“And that’s when you start thinking, ‘What’s going on here?’ The pitcher’s batting,” Jon Miller said. “Just a complete gift for the Dodgers.”
That’s when I figured the game was over. I was washing the last of the dishes after making chicken enchiladas (nothing to do with Ryan Vogelsong; chicken enchiladas are delicious and they’re in the rotation of things I know how to make) and I heard Miller utter this verbal white flag after Jake Dunning screwed up a pickoff throw and gave the Dodgers their sixth run. A 6-2 loss, I figured. Okay, sounds about right. But the Giants refused to let their fans catch up on their DVR backlog, and made a comeback against BranDon MattingLeague that gave everyone hope.
Sometimes hope can seem like punishment. Our DVRs are still just as full as they were when the evening started, and now we have the indelible image of Matt Kemp slapping the outfield wall. The Giants had no rights to this game, for five easy-to-point-to reasons.
1. Mike Kickham pitched well enough for a fifth starter type who got another chance because Chad Gaudin’s forearm bruise didn’t heal fast enough, but he was done after five innings and the Giants left him in anyway. Striking out Yasiel Puig to lead off the sixth gave Kickham a leash as long as Pablo Sandoval’s belt, but his stuff started “flattening out” near the end. But Bruce Bochy tried to get an extra inning out of him, perhaps partly because of the Puig strikeout but probably mostly because the bullpen is in such bad straits.
2. Once Kickham’s pitching line started moving from “surprisingly good” to “Barry Zito on the road,” Jake Dunning was the pitcher who came into mop up the mess.
3. Two errors for the Giants, zero for the Dodgers.
4. Juan Perez didn’t get the bunt down.
5. In the ninth inning, Brandon Belt hit a double and Andres Torres hit a single. Not good enough — one of those two needed a home run off Brandon League.
Does that last reason sound utterly preposterous? That’s nothing compared to those who actually believe in their hearts that Gregor Blanco should’ve done all he could to take a first-pitch curveball in the backside. Screw a break, give me 1000 breaks. Anyone sitting on their couch who suggests Blanco messed up the Giants’ chances of winning because his self-preservation instinct kicked in should head to the nearest batting cage tomorrow, drop some tokens in the 70-mph machine (we’ll round down, since the pitch that barely missed Blanco was a 78-mph curveball that started at his head) and let a ball “graze” them.
Talked to Blanco. He said he didn’t avoid pitch in 9th as much as he turned to the side. Flinched, expected to get hit. For what it’s worth.
— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) June 26, 2013
In Bochy’s best-case scenario, Blanco could’ve been replaced by a right-handed pinch-hitter with lefty Paco Rodriguez on the mound. Someone like Joaquin Arias, perhaps. Or even Torres, who probably would’ve started Tuesday’s game on the bench of Angel Pagan was healthy. The Giants are playing short-handed, especially since they refuse to use the disabled list on position players unless they’re 110% sure the injured player will miss over 15 days.
But that only means they need to play better, and that isn’t happening. Tuesday’s effort, with the errors and the poor offensive production with runners on base, was worse than we’ve come to expect from this team. Sure, Buster Posey hit his first home run in 16 games, and Brandon Belt had three hits and his first home run in 15 games. But Bochy was right when he responded to the questions about his team’s home run drought all last week. They aren’t a power-hitting team. They’re a team that wins by pitching, fielding and executing just a hair better than their opponents. They’re in a division that is mediocre right now, so they have time to regroup, reload and reconnect with that style of baseball. But each win is important, and even becoming an 88-win team seems difficult now that their record is 38-39.
Here’s what they can build on
— George Kontos, who might pitch 100 times this year, was decent. The Giants expected him to be the team’s third-best right-handed reliever behind Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla, and that hasn’t panned out. When Kontos entered the game and Puig was scheduled to hit second in the seventh inning, the game looked like a potential blowout. Instead, he pitched 1.1 shutout innings.
— Brandon Crawford got a couple hits and made this play:
— Kickham may have added a chapter to the BOOK ON PUIG: