If you’re reading this recap then you probably already watched the San Francisco Giants lose to the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-4 on Tuesday. I can’t imagine anyone is still invested in this season enough to read about it without at least allowing themselves the joyful daily catharsis that comes from watching a baseball team walk itself out to the pasture. That’s the best part! If you’ve moved on to the Niners season then god bless, but move along, you’re lost. The game, while painful, is the fun part. These recaps are only fun if you’re trying to wallow in the muck of the game you just watched. And even then, “fun” is about as apt a descriptor as “fielder” is when Joc Pederson is thrown onto the grass with a mitt on his right hand.
And if you’re reading this recap then you almost surely have watched the Giants entire season unfold, because why else would you be reading this article, unless you’re a confused soul who came here through a deeply-buried google search because I put “Danny Trejo” in the URL just to see what would happen.
So, from that, we can conclude that you probably are aware of what has happened through 151 Giants games this season, including what transpired at Chase Field on Tuesday night.
Which means you probably spent the bulk of the night thinking the same thought that I was thinking: this game sure looks an awful lot like the season.
The Giants entered the game in not great shape. After a Monday off-day had seen them fall further in the standings, they opened the contest with the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins having already won their games, albeit with the small silver lining of a Cincinnati Reds loss.
You can call that little amuse-bouche a touching tribute to the team’s 6-13 start to the season, when they found themselves behind the eight ball before they’d even oriented themselves enough to question why they were mixing sports metaphors.
And then the game began, and it began well. With their playoff hopes paradoxically growing dimmer, and the acrid taste of an inexcusably lifeless weekend series still on their tongues, the Giants came out swinging.
LaMonte Wade Jr., back in the leadoff spot as on homage to his early season performance, battled Cy Young candidate Zac Gallen for seven pitches before roping a triple. It took only one pitch for Mike Yastrzemski to succeed at the situational hitting that has eluded the team for some time now, hitting a fly ball just deep enough to score Wade.
It was comforting and nostalgic for many reasons. The ability to score a run rather than strike out with a runner on third was a throwback to the simpler days of May and June. And the Giants had capitalized on a mistake when future Rookie of the Year Corbin Carroll attacked Wade’s hit the way a dog runs at a tennis ball thrown directly at them, not understanding they’re effectively doubling the speed of the flying object. Wade’s hit should have been a single, but Carroll found the sweet spot of messing up enough to gift Wade a pair of free bases without earning an error in the process. The Giants capitalized.
Two batters later, Joc Pederson — he of just five home runs in his last 71 games — took on the impressive part of the yard, and cleared the fence with ease.
The situational hitting, the taking advantage of other teams’ mistakes, the long ball ... it all felt just like late spring, when the Giants spent two months cosplaying as arguably the best team in baseball, forcing you to check your calendar daily to make sure it wasn’t still 2021.
As was the case then, the good times did not last long. The Diamondbacks got a run back in the bottom half of the inning, almost immediately and definitely frustratingly. Alex Cobb did what he does best and got a ground ball out of Carroll, the leadoff batter. But it found a hole for a single. Ketel Marte followed and repeated the action. Tommy Pham was next and chopped one slowly enough that the Giants could neither turn a double play nor have a shot at home, and suddenly Arizona had cut the lead in half with a trio of ground balls.
But the second inning was where the wheels flew off the bus just to spite you, as though someone had locked you in a room and projected the last 55 Giants games on the wall, fast forwarding through them all over and over again until you started to question what baseball really was.
When I was a kid, a friend of mine told me that when his older brother would get mad at him, he would bungee cord him to a chair, duct tape his hands to each other, put headphones on him, and play The Weird Al Show Theme on repeat. I thought of that friend today. I hope he’s well.
The inning started off innocent enough, as Cobb retired two of the first three batters he faced, with the only baserunner being Gabriel Moreno, who reached on a hit by pitch that the Giants challenged and lost, which did, indeed, come back to bite them later in the game.
Then Geraldo Perdomo hit a delicate opposite-field pop-up, the type that you hit when you’re the Giants in June and your opponent hits when you’re the Giants in September. It was a double, and before you finished debating whether Mitch Haniger’s lackadaisical jog towards the ball was poor effort or an understanding that he had no chance at a catch, Carroll had tucked a grounder inside the third base line for a double of his own, giving Arizona a pair of runs and, crucially, the lead.
