It was the kind of day that makes me seriously wonder what the hell I’m trying to accomplish, covering all these teams. Or trying to, anyway. I already get enough flak from Oakland fans who look at the name of the site and the Twitter handle and tell me I should be “San Francisco Sports Guy,” something that happens about once a month or so. But I felt like an utter failure yesterday.
After writing up a frivolous post about which 49ers player might be the next to retire, I took our 10-year-old dog to the nearby vet’s office for three vaccinations. The Giants had started playing the Mets when I walked into the vet’s office. After I took her back to the apartment, I left for a brief stroll to expend some energy before settling in for Game 3 of the NBA Finals. I had the game on my Walkman (I don’t trust my phone’s reception to keep the signal for an hour straight), and listened as Jon Miller and Dave Flemming described the Giants’ “ground attack,” which was boosted by home runs from Matt Duffy and hometown hero Joe Panik.
I continued listening to the game during my post-walk shower, because I’m mentally ill. I knew Chris Heston was pitching extremely well, but it wasn’t until Flemming mentioned that he was pitching a no-hitter that I realized history was being made. I started the TV-watching portion of my evening with the beginning of Game 3, but made sure to flip over to the ninth inning to watch “Hesto Presto” complete his no-no live.
Of course the Giants couldn’t just stay quiet and play a nearly-meaningless regular season game on the other side of the country while the Warriors had the national spotlight. That’s just the way they’ve been over the last six seasons. Attention-hogs, the lot of them.
I’m already creating less content than before, as parental duties have eaten into my writing time. I can’t cover as many practices or games, and I don’t have all day to pump out four-to-six posts like before. I’m coming to terms with it, I really am. But it was tough not writing about a freaking no-hitter while the Warriors were flailing in the first half against the Cavs, a game that included a wild comeback and a rough finish for Golden State … a game that left me dumbfounded for an hour afterward. I had no idea what to even think about that game in the minutes after it concluded, and there was no way I could write about Heston’s gem without watching the first eight innings.
I finally got a chance to watch the baseball game today, and Heston was as amazing on the mound as one would expect with that kind of line score. He struck out 11, didn’t walk any and hit three guys — it was a Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale kind of no-hitter, except neither pitcher ever completed a similar feat. Gibson pitched one no-hitter, striking out 10 and walking three. Drysdale led the league in hit batters five times, but he never threw a no-hitter.
In fact, according to Baseball Reference, no other pitcher has tossed a no-hitter with 11 strikeouts, no walks and one hit batsman, let alone two or three.
As I tweeted last night in response to the end of the latest game that ended with a Buster Hug (Posey really “hugs” those pitches in big situations, too — his framing seems to get better and better throughout the course of important/historic games), Heston’s outing was one of the most badass non-perfect games in history. His Game Score was 98. There have been games with scores of 100 or above, including Matt Cain’s 101-point perfect game in 2012, which is tied for third-best all time behind Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game (105) and Clayton Kershaw’s 15-strikeout, no-walk no-hitter last year (102). But 98 is still incredible, even if the 2015 Mets’ lineup doesn’t exactly compare to what they had in 1986.
Heston is a weird pitcher, right? Not just because a lot of us assumed he’d be a Mike Kickham-level minor league spot starter kind of guy when he came up and pitched at the end of last season, but because he’s either excellent or totally hittable — no in-between. Yesterday marked his seventh start where he allowed one earned run or fewer. He has allowed either five or six earned runs in each of his other five starts. So every time Heston pitches, it’s either a (high) quality start, or get Yusmeiro Petit warm … STAT!
He sure is fun to watch when he’s on, though. His pitches dart all over the place, he works really quickly, and once he gets on a roll he looks like the best guy in the rotation. In some ways, he is! He has the team’s only two complete games all season (double-digit strikeouts in both), which is enormous for a pitching staff with four relievers on pace for 74+ appearances, and another (Jeremy Affeldt) on pace for 68. No one is going to come out and say Heston is better than Madison Bumgarner (because he isn’t, since Bumgarner’s numbers in 2015 are still a bit better than Heston’s, plus consistency is kind of important and Bumgarner is putting together a Hall-of-Fame resume). However, Heston’s HR/9 and FIP are lower than the reigning World Series MVP. They won’t be by the end of this season in all probability, but the Giants definitely hit the jackpot with Heston — not just as a 12th round pick in 2009, but as an emergency replacement for Matt Cain at the beginning of this season.
Remember when it seemed like the Giants would never throw another no-hitter in our lifetimes? It took Jonathan Sanchez to break the seal, and now they’re an annual occurrence. Bumgarner’s got to be next, right? That’ll probably happen on the day some other Bay Area team does something great; he hit a home run off Clayton Kershaw and the Giants swept the Dodgers on the same day as one of the Warriors’ most exciting wins of the season (Game 2 against the Rockets, the “Harden Trap” game).