This was unexpected.
I don't think it's overly cynical to suggest the Giants scored more runs in Friday's game than I thought the Giants would score all series. Of course, I wrote that introduction when the Giants were up 3-1, so now we really have some explaining to do.
The Giants scored 10 runs for the first time since May 14. That seems like a long time. Turns out that it's the longest between 10-run games in a single season in San Francisco history. They've had three longer streaks ('84-'85, '74-'75, '79-'80), but they were all split up by the offseason. Note: all of those teams were lousy to awful. So if it feels like it's been a while since the Giants had a good ol'-fashioned runsplosion, that's because it has been.
And this game, of all games! Consider everything that was going against the Giants:
- The Giants had lost the first game of a series in their last five tries. At home, on the road, it didn't matter. The Giants were making a habit out of walking into every series, shaking hands, and exclaiming, "Hello! As a thank you for being our opponents in this series, we would like to extend a token of our appreciation! May our friendship last 1,000 years", at which point they would delicately hand the other team the game. The last time they won an opener of the series was against the Mets. The last time they won an opener against a good team was against the Cardinals on July 1.
- The Nationals had won 10 in a row and were feeling bulletproof. They had walked off in five of their last six games, so even when they were down 3-2 in the middle innings, they didn't give a rip. They're a scary team, especially at home.
- The Giants were so, so tired. So very tired. They had to be. They had a 40-hour rain delay and a quasi-doubleheader before hopping on a plane and getting into their Washington hotels around 4:00 a.m., I'd guess. This is why the term "player's coffee" was invented in the first place. It's games like this that might make Rob Manfred sympathetic in future labor negotiations.
- The Giants were going against an ultra-talented pitcher. The last ultra-talented pitcher the Giants beat was Doug Fister in Game 2 of the 2012 World Series, so they had a little streak going. I spent the whole day being annoyed at the Tigers and being scared of Fister, and the Giants thumped him. Pfft. Scared of Doug Fister.
That's the game. That's the game the Giants decided to explode. The first game of a series after a quasi-doubleheader and late flight in a tough ballpark against a tough pitcher.
Baseball is Ally Sheedy using dandruff to complete her snowscape. Beautiful, edgy, and weird. Very, very weird. So danged weird.
The midseason mediocrity of the Giants -- to be kind -- has been a soup with many ingredients. We ran out of fingers to point by the end of June. Everyone had a little culpability.
The slow fade of Buster Posey was both completely apparent and hard to bring up. Every time he'd get into a funk long enough to write about, he'd snap out of it. Then he'd streak for a bit and make us comfortable, before tail-spinning for a week or two. It was the dangedest thing, and at no point did his season totals make me flinch. They were always in that well-he's-still-a-valuable-player realm.
But if you would have asked me what could have made the Giants a serious contender again, what would restore greatness to this franchise (in political adspeak), the easiest answer was Buster Posey reclaiming his MVP form.
I'm not expecting him to get back to that level. I think 2012 is gone for good, mostly, and I don't think that's too controversial of a proclamation, considering that Posey literally had one of the best second halves in the history of baseball. When something's that good, the regression to the mean isn't that hard to predict.
Posey being uniformly excellent, though. Posey going on an extended streak to sustain the Giants for a bit. I can believe in that. I get the hip and the back and the catcher-related malaise that drive down offensive numbers, but I'm not ready for the Kendalling of Posey yet. That slugging percentage shouldn't hover around .400 for the next 10 years.
It probably won't. This is less of a dead cat bounce and more of a return to form, I'll gather. He's a streaky player. One of the streakiest we've seen in a long time. And when his streaks are on the right side of the ledger, boy, they are some fine, fine streaks. If the Giants get one of those over the next month-plus, they just might be okay.
Buster Posey needs to elicit more squeals of unprompted glee, is what I'm saying. It's been a while.
It's hard being this modest. Am I this modest because of my upbringing? My general humility? My complete sense of self-awareness? I know not. All I know is that I'm modest enough not to remind everyone that I've been a Panik fanboy for a long time.
I don't want to shout it from the rooftops. Not yet. It's still early. And there was Kevin Frandsen right there in the other dugout to drive the point home.
Holy gremlins, though, do I want to believe. The first time I saw Panik play was in San Jose, when he was clobbering the ball early in the season, just months removed from hitting .341 in his Northwest League debut. That plus the first-round pedigree swayed me, and I never came back. In the game I watched, Panik roped a pair of solid singles. He was going to be the reason the Giants won the World Series in 2012, not some 36-year-old dude on the Rockies.
It's too soon for grand proclamations. We're just 150 at-bats into the experiment, and things can still get squirrely. I will say that I feel like Panik's gotten a bit of a bad rap as a prospect. Everyone conceded that he had a solid hit tool, then focused on his lack of power, range, speed, and arm. Except I haven't been sour on his range, speed, and arm. They aren't plus tools, no, but he's not Michael Morse playing second because he has nowhere else to go on the diamond. He's a lot more average at everything than I thought, and that's a good thing.
The power wasn't going to show up, though. That's the one that everyone conceded. If he could develop the Sanchez/Scutaro doubles power enough to keep defenses honest, he'd be just fine. That was the hope.
This ball, though ...
It's not time to burden him with expectations. It's not time for you to burden yourself with unrealistic hopes. But seeing him hit a ball that hard, that far, even if just once, was enough to feel warm and fuzzy about a kid who was already making you feel warm and fuzzy over the last two weeks.
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