There are some airplanes I would like to be on. I’d take a flight to Montenegro right now, if you’re offering. An airplane headed to the Bahamas? Sure, why not. Want to send me a ticket to New York City? I’ll check it out.
There’s one plane I very much don’t want to be on: the one the San Francisco Giants are flying on from Phoenix to the Bay Area. It’s a short flight, so that’s nice. It’s chartered, so I imagine it’s cushy, and I’ve never experienced that. The food is probably rather fantastic.
But it’s not a plane ride I want to be on.
I imagine being in that plane feels like being outside with no shade cover in the middle of July in Las Vegas, being stuck in a Nathan For You episode, and being trapped in a room where none of the outlets fit your plug (though they’re all close). All at once.
The Giants lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3, and now return home after the road trip to end all road trips. Seriously, to end them. We don’t need any more of them after the one we just saw.
The Giants played seven games on the road trip and they did the absolute worst thing you can do with those seven games, which is to say they won exactly zero of them, and lost exactly seven of them.
They entered the All-Star break five games above .500, with a run differential of +51. Now they’re two games below .500 with a run differential almost perfectly split in half, at +26.
Do I need to tell you what happened in this game? No. Because you saw it happen in the other two games against the Diamondbacks, and in the four games against the Los Angeles Dodgers (who are only 17.5 games ahead of the Giants — they’re still in this thing, folks).
So you know the formulas.
It involves starting pitching that is good, but not great. Logan Webb was that. His ERA took a hit (four earned runs in 6.1 innings), but it wasn’t really his fault (more on that later). He struggled with kill pitches (just seven of his 94 pitches were swinging strikes, and he struck out only five of the 27 batters he faced), but he worked out of jams and limited hard-hit balls, and got 10 ground balls.
It involves an offense that shows signs of life, but isn’t actually good (the Giants are averaging just 2.7 runs since the All-Star Game). The entire lineup was that. Thairo Estrada, who wouldn’t have been playing in this game if the Giants were healthy, had a three-hit day that featured a double. Brandon Belt worked counts and drew a walk, while also singling off a lefty. The Giants put the tying run on base in the ninth inning. They also did not score that run. Nor did they score Wilmer Flores when he had a one-out double in the fourth. Nor did they score Estrada when he had a leadoff double in the seventh. And they hit 2-10 with runners in scoring position.
And it involves a defense that … look, unlike the other things on this list, there’s no silver lining here. The formula of “does good thing, BUT” doesn’t apply here. The defense looks like they let the people who threw out the first pitch stay to play the game. It looks like the ball dudes and dudettes and duderinos decided to play inside the lines instead of out of them. It looks like those amazing leftovers you just remembered are in the fridge and then realized have gone moldy. It looks like the way you feel inside. It looks like an unwashed butt. Don’t ask questions about that one. You know it’s true.
Sure, there were errors — one each on Estrada and Belt. But errors don’t tell the whole story, and has been the case with the Giants defense, it was so, so much more than that.
But Belt’s error felt like the turning point in the game. And by the “turning point,” I mean the point where the Giants turned from looking like a normal, competent baseball team, to looking like the team we’ve had the pleasure of getting acquainted with this last week.
It was climatic. A slow build-up. Jake McCarthy began the inning with a bunt single in which he was called out, but the replay overturned it.
Sergio Alcantara then singled to center, prompting an ill-advised throw to third from Austin Slater, which allowed Alcantara to take second. If I had a nickel for every time the Giants have done that this year, I’d be … well, I’d still be super broke, but I’d at least have a weirdly large number of nickels in my possession.
Then Jose Herrera hit a slow grounder to Belt, who charged the ball, decided to throw home (from about 20 feet out) even though he had no chance at getting McCarthy, and managed to throw it over Austin Wynns’ head, allowing Alcantara to score too. The saving grace — which in this case is kind of like calling the metallic part of the Ferrari that’s shining through after a massive scratch the “silver lining” — was that Wynns threw out Herrera trying to take second on the play.
And then Kapler and Webb had a long discussion in which I imagine they talked about how badly they both wished they were somewhere, anywhere else, Webb departed, Sam Long entered, and hung a changeup in a location so delightfully opportunistic that even a T- ball tee would have been impressed to the first batter he faced, Josh Rojas, who put the ball in the seats where, I guess you could say, it belongs.
And with that, the Giants have officially got back to Giantsing. Perhaps they’ll forget how to do it tomorrow.