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Giants 5, Diamondbacks 4 – Trial and Error

Record: 9-4. Pace: 112-50. Change on last season: 0

Quote: "Holy crap." – About 30 people in the Gameday thread after Mark Reynolds toppled over the third-base railing.

I’m sure this is just a momentary hiccup in the global domination plans. Lose two in a row, win eight straight, lose two in a row… Regardless, the past two games have been very disappointing in very different ways. The blowout against the Rockies seemed to be a collapse in the pitching and hitting department (although the offense still managed five runs), but tonight could be placed squarely on the shoulders of the defense. Just two errors, but a number of questionable plays, and it resulted in all five Giant runs being unearned.

Things started off well enough, with CoJack yanking a pitch into the left field stands for an early 2-0 lead, his first HR of the season. But in the bottom of the second, things started getting a little iffy. An error by Reynolds, a walk, a single and a double later, that lead was quickly relinquished, despite Johnson not giving up any earned runs. Still, the Diamondbacks climbed back into the lead in the next half inning thanks to RBI singles by Jackson and Upton (both of whom have reached the double-digit RBI plateau), and the Unit settled in, facing just one batter over the minimum in the next three innings. He was pulled before the sixth after 90 pitches, in position to win the game with the following line:

5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7K

Unfortunately, the narrow thread holding everything together was unraveled further in the seventh, when the D-backs defense ranged from "adequate" to "even Ryan Braun is laughing at you." Drew botched an easy ground ball that would likely have been a double play. Jackson debatably went to second for a force out instead of home when the bases were loaded, although that seemed the correct play with the blazing-fast Velez heading to the plate. More importantly, Qualls didn’t cover first, and a potential double play was snuffed out. That detail was particularly important, because a sac fly by Molina (which would have ended the inning) put the Giants back in the lead 5-4.

There was a bit of a scary moment in the eighth as Reynolds sprawled over the fence on the third base side in pursuit of a foul ball. Amazingly, he went full extension and crashed head-first into another railing before hitting the concrete six or seven feet below. More amazingly, he almost made a ridiculous catch, one you’d have been seeing on highlight reels for decades. Even more amazingly, he emerged from the whole situation relatively unharmed, going back to field his position for the final out of the inning. Skins reported seeing Reynolds spit out a tooth or two as he left the field after the side was retired, although it could have been sunflower seeds or something. As of the time of writing, I haven’t heard anything to confirm one way or the other. Considering the fall he took, anything’s possible.

Meanwhile, the offense disappeared. The Diamondbacks managed just two hits after the third inning, and had 10 in a row sat down by the bullpen at one point before Young walked with two outs in the ninth. Byrnes (who did extend his hitting streak to 10 games) followed with a few wild swings that he looked like he might topple over after, then lifted a gentle 20-foot popup to end the game, and that was that. A slow, cold, plodding, and ultimately miserable game.

[click to enlarge, in new window]

Master of his domain: Conor Jackson, +24.5%

God-emperor (perhaps unfairly) of suck: Chad Qualls, -35.7%

Somewhat forgotten in the aftermath was that future Hall-of-Famer who made his first start of the year. Johnson struggled with his control in the early going, but settled down nicely and looked pretty solid. Considering the weather conditions for the old man’s first start back, it was a pretty good outing. Thanks (no thanks?) to the defense, his ERA for the season is still unblemished, but his career win total remains stuck at 284. You could see some of his familiar intensity after the nice play by Hudson in the fifth picked up a double play on a lineout. It was one of the few highlights of the evening.

All in all, the general feeling was one of missed opportunity. Unearned runs and an anemic offense in the last six innings added up to the D-backs’ third one-run loss in four such games. Tomorrow’s another day game on regular television, which means tonight’s record turnout (1300+, and a second overflow thread!) is likely to see a bit of a recession. But hey, there are always things to take solace in: the Dodgers lost, Reynolds was okay, the lead in the West is still two games – like it isn’t WAY too early to be speaking of such things – and there’s still Owings and Webb yet to go in this series. All things considered, it could be much, much worse.