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Giants shut out former Giants

The road winning streak is now at 10.

Patrick Bailey and Camilo Doval shaking hands after a game Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Somewhere in the middle of the San Francisco Giants 3-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, I had a realization of sorts. I’ll admit that it took me longer to come to this realization than it should have, given that the Giants now have a 10-game road winning streak (their longest in-season streak since moving to San Francisco), are 28-11 in their last 39 games, and comfortably have the best record in baseball since April 22, a chunk of dates that spans almost exactly three-quarters of the season to date.

I realized how excited I am to watch the Giants match up with a good baseball team, which the Blue Jays (like the Diamondbacks, and Dodgers, and...) very much are.

Baseball is a funny sport and I don’t need to explain that to you. I don’t need to remind you that even when the worst team plays the best team on the road, they’re still likely to win at least once in that series. Bad teams beat good teams, but even when they’re beating them, it’s not always competitive.

I don’t know how to explain it, but you can see it. You can feel it. I am going to punish myself for making this sad analogy, but it’s the best one I can think of: it’s like late-career Tim Lincecum. He’d have the occasional scoreless five-inning start, or one-run, six-inning start, and you’d try to convince yourself of something based on what his ERA was over his last three games if you remove the first two innings. But inside, you knew. And you compare that to his bad starts when he was a Cy Young caliber player, and it was abundantly clear who the better pitcher was, even when the single-game results didn’t show it.

I suspected the Giants might be good this year, even before the year started. I certainly suspected it when they first heated up. And that suspicion of goodness has been replaced by both a confirmation of goodness and a suspicion of greatness over the last few weeks, but it didn’t really dawn on me until today the single point that, for me, defines that goodness-bordering-on-greatness: an absolute joy in watching them play other good or great teams. Because, win or lose, it’s clear that the Giants have a seat at the table, and the result is usually a high-quality baseball game that’s just a treat to watch.

Tuesday was a high-quality baseball game. A really high-quality baseball game. The kind that reminds fans of both teams why they love the sport, even if the Blue Jays fans were also reminded of why every single ballpark sells beer every 12 feet. The kind that makes you stand up and applaud even when it’s through a groan, such as when Whit Merrifield made this catch, which really epitomized what it means to put an infielder in the outfield.

The first inning started with appearances from two former excellent Giants players, and it set the tone for the entire game. In the top half of the inning, Kevin Gausman — in strong contention for the Cy Young, and sporting some lovely locks these days — struck out all three batters he faced.

In the bottom half of the inning, opener Ryan Walker got into instant trouble against Toronto’s deadly lineup. The Blue Jays don’t need any help, but they got it when George Springer hit a leadoff double that had an expected batting average of .040. Bo Bichette, who has more hits this year than any player not named Luis Arraez, followed it up with a single, and there were runners at the corners with no outs.

It was danger time for young Walker, who paced around the mound before facing none other than the baby giraffe: Brandon Belt. Walker struck out Belt. Then he struck out Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Then he struck out Matt Chapman. And somehow he had escaped unscathed.

And that was how it went for a while. Gausman kept the Giants hitless through four innings while striking out eight batters. Alex Wood took over for the second and was utterly spectacular, getting Belt to ground into an inning-ending out with a runner on second in the third inning, only to have the inning restarted after a late balk was called, only to strike out Belt on the next pitch. He would later get our dear old friend to fly out with a runner on in the sixth. Wood dazzled his way through five innings of work, aided by a phenomenal throw from Patrick Bailey (aided by the replay review system) to nab Merrifield trying to steal second.

Through four innings it was a scoreless pitcher’s duel, defined by Walker and Wood working their way out of situations, and Gausman simply refusing to get in them.

Until Thairo Estrada put him in one. The first step towards winning a baseball game is to not get no-hit, and Estrada did that with one out in the fifth, finding the tiniest gap in the right side of the infield for a single. He stole second base. He took third on a balk, and suddenly the door was open for Bailey to continue the small ball rally with a sacrifice fly, a productive groundout, or perhaps even another safety squeeze.

Instead, he roped a double into the corner which, in hindsight, was probably the smarter decision.

The rally ended there, and there was a feeling that one run simply was not enough. The Blue Jays, after all, are a top-10 team in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, a top-five team in wRC+, and were playing at a happy park.

But the Giants pitchers kept silencing the bats, even when put in difficult situations. Wood, with five clean innings to his name, came out to start the seventh with the intention of just facing one batter, lefty Daulton Varsho. In fairness to Varsho, he smoked the baseball, but he did so in such a manner that Michael Conforto should have caught it. He didn’t, and Wood walked off the mound with a runner on second and no outs.

That runner moved to third on a Tyler Rogers-induced groundout, and suddenly the tying run was 90 feet from home with just one out. Rogers, not really known for his strikeouts, mowed down Danny Jansen and Cavan Biggio.

An inning later, Rogers was on the other end of it. After two more strikeouts, he faced Belt, who roped another catchable ball to right field that Conforto misplayed. This time it was Rogers walking off the mound, instead of onto it, with the tying run on second.

Camilo Doval entered for the four-out save, and four pitches later, got Guerrero to fly out.

Now there was more confidence. The Giants had made it to the final inning. They’d made it to their soon-to-be All-Star closer. One run just might suffice but ... there’s a reason we all spend hundreds of dollars a month on various forms of insurance. What does America’s broken privatized insurance model have to do with a baseball game? Good question. We’ll answer that later, when my book, How to Talk About Baseball in a Way That Pisses Off All the Old-Timers comes out.

When Joc Pederson led off the ninth with a walk, and J.D. Davis followed with a single, you dreamed of those insurance runs. And when Conforto and Blake Sabol weakly hit the ball in the air, you geared up for a torturous final inning. You might have even gotten up to get the beer out of your system and get some more of it into your system. If you did, you missed Estrada slamming a ball into the left field wall to give the Giants a 3-0 lead.

Doval came back out with a little protection where none was needed. He struck out all three batters he faced to close the door.

In all, Walker, Wood, Rogers, and Doval combined to strike out 17 batters.

Perhaps even more impressively, they didn’t issue a single walk. If you’re trying to dive deep into your memory to figure out when that last happened, you better start looking into your dreams. The Giants had never struck out 17 batters without issuing a walk.

There are so many different ways to win a baseball game. The Giants, stamping their title as one of the sport’s elite teams every day, are pretty damn good at a lot of them.