Record: 7-9. Change on last season: -1
As Oscar Wilde once (almost) wrote, "To lose one game in a series after coming back from 6+ runs down, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two, looks like carelessness." In an eerie echo of Monday's game, we return from a horrendous early deficit caused by a sucky starter; a three-run homer sends momentum back our way, only to be out-managed and out-played in the ninth inning, and another one eventually slips away.
Here's the Fangraphs win expectation chart for last night's game. Remember, folks, please keep your hands inside the car at all times, secure any loose personal belongings - and the louder you scream, the faster we go...
Vargas was awful from the start; even he admitted it this time, saying, "I didn't feel really good today. I missed a couple of pitches down the middle of the plate and they hit them." No kidding. That was self-evident from the top of the first inning, which started off: single, single, walk, RBI single, K, 3-RBI triple, RBI single. Seven batters: five hits, a walk and five runs, for one out.
He was gone in the third, and Melvin believes only Grimsley's heroic efforts might have saved us from seeing a position player turn his arm over. Instead, his 4.1 scoreless innings allowed us to regroup, and start chipping away at what was by then a six-run Giants lead. [The last time Grimsley pitched four innings out of the bullpen was May 9, 1999 for the Yankees against Seattle. The starting pitcher for the Mariners? Jeff Fassero, who pitched out of the Giants bullpen last night.]
Meanwhile, Gonzalez homered, we got a second run on a wild pitch, and then Luis drove another run in with no outs in the eighth. It looked like the rally would be for nothing, when Jackson grounded into our fourth double-play. But Shawn Green walked, Andy Green laid down a beautiful bunt single, and the big blow came from an unexpected source. Johnny Estrada, without an extra-base hit this year, never mind a home-run, sent one into the pool area to tie the game.
Medders came in to pitch the ninth, and some sloppy defense from the Greens hurt us. With Finley on second, Andy couldn't hold onto a bloop into the shallow outfield, and Shawn, backing up the play, didn't throw the ball in immediately, allowing Finley to reach third with one out. Bonds was walked to load them up, and an infield out gave us hope; however, Medders walked Sweeney to bring home the winning run - Feliz's two-run swat thereafter was simply icing.
A whole bunch of questions swirl around this one, mostly regarding the pitching. In no particular order:
Are we now seeing why Vargas was waived? Over his last two outings, he's been simply horrendous. Six innings, 16 hits, five walks, 11 earned runs. One more like that, and it might not be Ortiz who hits the Unabled List first.
Why was Vargas, a career .054 hitter, allowed to swing the bat in the bottom of the second, with the bases loaded and one out? While Melvin might not have wanted to pinch-hit, tell him to shoulder arms. Worst case, we roll the order over and give Counsell a bases-loaded shot. Best case: the very wild Wright walks him. Instead, Vargas swung, grounded into a double-play, and killed any hopes of a rally.
It felt like Melvin was raising the white flag when I saw Grimsley coming in. But he was excellent, a far cry from his usual wince-inducing performances: 4.1 innings of one-hit, shutout ball? I'll take it. Although his ERA is still 6.75, I'm retiring his nickname, temporarily at least. Good job, JG, and a great quote: "As long as I could get guys to keep going up there and swinging at the slop I was throwing up there, I was going to keep going out."
More pinch-hitting in the eighth. Why leave Estrada in, rather than use Tony Clark? We had Snyder on the bench to catch, and Johnny hadn't even a single RBI this season. Sure, it worked, but the odds were very, very, very much against it.
Medders in the 9th? Back-to-back outings immediately after coming off the DL? Why not use Valverde (three days rest) or Vizcaino (two days rest) first? Sure, it wasn't technically a save situation, but a win here, again, would have been a hammer-blow to the Giants psyche.
Finally, should we have walked Bonds? Certainly, no other hitter batting .214 with no home-runs in the first fifteen games, would have received this privilege. So far, Bonds has six hits, and sixteen walks. There comes a certain point where you have to say, "Okay, show me you still have what it takes." Could last night have been that point? Discuss...
As William K said, this could was almost a sweep. It's probably not much of an exaggeration to say that we were little more than two pitches (Sweeney's 2-run homer on Monday, and the three-run triple to Durham) away from doing so. That's comforting, because these kind of things should even out over the course of a season or so. [Thanks to William, in particular, for his sterling work yesterday, especially after I'd all but thrown in the towel on this one. Like me, IndyDBack and 4CornersFan re-appeared once things got interesting. :-) And Ben and icecoldmo chipped in since.]
Instead, we finish the 10-game homestand a disappointing 4-6, and we largely have our starting pitchers to blame for that. We managed just two quality starts, both from Webb: the rest of the rotation went 0-for-8 in this department. Heroes and Zeroes for the series will follow later on today. Shouldn't have to look too hard, in either category.