It is extremely likely, if not guaranteed, that had this game taken place in 2010 the Padres would have cashed in all those baserunners against Matt Cain. He would have missed up on one more pitch, and an infielder would have booted a grounder, and that double would have flown an extra ten feet, and the final score would have been Padres 10, Giants 8. Cain would have gravely and calmly pooped in Angel Pagan’s locker. Pagan wouldn’t have said anything.
It’s absolutely certain that had this game taken place in 2011, the Padres would not have needed to cash in any more baserunners. The Giants would have riddled the field with weak grounders and feeble pop flies. Ryan Theriot would have hit five line drives directly at fielders. And when Alex Hinshaw entered the game, he would have struck out the side on 11 pitches. Final Score: Padres 3, Giants 1, and Cain would have had to get that run himself.
But this is 2012. The year of the new-look, new-approach Giants offense, that bounces back from bad innings and defensive foibles. The year that Matt Cain is somehow even better, and Santiago Casilla is both the guy loading the bases and the guy wriggling out of someone else’s bases-loaded jam, and something called a Gregor Blanco is running around in the neighborhood in a Kenny Lofton costume collecting OBP instead of candy. In 2012, the Giants are suffering from a home run drought until they get to Petco Park. And it’s delicious.
I realized as I was putting this together that it was hard to focus on any one particular player; the Giants are putting together a reasonable facsimile of a lineup that’s not just above-average, but well-rounded in how they score runs. I mean, check out this projected lineup after Pablo comes back:
1: Speedy outfielder with a ~.400 OBP and enough pop to make pitchers nervous
2: Obnoxious scrappy little middle infielder who goes on a tear just to piss you off
3: Switch-hitting outfielder with power, average and speed
4: All-fields power hitter whose swing was cast from molten gold by the Baseball Gods themselves
5: Unstoppable monster who hacks at pitches at his eyeballs and hits them for dingers
6: Other switch-hitting outfielder with power, average and speed
7: Patient prospect with reserves of power just waiting to be unlocked
8: Defense-first middle infielder who might not always embarrass himself
That looks a lot like a storybook MLB lineup, the kind that can score runs in a lot of different ways. Things can always go wrong, but the weird thing is, nothing has to go crazy right for that to work. Just a bunch of guys hitting something like their recent career numbers, maybe a couple outplaying their projections by a reasonable amount, and hey, it’s the St. Louis CardiNOPE, GIANTS.
I’m sure I’ll be laughing at my unfathomable optimism very soon, but this was the kind of game that engenders that. I guess I should talk about the defense a little. Theriot gave us the defensive equivalent of the famous TOOTBLAN, and Pagan straight up Dexter Fowler’d an easy catch. It was pretty bad. But then Brandon Crawford did a bunch of the things that we were told Brandon Crawford would do even when he was swinging through 88 MPH fastballs. Joaquin Arias is a good utility infielder to have around. Matt Cain is starting to make a quiet case for a Gold Glove, if he can hit well enough.
I can’t talk about the negatives today. Dingers were hit, bases were stolen, guys got on base and made things happen. For a little while, I understand the sort of mindset that gets annoyed at walks – I don’t agree with it, but I understand. It’s really fun to watch a team make things happen. The Giants made things happen today, and a game that was much tighter than the final score indicated ended up looking like a blowout because of it. They have the third best record in the National League.
Let’s just look at the schedule and see what this dynamic, interesting team is gonna AW DAMNIT WHAT TEXAS BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Whatever. They’re slumping, we’re at home, I’m excited. At least it won’t be boring. Maybe while that’s happening, someone can beat the Dodgers, ever, please. Who are they OH WHAT THE HELL THE MARINERS BASEBALL YOU ARE SO STUPID