Baseball is a silly sport.
It’s a cruel sport. A humbling sport. A difficult sport, a thrilling sport, an entertaining sport, yes, yes, but at its core, it’s a silly sport. Round balls, round bats. Managers in their 60s wearing the same pajamas as the players they’re trying to manage. It’s a sport where a player can do exactly what he wants to and be disappointed. It’s a sport where a player can fail at what he’s trying to do and be a hero.
The San Francisco Giants lost to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field 3-2 on Friday night in a game they deserved to lose. The Giants entered the ninth inning without a hit. In Coors Field. Against a starting pitcher who entered the game with a 7.00 ERA in 14 winless starts. A team deserves to be eliminated from the following season when that happens. It’s like the fateful roll of the dice in the 1968 novel, “The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.,” by Robert Coover. You just have to accept the cruelty dictated by the rarity. Rest in peace, 2024 season. And also, possibly, the 2023 season.
It was also a game the Giants should have won. It’s a silly sport. It’s a complicated sport. It’s a brutal sport.
The Giants are now the 28th team to have two hits or fewer in Coors Field out of the 10,365 games that have been played there. If you remember that it takes two teams to play a baseball game, that’s 20,730 chances to get two hits or fewer. So 0.1 percent of the time, it happens every time. That’s the Coors Field guarantee.
Except the Giants took seven walks Friday night, so they actually scored two runs on those two hits. They had a chance to win. They were three outs away. They had a chance to do something that had never been done before — go into Coors Field as a visiting team and win with two hits or fewer.
With the benefit of hindsight, the Giants probably would have preferred to get more than two hits. Three, perhaps. Four, even! Then it wouldn’t have been Logan Webb’s problem when he finally gave up a run in the eighth inning, which was his 200th inning of the season. That’s an innings total that could have put him in the Cy Young lead if he pitched behind normal run support.
More hits might have given Camilo Doval a cushion, especially after a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth. If the Giants had more than a one-run lead, that double is just dirt on his shoulder, and he can just pitch normally.
Instead, Webb pitched eight full innings, allowed four hits and one run, and got a no-decision. Doval pitched a third of an inning and gave up two hits, which is exactly how many the Giants had in nine full innings. It didn’t work out.
With one out and two on, Rockies first baseman Elehuris Montero pounded a ball straight into the cursed earth and it went into left field. Every other ball with a launch angle like it was a groundout. Of the balls in play with an expected batting average of .200 or lower on the night, only one of them went for a hit, and it was Montero’s. It found a hole, though, and Mike Yastrzemski still had the opportunity to get the tying run from second with a perfect throw.
He made a perfect throw.
But baseball is hard, tricky and cruel, and it skipped past Patrick Bailey, a catcher who was in the minors for the first 1 1/2 months of the season and still has the highest defensive ranking of any catcher in baseball. Are there 10 people alive who are better qualified to turn that tricky, perfect throw into an out? That it’s even debatable proves the point. It could have worked. Maybe, if you’re feeling ungenerous, you can say it should have worked. Bailey couldn’t corral it, though, and it didn’t just let the tying run score, but skipped past and let the winning run score.
Lest you think that I’m making the Giants seem like hard-luck losers, here, let’s be perfectly clear: THE GIANTS HAD TWO HITS. Two! In Coors Field! Channel your best Sam Kinison or Lewis Black voice here, if it helps. Two hits! They deserved to lose, possibly by double digits.
This is all just a reminder of how close the Giants were to actually winning the game, though. It would have been one of the silliest wins in a silly sport since the Rockies came into the league. This is up there with the toughest Coors losses in Giants history, along with Spilborghs, Neifi and Nolan Arenado hitting for the cycle because he hates fathers everywhere, but don’t forget that the Giants have a legacy of silly wins at Coors. Barry Zito’s shutout was the first win of the 2012 season, and it wasn’t the last, but it might have been the silliest. The Giants needed every last win in 2010, and they got one at Coors at the end of September with just three hits. They swept the Rockies at Coors in September 2021, when they needed every single win to take the NL West.
The Giants have lost all-time heartbreakers at Coors. They’ve won incredibly silly games there, too, and there was a realistic chance after the eighth inning that they’d win a 1-0 game while being no-hit. Not sure what your favorite all-time Giants game is, whether it’s Madison Bumgarner coming out of the bullpen in Game 7 or Will Clark up the middle against Mitch Williams, but winning a 1-0 game while being no-hit in Coors would be in my personal Mount Rushmore.
Still, don’t overlook that the Rockies did things to win the game, too. Chase Anderson was effectively wild, but he flummoxed the Giants. Nolan Jones worked a nine-pitch walk against Doval, and it was one of the best at-bats you’ll see in a ninth inning:
Yeah, Jones earned that walk, and it led to a win. Baseball is a silly sport, but sometimes it’s a simple sport. Take the 100 mph pitches outside the strike zone, foul off the ones in the strike zone, and maybe good things happen.
The legacy of this game is still undetermined. With a winning streak and a well-timed losing streak from the competition, this game doesn’t go into the pantheon of despair. It isn’t bumming a smoke from the Neifi game, and it’s still miles away from the Spilborghs game. If the Giants make the postseason, even by just one game, this game is a footnote. A hilarious footnote. Two hits!
It has that potential, though. The Giants had a chance to win a game they didn’t deserve to win but desperately wanted. Now they have more games in Coors Field, followed by games in Arizona against a direct competitor playing well, followed by four games in Dodger Stadium, followed by a supremely annoyed San Diego Padres team with nothing to lose, followed by three more games against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Other than that, it’s hard to see the problem.
The Giants deserved to lose. They could have won. It was a complicated game in a silly sport. And now they have 15 games left to shake this game off and make the postseason. They just have to make this silly sport work for them.
Don’t forget that it’s also a cruel sport and a humbling sport. And, far too often, an annoying sport. When the Giants’ schedule was announced last year, and you saw a September series in Coors Field, I’m not sure what else you should have expected.
(Top photo of Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies scoring in the ninth inning against Giants catcher Patrick Bailey: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)