It wasn’t weird in the sense of an unexpected performance, or a wild comeback, or an improbable outcome, or a roller-coaster narrative. It was weird in the way your fleeting dreams are weird ... you know the ones I’m talking about. The ones where you’re wandering through the woods and find a hot pink toilet with artificial grass for a seat, and you want to poop in it but when you lift the lid you realize it’s full of fancy cheese, and when you reach to grab the cheese there’s nothing there because you’re floating in a hot air balloon grasping at clouds, and this makes you happy until you turn around and realize there’s no one else in the hot air balloon and you don’t know how to fly hot air balloons.
The game was that kind of weird.
Consider just a few things that happened along the way:
In the first inning, Michael Conforto hit a two-run double to give the Giants the lead, and Dylan Carlson, in an attempt to track down the ball, broke down the bullpen door like a firefighter entering an apartment.
In the middle of the fourth inning, as LaMonte Wade Jr. was jogging back to the dugout after getting stranded at second base, Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty started yelling at him, causing Wade — normally the coolest of cucumbers — to get as mad as I’ve ever seen him, which caused both dugouts to clear, even though we never found out what the hell happened.
The Giants' and Cardinals' dugouts and bullpens cleared between innings pic.twitter.com/6va14j8Yuc— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) June 14, 2023
In the fifth inning, Brandon Crawford laid down his first sacrifice bunt since the 2014 season. It was a successful safety squeeze, because of course it was. The Giants may be swinging for the fences at the expense of contact like a baseball traditionalist’s fearful belief of what the sport will look like by 2030, but they still do some pretty cool old school stuff, too.
Later in the fifth inning, Wilmer Flores pinch hit with the bases loaded, worked the count to 3-1, then took a pitch a good six inches (or nine inches, if you’re a man describing this baseball game on Tinder) off the plate that was called a strike, and he popped out on the next pitch.
In the bottom half of the fifth inning, Luke Jackson (relieving Alex Cobb who had, you guessed it, a weird start) threw a 1-2 pitch that landed between Willson Contreras’ feet, and Contreras tossed the bat and jogged to first base, which umpire Tripp Gibson happily watched him do, and only when Gabe Kapler came out and asked hey guy ... what? did the umpire tell Contreras that actually you have to take a third ball and a fourth ball in order to walk, and then Contreras sat there and watched the next pitch come straight down the zone to strike him out.
In the sixth inning, Cardinals reliever Génesis Cabrera was having issues with his PitchCom (or claiming to, at least), which led to the umpire that you may recall from classic hits such as That Ball’s a Strike, Wilmer, and What’s the Difference Between Ball 2 and Ball 4, Really becoming quite ornery, which led to Giants broadcaster Dave Flemming proclaiming, “And the umpire was mad at him for I don’t know what ... I don’t know what.” Never has a sentence more accurately summed up a game ... a game that said to hell with Rob Manfred and lasted three hours and 17 minutes.
There were three stories in the game, and none of them were about how the Giants got from 0-0 to 11-3. That’s barely a footnote. They scored twice immediately then gave up two runs immediately, then went on a 7-0 run and then the rest was window dressing. It’s not really a story. It was happening and then it happened and now it has happened. End of story. Wins are good. I like this.
Instead, the three stories were as follows: the weirdness, the injuries, and the Winn (not the win ... try to keep up).
We covered the weirdness. Let’s move to the injuries which, it probably won’t surprise you to learn, were also weird.
Seeking to bounce back after blowing a 2-0 lead, the Giants put runners at the corners with one out in the third inning when Joc Pederson drew a walk and J.D. Davis roped a single. The next batter, Conforto (who had a four-hit day) again came through with the go-ahead hit, knocking in a single that gave the Giants a 3-2 lead. Davis turned on his motor and tried to go first to third, but an aggressive slide into the bag left him writhing in pain and holding his ankle.
To add insult to injury, Davis was still on the ground talking to trainer Dave Groeschner when the Cardinals challenged the call. Replay review showed that Davis was both out and turned his ankle in a way that very few things should turn, most notably ankles. He walked off the field on his own power, but clearly in a lot of pain.
