
An eighth-inning double by Bailey scored the final run of the game, setting the score at 15-1, giving the Giants their largest win of the season, and giving the Brewers what will likely be their worst day of the year.
Needless to say, excellent performances abounded. Bailey had the first multi-hit game of his young career ... with four hits. Wisely added a double to go with his homer, while Schmitt had a pair of singles, as the youth movement showed up, showed out, and got picked up.
Davis had three extra-base hits, while Haniger finished a triple shy of the cycle in what we all hope is his breakout game.
It wasn’t all pretty. In a game where the Giants had 19 hits and 15 runs, Wade and Sabol combined to hit 0-11 with 9 of the team’s 13 strikeouts. But we’ll just assume they were saving their hits for tomorrow.
For the first time all season, the Giants are above .500. And if the last few weeks of play are any indication, they’ll be staying north of that mark for quite some time.