Cobb walked Marte, and then it happened: an impression of the Giants that was so accurate you couldn’t help but wonder if it was the Giants behind that Giants mask, as though Larry David had marched up to Lorne Michaels and said he’s done parodying Bernie Sanders; he wants to parody Larry David now.
Carroll and Marte attempted a double steal, and Patrick Bailey’s throw went to third, where his perfect strike appeared to beat Carroll by a hair, and a glorious mullet hair at that. But Carroll’s sliding keister jarred the ball loose from Wilmer Flores’ mitt, and the electric rookie immediately popped up, looked at his third base coach imploring him to stay put, and then said “you’re not my mom” and scampered towards home.
Flores retrieved the ball in plenty of time, but his throw to Bailey was airmailed, allowing not just Carroll but Marte to score.
Create it.— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) September 20, 2023
Full on chaos. pic.twitter.com/RPxrkudQJd
It was a four-run inning caused by a hit by pitch that only happens when a player first tries to swing at the pitch that hits them; doubles with expected batting averages of .090 and .220; a perfect throw and tag being disrupted by the awful luck of an unintentionally perfectly placed full speed derriere; and a professional baseball player forgetting how to throw a ball 75 feet.
And that summed up July and August. The Giants were bad. They were awful. They were infuriating. They didn’t deserve nice things and good luck but gee, did you have to flaunt that they didn’t get any?
The third inning brought about the deeper layer of frustration that has encompassed the season. After throwing a pair of missed-location pitches to Alek Thomas, Cobb was in visible pain. This is, after all, someone who met with the trainers in his last start, then had this start pushed back by three days to deal with hip impingement. Trainer Dave Groeschner came out, but, like so many Tinder interactions, the conversation was over before it began. Cobb was removed mid-batter and, while he and Gabe Kapler were mum after the game regarding his future, don’t be surprised if Thursday’s arrival in Los Angeles is accompanied by an IL stint for Cobb and a flight to LAX for Kyle Harrison. Terminal 7, Kyle. It’s the only way to survive.
Arizona added two more runs in the fourth against Alex Wood, in a situation that once again felt all too familiar and emblematic of a season that has overstayed its welcome. The bases were loaded, in part because of a clear out that was ruled an infield single, but that the Giants could not challenge. Marte hit a two-run single on a ground ball that, if you can read body language, Wood thought was going to be a double play before turning around and seeing how his defense was stationed.
That kind of year, for team and player alike.
Trailing 7-2, the Giants put together a rally against Gallen in the fifth on singles by Haniger and Brandon Crawford, and a beautifully-drawn walk by Thairo Estrada. Wade, with two bullets to his name, stood in the box with the bases loaded and just missed one. It scored a run, but he’ll be replaying that one in his head.
Yastrzemski then put a ball in the bullpen, but foul, before he and Flores followed with walks of their own, the latter of which scored a second run. That brought up Pederson, who miraculously represented the go-ahead run.
He saw three pitches and struck out looking on a four-seamer that European cheek-kissed the strike zone. The clamped zone had not included that pitch most of the night, and it missed the intended target by a good 18 inches, so frustration was warranted. Then again, Pederson’s best fight in the at-bat came while arguing against an accurately-called pitch that he idly watched.
It was a lovely game for Pederson, but you couldn’t help but notice that in his two plate appearances with the bases empty, he homered and drew a walk. And in his two plate appearances with runners on, he hit into a fielder’s choice and struck out looking.
The Giants had fought and clawed their way to a pair of runs; you certainly can’t knock this team’s heart. Then they left the bases loaded in frustrating manner. It was just like last week, when they recovered from their slump long enough to take five games in six days and climb back into Wild Card positioning, only to roll off the cliff trying to climb out of their tent in the morning.
And that was mostly that. Arizona added another run to set the final score. Michael Conforto was robbed of an RBI and extra bases in the eighth inning by Thomas, as the Giants continue to have amazing plays made against them in center field. The D-Backs had 13 hits, and only three of them had a 50% chance or better of being a hit, per Statcast.
Luck did the Giants no favors. A lack of talent did them even fewer.
A fair metaphor for a season we’ll soon somehow miss.