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Point Counter Point

They finally won one, but whether it changes anything is up for debate

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants returned home and finally put an end to their 6-game streak that saw their playoff odds drop from 53.6% to 10.7% (Baseball Reference) and landed them at .500 for the first time since June 10th.

This game is an ink-blot splattered on a piece of paper, what you see in it revealing the type of fan you are. For every butterfly there’s a rabid, fangy bat. Each positive comes with a negative—an ugly underbelly to a friendly facade. Every punch countered. Yes, but...

Multiple late-inning comeback rallies require multiple problematic pitching performances. 9 runs scored in innings 6-8, and the Giants needed every last one of them to take down the Colorado Rockies.

Kyle Harrison found a sort of middle-ground between his 11-K Oracle debut and his previous start in San Diego in which he got tagged for 6 runs on 4 home runs. He struck out 5 over 5 innings, and the Rockies’ 3-spot in the 2nd was fueled by an error, a fluky cue shot, defensive misalignment, and a swinging bunt rather than pitching-error. Still, while Harrison struggles to find his identity at the Big-League level, he continues to get hit hard at a coin-flip rate. The damage of the 2-run triple off the bat of Hunter Goodman could’ve been reduced or even eliminated with better positioning, but the ball still left the bat at 103 MPH and nearly burrowed itself under the centerfield wall when it came down to earth. The southpaw has struck out 26 over 20.1 innings pitched, but all of them, bizarrely, have been against right-handed hitters. His night ended with a solo shot from Nolan Jones (a lefty) to start the 6th.

For the first time in 7 years, the Giants lifted back-to-back-to-back home runs in an inning. The outburst tied the game in the 6th and was met with both a buzz of energy and an exasperated finally. A display of that kind of power is obviously rare, but still, this happened against Ty Blach, who’s supposed to be hit hard. Blach’s K% is consistently in the bottom-5% of the league. He averaged 4 strikeouts every 9 innings when he pitched for the Giants in 2017—he K’ed 4 in just 2 innings last night, and 6 over 5+ IP while twice stranding lead-off base runners.

Luis Matos (3 for 4 with 2 2Bs) and Wilmer Flores (3 for 4 with 3 RBIs) collected consecutive hits in the 1st and 3rd innings but San Francisco came up empty-handed both times. Singles in the 1st went unrealized after a pop-up and strikeouts ended the threat. In the 3rd, Flores singled after Matos’ double, but a bad read on the ball in play coupled with an ill-advised send home from Mark Hallberg testing Nolan Jones’ arm in center got the rookie thrown out at the plate. Wrong arm to test: Jones’ 13th outfield assist is second in the National League. Mitch Haniger would ground into a double-play to end the inning.

The triplet long balls from Wilmer Flores, Mitch Haniger and J.D. Davis erased Colorado’s 4-run lead, but Taylor Rogers couldn’t maintain level, giving up a 3-run dinger to Elias Diaz with 2-outs in a 2-strike count the very next frame. Finding themselves in another hole, a composed Mike Yastrzemski ended up being the necessary spark for the offense. His pinch-hit single to lead-off the 7th set up Blake Sabol’s homer to put San Francisco back with-in reach.

Yaz singled in the tying run in the 8th and would score the 9th run on LaMonte Wade Jr. ‘s bases-loaded walk— a comeback culminating in a two bases-loaded walks from rookie reliever Evan Justice. No dramatic contact or decisive hit, just a young wild reliever playing into one of the Giants’ few offensive strengths to maintain composure and not-swing at pitches nowhere near the zone, even when the umpire is calling strikes like these.

To be jaded and numb and probably accurate—of course, this was the only way they would score in a bases loaded situation. The final two runs the Giants scored were a gift, and they needed them.

Camilo Doval took the mound in a save situation for the first time in 11 days, and nearly lost it after a missed strike-3 call.

I completely understand Doval’s frustration. If that had happened to me, I might have had a Richie Tenenbaum-type meltdown and removed my glove, taken off my cleats, and just soft-tossed the rest of my pitches, because that 0-2 sinker was the best pitch thrown all night. After swinging over the slider, its pace and location froze Nolan Jones. Tailing away from the lefty, nailing the outside corner at the letters. It’s just an incredible shame that something so physically dominant and aesthetically perfect could be missed. Home plate umpire Shane Livensparger probably stood in front of Van Gogh’s Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art and shrugged. All umpires are philistines. Distraught, misunderstood, Doval catered to his audience by serving a fastball right down the middle that Jones smoked for a run-scoring double to put Colorado within one. But Doval got Brendan Rogers to bounce a come-backer to record his 36th save.

Context is everything, and these late-inning hair-pulling comebacks had a certain rakish charm when surrounded by other wins back in June. Now it’s September and the Giants are too disregulated right now to dance on the edge of a cliff. They just got swept by the Cubs and no one is amused anymore. A win is a win is a win—yeah, but against the Rockies? No one thinks this team is really in control of itself. A 9-8 nail-biter is well within the margin of error. But the months-long season has now been reduced to weeks and a fluky win could be enough to turn the ship. The Rockies are still a professional baseball team, and they’ve been a better one than the Giants in recent weeks (because every club has been). A win still is a win.

During the broadcast Mike Krukow reminded viewers of Dusty Baker’s old slump-breaking adage: “Think lucky” —the Giants got lucky in a lot of ways yesterday. Some resilience definitely, but the counterpunch is valid too. Competing with three other teams for the final Wild Card position, they’re going to need a lot more of both.