You can’t take anything in baseball for granted. Literally, anything. A projectile small than an adult’s closed fist is being hurled at velocities well exceeding the automobile speed limit and then bounced around thousands of square feet of space occupied by nine fragile sacks of meat and bone piloted by a mysterious chemical concoction. Really, once you’ve spent enough time considering the convoluted track of evolution and conditioning necessary to produce Hunter Pence, it’s no stretch at all to think “Yeah, of course the Astros could beat the Giants this year. Weirder things have happened.
But if ever there was a chance for a sweep, this series was it. So thank all that’s holy that the Giants cashed that chance in, especially after a game that looked Belisario ugly in the opening innings. Ryan Vogelsong hasn’t been Vogelsongian lately – or rather, he’s been an entirely different kind of Vogelsongian, one hopefully consigned to the dustbin of history – and one hopes that he’ll regain that potent combination of movement and location on his fastball.
That said, if there’s a single pitcher on the Giants’ roster who will just slam himself into the wall (figuratively speaking) as many times as it takes to fix whatever is broken, it’s Vogelsong. Hell, he struck out seven in six innings tonight, which is a good sign of putting it back together after the Zitonian beginning. He got the win!
Of course, that win would not have been in the offing without an offense powered primarily by Spindly Force Six, better known by their normal human names of Brandon Belt & Hunter Pence. It’s too early to say that Pence is definitely out of his slump, but tonight he looked like the player the Giants traded for – not The Guy, but A Guy, a useful all-around player who looks respectable in the middle of a lineup.
And that might well be the kind of player his partner-in-oafishness is developing into, too. Belt hasn’t shown that 25-dinger power the Giants seem to have been hoping for, but his strikeouts are down, his contact rate is up, and he’s hitting the ball into the gap. His apparent lack of a platoon split (wOBA .344/.312 vs. L/R for his career, .312/.329 for the season) is a pretty encouraging tidbit, too. Stay hot, Brandon Belt, and if you wanna square up a couple of those fly balls a little more and put ‘em in the bleachers, that’d be neat.
It wasn’t just them, though, which is always nice. Pablo Sandoval had a badly-needed RBI hit. Joaquin Arias continued his inexplicable reign of terror; I could see him spelling Pablo at third soon, which might not be the worst thing if Pablo could do something productive with an extra day off. Buster Posey got on base 2 out of 5 times, and his OBP went down. Marco Scutaro is still the best sneaky deadline pickup since Javier Lopez was unleashed on the unexpecting lefties of the National League.
Speaking of which, good Lopez seems to have returned, which is impeccable timing as good Jeremy Affeldt isn’t around much these days. Sergio Romo faced one batter and struck him out on three unfair pitches to end the game. Guillermo Mota existed in a space throwing baseballs. What I’m saying is, the bullpen’s at nowhere near 2010 quality, but it’s looking a lot better than it was when Brad Penny was pitching about two out of every three days.
Really, that’s about what you can say about this team. They’re not what we hoped we would have after the Pence trade and Pablo’s return, since what we hoped we would have involved Melky Cabrera. Nor is their pitching staff the shutdown monstrosity of 2009-2011. What they are is a pretty capable all-around team, with a lot of guys in the lineup and the bullpen capable of doing good things when their teammates have crappy games.
In the second inning, Posey, Pence & Belt hit consecutive singles to load the bases with nobody out. Then the Giants didn’t score, and Vogelsong gave up another run in the bottom of the inning to make it 3-0. It’s probably lazy of me to assign a narrative quality to the fact that the Giants didn’t give up – worse Giants teams have rallied in uglier situations, and better Giants teams have folded like wet cardboard against…well, probably not against weaker opponents. But even if it doesn’t mean anything besides a mark in the W column, it’s August 30th. That W means a lot.