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The margin for error is slim

The Giants seven-game winning streak came to a graceful halt.

Luis Matos swinging at a pitch Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Winning baseball games is hard. Winning lots of them is, therefore, especially hard. Winning seven of them a row, including five on the road, is wildly hard, which is why you should be very impressed that the San Francisco Giants just did that, even if it ended on Wednesday with a 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

One of the reasons winning baseball games is hard and that winning lots of baseball games in a row is hard, is because the margin for error is slim. The margin for error is slim when you’re a good team at home playing a bad team. The margin for error is a lot slimmer when you’re a good team on the road playing a good team. And the margin for error is exceptionally slim when you’re a good team on the road playing a good team while missing some of your key players.

The Giants were the latter. Before Wednesday’s game, Brandon Crawford was placed on the IL, meaning the Giants were now missing both starting middle infielders, and down a left-handed bat against a righty. LaMonte Wade Jr., the team’s best hitter this year, was sidelined with a sore hamstring. J.D. Davis, the team’s best right-handed hitter against righties, was sidelined with a stomach bug.

The Giants started five rookies, four of whom had never played in the Majors before this year, and three of whom were righties.

The margin is slim.

Ross Stripling, still trying to find the mojo that led to a 3.01 ERA season last year, which in turn led to a two-year, $25 million contract with the Giants in the offseason, had an interesting game.

In the first inning, he set down the side in order on 10 pitches.

In the second inning, he set down the side in order on 14 pitches.

In the fourth inning, he set down the side in order on 13 pitches.

In the fifth inning, he set down the side in order on 12 pitches.

In the sixth inning, he set down the side in order on eight pitches.

Keen mathematicians might notice a missing number in my attempt to count from one to six. Well done, you. Well done.

In the third inning, he gave up a home run, a double, two singles, and three runs, on 19 pitches.

The margin is slim.

You feel for Stripling. Allowing four baserunners in six innings against a top-10 run-scoring team is a big win. Making it through six innings on just 76 pitches is a big win. Facing the minimum in five different innings to get your offense right back on the field is a big win.

But the margin is slim.

It’s rotten luck or rotten sequencing or a flaw in his talent or something, but it’s a bummer. Three runs in six innings against the Reds — at Great American Ball Park, no less — is a darn good pitching performance, but it won’t be remembered as such. It’s hard not to feel for him.

The Giants flirted with offense in the second inning, when Luis Matos led off with a double and Blake Sabol followed with a single, putting runners on the corners with no outs. But David Villar — up to replace Crawford — struck out, and Brett Wisely chased ball four while Sabol was caught in a never-gonna-happen stolen base attempt to end the inning. The rookies showed why the team believes in them, and then reminded us that they are, indeed, rookies. Little blunders cost runs, which cost wins.

The margin is slim.

The rookies again started a rally in the fifth, when Villar was hit by a pitch and Wisely and Casey Schmitt drew walks to load the bases with no outs. But Joc Pederson couldn’t quite leg out a double play, which scored a run but killed the rally.

The margin is slim.

Sabol’s first at-bat came with Matos at second, and had Graham Ashcraft not made a darting Matrix move to knock the ball down and make it an infield single, it would have been an RBI single. Sabol’s second at-bat came with Matos at first, and he hit into an inning-ending grounder. Sabol’s third at-bat came with no one on base, and this time he cranked one the other way for a brilliant and beautiful home run that scored fewer runs than a home run earlier in the game would have scored, which isn’t something that we should hold against him, but is something that ultimately impacts the score.

The margin is slim (but the dinger is divine).

In the eighth inning, Pederson hit a leadoff single and Michael Conforto took a two-out pitch to the toes, and Luis Matos stepped into the box and hit a ball 350 feet for an out. It wasn’t one of those lazy 350-footers, or even one of those bullet 350-footers. It was one of those “he juuuuuuuuuuuuuuust missed it” 350 footers. I don’t actually know what it means to just miss it, in quantifiable terms, but I know it’s, to use the technical term, itty bitty. Juuuuuuuust missing it probably means the ball was maybe half a centimeter off of the right spot on the bat. Something like that. Something you couldn’t discern with the naked eye, even if you slowed it down and looked frame by frame. Something so close, but not quite there.

Something slim.