The very next pitch of the game was an 88-mph sinker that hit Mitch Haniger on his right forearm. His immediate reaction told you everything you needed to know, and Groeschner barely had time to turn around and head back onto the field before Haniger was coming out of the game.
In a span of two pitches, the Giants had reached base safely twice, made an out, scored the go-ahead run, had a call overturned, and suffered two serious injuries.
Again: on a span of two pitches.
It was the epitome of weirdness, even if the weirdness was very, very cruel.
To add to the weirdness of doing so much on exactly two pitches, the Giants would later do something else notable on exactly two pitches: hit two home runs.
The first came from Mike Yastrzemski against Cabrera, a lefty. Yaz, who had just seven hits in 42 plate appearances against lefties this year. Against Cabrera, who had given up just eight hits in 51 plate appearances against lefties this year.
And exactly one pitch later, Patrick Bailey hit a home run from the right side, which we’ve spent the last few years being told is his uncompetitive side.
This baseball game was very weird. Have I said that?
And finally, onto the Winn. Righty Keaton Winn, called up Monday, made his MLB debut in the sixth inning at Busch Stadium, some four hours down the road from his podunk hometown of Ollie, Iowa, which emptied out to see their beloved Major Leaguer make his debut.
It was a beautiful moment, as all debuts are. And it was made all the more beautiful by the fact that Winn pitched delightfully, closing out the game and giving up just five baserunners and one run in four innings of work.
Keaton Winn records a four-inning save in his big league debut pic.twitter.com/CllLkUF77E— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) June 14, 2023
He had the first-game jitters that you would expect, as three of his baserunners were walks, and one was a hit batter. But he looked good. He looked like he belonged, which he emphatically did. And he made a little bit of history along the way.
Keaton Winn is the first Giants pitcher to record a save in his MLB debut since Jim Duffalo in 1961. But the save wasn't an official MLB statistic until 1969, so that makes Winn officially the first to do it. Either way, he got Sriracha and toothpaste in his mouth after the game.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) June 14, 2023
Keaton Winn says he still can’t feel his legs. He, like Blake Sabol, somehow had his mouth open for the postgame condiment shower and he got an unpleasant siracha and toothpaste combo.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) June 14, 2023
We got to see the look on his face as he took the mound for the first time, and walked off it for the first time, and walked back to it for the first time, and shook the catcher’s hand after ending a successful game for the first time. And we got to watch his family cry the happy tears that only come from supporting someone as hard as you can and seeing them actualize their dreams.
A special moment for the Winn family pic.twitter.com/6uG36NLfxo— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) June 14, 2023
The Giants won 11-3, securing a fourth straight road series win, and giving them a chance for a second straight road sweep tomorrow. Winn became the Giants seventh player to make his MLB debut this season, and you only have to wait a few more hours for the eighth.
Within minutes of Davis and Haniger suffering their injuries, Luis Matos and David Villar were pulled from AAA Sacramento’s game in Sugar Land, Texas, a short flight away. A few innings later, the Giants announced the result of Haniger’s x-rays: he has a fractured forearm.
It’s heartbreaking news for a hometown player who has suffered many bizarre injuries before, and was just starting to find a groove with his new team. But thankfully he has a good attitude about it.
Haniger needs more imagine to determine if fracture is displaced. He says he has come back from worse so doesn’t sound too downcast.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) June 14, 2023
Gabe Kapler confirmed that Matos and Villar are both en route to St. Louis, and that at least one will be activated for the series finale. It’s not hard to read the tea leaves here. If Davis — who the team announced has a sprained ankle — has to be placed on the Injured List, then Villar will be activated.
And Matos? It looks like we’ll see the hottest prospect in baseball patrolling center field every day for the foreseeable future. It’s not how they envisioned making space for him on the roster, but if there’s one thing the Giants — a blistering 20-13 since Casey Schmitt made his debut — have proven this year, it’s that where the youngsters lead, the wins follow.