The standings took most of us by surprise at some point over the last 24 hours. Six games. Just six games! That’s less than a week’s worth of baseball! Then Zack Greinke was scratched from his start with a sore calf, and everyone dared to dream. And talk. And talk some more.
It got a little ridiculous. The move to start Barry Zito against Tim Hudson on Saturday (sorry, Billy!) went from a fun sideshow to a question about competitive balance. Will the Dodgers be upset when a guy who, let’s face it, isn’t major league caliber anymore, pitches against the Giants in a situation that suddenly became a real live pennant race this week?
None of that should matter much anymore, because the Greinke-less Dodgers won 4-1, and the Padres walked off against the Giants and their 37 relievers. Jake Peavy showed an extraordinary amount of effort/heart/grit/grrrrr through six innings — his headfirst slide to make that unassisted putout in a game like this brought to mind Steve Young running around without his helmet like a dummy during that preseason game. But Bruce Bochy brought in Cory Gearrin, and the bandwagon ran out of gas and drove the wrong way over tire spikes. Gearrin was mentioned by absolutely no one before or during this season, until just recently. Bochy knows how to handle a bullpen, but Gearrin’s appearance — with the Giants up 2-0 in the seventh in a game they absolutely had to win — made very little sense. He gave up a hit to Jedd Gyorko and walked Derek Norris, then Josh Osich struck out two before giving up a game-tying double to Yangervis Solarte.
The Giants jumped back in front with a home run by Jarrett Parker, who became the fourth Giant to homer at least twice this month. (The others: Buster Posey and Angel Pagan with three, and Gregor Blanco with two.) The Padres scored twice in the eighth off Sergio Romo, but the Giants stayed alive with a ground attack flurry spurred by Matt Kemp’s misplay of a Posey liner. Posey would later score on a Craig Kimbrel wild pitch. Back in business! Then George Kontos ended up with the loss after Santiago Casilla gave up a single to Gyorko that scored a gleeful Kemp. Ah, reality. The Giants’ partner … every other year.
It’s got to be over now, right? With the Dodgers’ bullpen and manager, it’s never truly over until the mathematics say so, but it’s over. L.A.’s magic number is five, the Giants seem to be announcing concussions on a weekly basis these days (Ehire Adrianza, who caught a grounder with his face while attempting to play first base last night, was the latest victim), and they keep losing tough one-run games.
At least now that they’re seven games back with 11 to play, we’ll stop hearing about Oakland’s duty to put the best possible lineup out there for the sake of the Dodgers. Wait, is that even a good thing? I was kind of looking forward to the hand-wringing that would’ve taken place (oh heavens, we must think of a rule change to avoid this situation in the future), up until the moment Zito tossed seven perfect innings against the Giants and played an acoustic version of “God Bless America” on his guitar afterward before riding into the sunset on a unicorn.