This was a great game, but neither team played all that well. It was a game the Giants should’ve won easily, but it came as a surprise when Kelby Tomlinson drove that ball up the middle in the ninth. The Giants were in such big trouble on Tuesday, and now things seem so great.
Baseball messes with your equilibrium like that, and the Giants’ 5-4 victory over the Cardinals on Friday night made us all dizzy. It also gave the Giants their third consecutive win with a double play combo of Tomlinson and Ehire Adrianza, and the lasting image from the last 36 hours is Tomlinson’s smile after his grand slam on Thursday afternoon and Friday night’s walk-off single. Marlon Byrd has 10 RBIs in just eight games with his new team. Josh Osich came through with the most important outs of the game.
Byrd, Osich, Tomlinson. They were the heroes on Friday night, proving once again that all of the advanced stats and projection tools in the world can’t tell us what will happen during a baseball season before it starts. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
It’s hard to quantify the importance of this week, but it was clearly huge. The Giants had lost three in a row, five of their last six, six of their last eight. Worse than that, they were losing players at a silly clip — Brandon Crawford, Jeremy Affeldt, Matt Cain were added to an injury list that was already too long.
Now, look at them. Somehow they’re still just 2.5 games behind the Dodgers, and the injured mainstays were replaced by new additions who are suddenly, shockingly turning into instant stars.
Mike Krukow told the KNBR morning show audience that the Giants were going to win this series against the Cardinals, then they were going to fly down to L.A. and win that series. When Byrd hit a grand slam in the third inning to put the Giants up 4-0, his third home run since joining the team a week ago, it looked like Krukow’s proclamation might come true fairly easily.
“Laughers” don’t happen against this team
The Giants and Cardinals are magnetically drawn to one another. They seem to face each other in the postseason every other year, and their games all seem to be decided by two runs or fewer. And after the Cardinals gave up four unearned runs on the Byrd blast to center, the Giants gave three runs of that lead back with their inability to turn double plays. Then Mike Leake wild-pitched in a run in the sixth inning. Tie game.
The Giants blew a huge opportunity in the eighth against Jonathan Broxton, who made the curious decision to field Gregor Blanco’s bunt down the line, then flung a ridiculous throw over everyone like a drunken Jared Lorenzen. Tomlinson walked, Adrianza bunted both runners over, Andrew Susac was sent up to pinch-hit and struck out (taking away the Giants’ backup catcher), Nori Aoki walked to load the bases, and Matt Duffy struck out.
A squandered inning like that pretty much begs the Cardinals to take the lead in the top of the ninth, but Tomlinson — not necessarily known for his defense (cough) — leaped and caught Brandon Moss’ liner and doubled Stephen Piscotty off first to stop St. Louis. Maybe I’m wrong, but it looked like Piscotty beat the throw. It didn’t matter, since the Cardinals rolled with the call on the field.
Tomlinson’s at-bat in the ninth with the bases loaded wasn’t just good and “clutch” or whatever, it bordered on incredible. The Cardinals pulled Moss in as an extra infielder, and Tomlinson let the first low pitch go. After taking a fastball for a strike, Tomlinson got tied up by a fastball on the inside corner. He took the next pitch, then laced a 2-2 fastball up the middle. But it wasn’t just up the middle, it was in the perfect spot. His liner sailed an inch above and to the right of pitcher Kevin Siegrist’s glove, and zoomed between the congregation of infielders hanging around second base.
— That was the calmest walk-off celebration the Giants have had since walk-off celebrations became a thing. It was a let’s-make-sure-no-one-else-gets-hurt celebration, and I can only imagine what Dave Groeschner was thinking as the team charged toward Tomlinson.
— At one point, Yadi Molina called timeout and came out from behind the plate. It seemed like a weird thing to do, and Krukow thought Molina might have suspected Tomlinson of tipping pitch location. Tomlinson seems like the last person in the world who’d do such a thing. Tomlinson looks like the kind of guy who’d admit to exaggerating on his resume during a job interview. Tomlinson looks like the kind of guy who’d tell the guest of honor about a surprise party two hours before the actual surprise, because he “felt guilty.” He also looks like a modern-day Clark Kent, so maybe he’s fooling all of us.
— There was a power surge that turned the scoreboard off and made the lights in our apartment dim twice. Our TV didn’t even flicker. Apparently every lane of 101 South was closed due to downed power lines or something near Burlingame. I guess everyone in San Francisco got the better end of the deal.
— Osich retired Jason Heyward and Matt Carpenter in the seventh with two runners on. I still find it amazing that he was ever sent back to Sacramento.
— Earlier on Friday I wrote some words and posted a lot of numbers in hopes of capturing just how good Madison Bumgarner was in August.