I hate to start an article with a silver lining, but let’s start this article with a silver lining. But first, we need something to line with silver, which means we need something bad. So let’s skip the drama and excitement and suspense and start with the end (a very bad place to start, or so Julie Andrews would lead me to believe): the Baltimore Orioles beat the San Francisco Giants 3-2 on Friday night.
Now, onto that silver lining. The Giants and Orioles played a fun, competitive, delightful game. You might not have enjoyed it, but that’s your Giants bias speaking.
The Orioles are one of the best teams in baseball, with a better record than any National League team. Last year, and in the first month of this year, the Giants looked silly against those types of teams. Sure, they’d win some games, as is the design of baseball. But baseball is one of the few sports where you can win comfortably while looking significantly worse.
Last year, a series against an elite team would look like this: lose and look a lot worse, win because some guys who will probably be in AAA next year had surprisingly good games while the opponent’s stars went cold, then lose and look a lot worse.
On Friday they lost, but they didn’t look a lot worse. The starting pitchers for each team, the relievers for each team, the hitters for each team ... they all walked in lockstep.
If you were an objective observer who just wanted to watch some nice baseball on a Friday night, you’d think gee, what a high-quality baseball game played by two high-quality baseball teams, the way you think that when the New York Yankees beat the Houston Astros.
Is that a lame silver lining? Perhaps. Should I let my competitive flag fly more, and stop savoring a losing effort? Maybe. Am I overreacting to the realization that the Giants can lose to one of the best teams in baseball and I can no longer default to an article titled Giants lose to a team that reminded us what a good baseball team looks like? Without a doubt.
But whatever. It is, as the kids say, what it is.
The other side of the coin is that the box score tells you the Giants should have won. They had the same number of home runs as the Orioles. They had half again as many hits as the Orioles. They had twice as many extra-base hits as the Orioles. They drew three times as many walks as the Orioles, and four times as many free passes if you include players who were hit by pitches which means, if my math is correct, their pitchers issued a third as many walks as the Orioles, and a quarter as many free passes.
The most basic of math says the Giants should have won, which is a pint glass with eight ounces of liquid in it. I’ll let you decide which way to view it.
Things started off in lovely fashion. Logan Webb retired all three batters he faced in the first inning, and looked good doing so.
The bottom half of the inning rolled around and LaMonte Wade Jr. put the very first pitch that Dean Kremer threw into the water.
Notably, it was just the second time that the Giants had hit a leadoff Splash Hit, with Denard Span hitting the other in 2016.
Even more notably, it was, at long last, Splash Hit No. 100.
Ladies and gentlemen...Splash Hit 1⃣0⃣0⃣ pic.twitter.com/cjMTMJZKI3— SFGiants (@SFGiants) June 3, 2023
Just wanna give a shoutout to the Giants social team, and a virtual hug to the person who had this tweet prepped for the last month and was hoping every time Wade came up that he would be the one to get the special homer.
The celebration didn’t last long. The Orioles answered in the second inning in a way that was cruel at the time, and even more cruel in hindsight. They strung three of their four hits together in the inning, with a walk added on top.
The go-ahead single came when Jorge Mateo strung at a two-out, 0-2 pitch, and did this:
Look, it’s a very, very fun game. I never claimed it was a fair one.
Weirdness ensuing was a theme of the game, and if you don’t want to call Mateo’s swingng bunt weird, then the ensuing of the said weirdness began in the third inning, when Brett Wisely hit a leadoff double. After Wade lined out — on a 103.2-mph liner with a .820 expected batting average, no less — J.D. Davis hit a single.
Wisely — one of the fastest runners on the team — was waved home, where a remarkable throw from Anthony Santander beat him by about a centimeter. That, in and of itself may not constitutes weirdness ensuing, but check out this wild statistic:
On June 2, the Giants just became the last team in the major leagues to make an out at the plate while attempting to score on a hit, fly ball, passed ball, or wild pitch. Every other team had run into at least three outs at the plate. The Pirates and Rangers had run into 10.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) June 3, 2023
The Giants running into an out at home is weird. Wisely running into an out at home is especially weird.
And because this is how baseball and life work, Mike Yastrzemski hit a double three pitches later that likely would have given the Giants the lead had Wisely not been waved home.
Yaz lasers one down the line to tie the game pic.twitter.com/pIWwwgv0Q4— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) June 3, 2023
Weirdness ensued once more in the top of the fifth inning when Patrick Bailey interfered with Jorge Mateo’s swing, but the umpire missed it. The Orioles challenged the call, it was overturned, and Mateo was awarded first base.
A few pitches later, Mateo tried to steal second base and Bailey nabbed him, but the umpire missed it. The Giants challenged the call, it was overturned, and Mateo was out.
What a silly dance those two did.
Weirdness called for a sub in the bottom of the fifth, to be replaced by frustration ensuing, as Brandon Crawford and Wisely — the last two hitters in the order — drew leadoff walks to give the Giants a prime rally. But Wade struck out and Davis hit into a double play, ending the dream.
Weirdness and frustration both took a breather in the sixth inning, as marvelousness ensued, in the form of a Crawford web gem that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before.
Crawford has a million defensive highlights in his rearview mirror, and only a handful more in front of the windshield. But I intend to savor every damn one.
Weirdness returned in the seventh inning and got right back to ensuing. Two pitches after Gunnar Henderson hit what would turn out to be the winning home run, Aaron Hicks hit a ball far enough to add an insurance run.
But instead of being a home run for Hicks, it was perhaps the most bizarrely casual robbery I’ve ever seen, courtesy of Wisely.
I’m genuinely unsure of what happened here and, based on the discussion with Yastrzemski that followed, I’m guessing Yaz was, too.
Did Wisely just have total confidence that he could catch that ball without jumping, and not want to disrupt things be leaping? Did he think it was going to be a lower or easier catch? Did he watch Bryce Johnson earn a date with a head trauma doctor after taking on that very same wall and think, Nah, I’m good, we’re probably gonna lose anyway? Did he forget what he was doing and then remember at the last minute that he had a baseball to catch?
I have no clue. But I very much enjoyed it.
That was the end of the weirdness. There was a touch more frustration in the eighth, when Wilmer Flores led off with a pinch-hit walk, and Davis drew a one-out hit by pitch, only for Yastrzemski to hit into a double play.
There was tension ensuing in the ninth — the kind you’d enjoy if, again, you didn’t have a raging Giants bias — when Casey Schmitt knocked a two-out double against one of the top closers in baseball, Felix Bautista, and Michael Conforto pinch hit, taking a 98-mph fastball three inches above the plate for strike one, then swinging through two more pitches at the same speed.
The Orioles won 3-2, the Giants losing streak hit three, and they fell back below .500. But you don’t have to squint very hard to find one good game, or two good teams.