The Nationals rode into town with hot pistols, and they have won big and have won small in two games. They have been impressive. The two losses have the Giants looking for meaning, and Madison Bumgarner has supplied it. Henry Schulman quoted him as saying, “We can’t be perfect every time out. It’s just about how quickly you can come back from it. No matter how good you are, you’re going to go through times like this.”
When he said this, he had just lost his fourth game of the season, having won a career-best six in a row, and the Giants had just been handed their first losing streak in three and a half weeks. In the face of a loss, he was clear, intelligent, and perceptive. Allowing two earned runs while striking out five and walking one, he pitched well enough to win on most days against most teams, but he understands the difference between “most” and “always.” The Nationals split that difference, and they make this a most interesting series.
Michael Morse in the eighth, facing Tyler Clippard, had his hand on a golden opportunity. He hit a long foul ball down the line toward left before Clippard delivered a 3-2 fastball that Morse missed. Earlier in the sixth Pablo Sandoval attempted to score from second on Brandon Crawford’s single. But Jayson Werth threw him out. In a tight game, one of these turning points could have turned out differently and given the Giants a W. But they didn’t, and Bumgarner’s philosophy comes in handy when games turn on matters of inches, and when the fans’ interest has to be nourished by superior baseball and not by wins. How quickly the Giants come back against a fine team will have to be enough as we watch expectantly tomorrow.
6 May 14
The final play encapsulated the game and the rules’ changes that define present-day baseball. And the Giants lost tonight in the second game of a thrilling and tied series in Pittsburgh.
Starling Marte came to bat in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and belted a ball that nearly cleared the right field wall. Hunter Pence played it and threw it to Ehire Adrianza, the second baseman and cut off man, who threw wildly to Pablo Sandoval at third base.
As Sandoval retrieved the ball, Marte scrambled to his feet from his slide and scampered home. Sandoval recovered the ball and threw to Buster Posey covering but not blocking home plate. Marte slid head first with arms outstretched, of course. The umpire called Marte out. Pittsburgh challenged the call. According to one replay, Marte touched home with his right arm just prior to Posey’s tag to Marte’s left shoulder just near his neck. New York overturned the umpire’s call, ruled Marte safe, ending the game with a victory for the Buccs. The victory came on an unearned run.
The play, the attempted put-out, and the overturned call brought to the fore the new rules regarding covering but not blocking the plate and the new rule about challenges to calls. Before these changes, Marte would have been called out as the catcher had the ball at home plate before Marte arrived so long as the catcher held the ball without dropping it. But those days are over.
Tim Hudson was the hard-luck loser for the Giants. He pitched 8.2 innings and allowed but 2 runs, only one earned. He struck out 5 and walked 1 as he scattered 5 hits.
The two games in Pittsburgh have been outstanding games though very different. The slug-fest of the previous night gave way to the more carefully and closely played game of tonight. They were very different but very thrilling.
The rubber game is tomorrow played in day light just a few brief hours after the thrilling final play tonight. Tim Lincecum will take the pearl for the Giants.
20 Apr 14
The Giants left San Diego this afternoon with one victory by the skin of their teeth, or, perhaps, the brush of a catcher’s mitt against a player’s jersey, 4-3.
The brush of a catcher’s mitt in question occurred in the bottom of the third. Xavier Nady, the former Giant, headed for home following Will Venable and Seth Smith, both of whom scored easily. The relay from Brandon Belt (itself relayed from Hunter Pence) Buster Posey caught and wheeled to his left to attempt to tag Nady as he headed to brush the plate with his back leg.
The umpire ruled Nady safe. But the Giants challenged the call, and after a scant 88 seconds, the umpires in New York saw what the television viewers saw on their replay: Posey indeed tagged Nady after he wheeled to his left to make the put out. Nady was out, and his run came off the board. By the margin of that run, the Giants won the game.
Had not Nady been ruled out, Giants’ starter Time Lincecum would have been in big trouble with a runner on third and two outs. Instead the inning was over, and the Giants held a two-run lead. Lincecum went on to pitch three more full innings and to claim the victory, improving his record to 1-1. He allowed 7 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, and 1 home run. He struck out 7. He bettered his opponent, Robbie Erlin, who gathered his second loss to make his record stand at 1-2.
All tangled up at the plate, Pablo Sandoval took the day off. Buster Posey hit his fourth homer in the first inning to build the Giants a 4-run lead with Angel Pagan’s 2-run single in the second.
The Giants play three in Colorado beginning Monday evening.