The Giants lost to the Padres on Friday night 8-7. Some of it was ugly. Some of it was bad. Some of was actually good. Because of an excellent movie that was released 56 years ago, let’s review this game in reverse order of ugly, bad and good. Let’s go to the good, bad and ugly of Friday night’s loss.
Darin Ruf hit two absolute bombs — one to get the Giants closer in the early innings, and one to tie the game in the middle innings — and it was just about the best news that could come out of a loss. If you didn’t know how important Ruf was to the Giants’ plans, check out the leaderboard for plate appearances in April. He led the Giants in PA, and it wasn’t especially close, even though he was scuffling in a historic sense for someone his age.
In another time, this might have been mistaken for stubbornness. In our wisened, modern times, this was because the Giants could see that Ruf was still having quality at-bats, with quality swing decisions, even if the results were unfortunate.
Now the results are coming around, and make no mistake about it: This is a huge deal. The Giants aren’t counting on Ruf to be a positionless masher who ambles into the lineup whenever a left-handed starter is on the mound. They want him to be their Nelson Cruz. They want him to be in the lineup every day, regardless of the platoon matchup, because he has a discerning eye and hits the snot out of the ball, which is the secret of baseball.
It’s telling that the only hitter scuffling worse with more plate appearances than Ruf was the actual Nelson Cruz, because the Nationals are counting on him a whole heck of a lot. The only difference is that Cruz is seven years older than Ruf, which means far more red flags and warning klaxons.
A May loss to the Padres isn’t great. But a realization that Ruf might not be able to help the 2022 Giants is far worse. Friday night’s game was evidence that the slugging percentage will catch up with the already solid on-base percentage, and the Giants will have the picky slugger they were counting on.
The ninth-inning rally
The ninth-inning rally was a thing of beauty. It would saved everybody a whole lot of time if the Giants had just bunted three balls back to the pitcher, but we can appreciate rallies that keep doomed hopes alive, like Carlton Fisk in 1975 or J.T. Snow in 2000.
Friday night’s rally was a masterclass in hitters spitting on pitches they didn’t want to swing at. Mike Yastrzemski couldn’t have tied the game, so we can write his bases-empty, two-out walk off as a never-say-die effort. But Ruf absolutely could have tied the game, and he could make a tired person in the MLB headquarters in New York send a push notification about his third homer. He still took strikes he didn’t want to mess with, and he still took balls he couldn’t hit.
Joc Pederson could have won the game with a home run, and this is no small thing. The Padres have hit a walkoff homer at Oracle Park more recently than the Giants. Process that sentence for a few seconds. It’s horrible and true. And Pederson could have fixed it. Instead, he spit on pitches he didn’t want to mess with, and he took balls he couldn’t hit. He worked a walk to load the bases.
Wilmer Flores busted his bat to tie the game, and that’s just fine. The Padres hit a couple daisy melters to fill the bases against Tyler Rogers in the eighth inning, and that’s how this silly sport works. The real gems were the walks that set the rally up, all three of them coming against a pitcher (Luis García) who wasn’t that wild. There’s a difference between being wild and fine, and he was the latter.
It didn’t help the Giants win, but it sure was pretty.
Curt Casali took a foul tip off the mask, and he left the game.
Kapler says Casali will go through concussion protocols after he took a foul tip and was removed from the game in the seventh pic.twitter.com/mfeIpbRCgN
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 21, 2022
As always, remember the human before the logistics. Concussions are serious things, and Giants fans know that as well as anybody because of examples from Mike Matheny to Brandon Belt.
The Giants will be worse off without Casali. That’s the long, the short, and the medium of it. But hope this is just an abundance of caution.
The Giants’ current rotation struggles
A little bit on how the sausage is made: A writer is always looking for angles, hooks and narratives from the first pitch. My immediate fascination was a compare/contrast between Jakob Junis and Sean Manaea. The former was a low-profile free agent signed by the Giants in the middle of March who began the season in the minor leagues. The latter was a high-profile trade target acquired by the Padres two weeks later. One was a thrifty, prudent move to shore up depth. The other was a splashy, declarative move to fill a need.
Junis pitched six innings and gave up four runs.
Manaea pitched six innings and gave up four runs.
Advantage: Giants. Especially considering they didn’t give up a prospect for Junis.
Except, we’re still talking about Jakob Junis vs. Sean Manaea, and for as much faith as the Giants’ front office has engendered, you know which pitcher you’d take for the rest of 2022. And while the results were the same, Junis got away with middle-cut pitches that were just missed, and Manaea didn’t get away with anything he threw to Ruf. He should have rolled the pitch up there like a bocce ball.
And it’s a helpful reminder that on the Baseball-Reference page for the 2022 Giants, there’s a helpful gallery of headshots in order of WAR. Logan Webb is the current leader. Junis was second in WAR as of first pitch.
That’s exceptionally cool. Also probably unsustainable. The Giants spent a lot of money to bring Anthony DeSclafani back, and they did it for a reason. They moved him to the 60-day IL, which wasn’t a small decision, and now they’re going to be counting on Junis and/or bullpen games for a couple months.
After a month of encouraging games, this one was less encouraging. Overall, though, the Junis experience has been a positive one.
Fans throwing debris onto the field
Two baseballs were thrown out of left field seats onto field after Padres were done warming up. An umpire went over to chat with Jurickson Profar, who was pointing out where they came from.
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) May 21, 2022
Don’t do that. It’s literally against the law, but it’s also super dumb and helps nobody.
The Padres are good
The Padres are probably good.
You’re thinking long term, right? This is the worst of them all. If you look up movies about identity swapping on Wikipedia, you’ll find dozens and dozens. That’s how the Padres had to feel watching the Giants winning 107 games last year. They were John Cusack at the end of “Being John Malkovich,” completely unable to stop someone else from enjoying their desired outcome. They want to punch the Giants in the nose this year.
They did on Friday night.
They’re probably good.
It’s not time to freak out, but as long as we’re talking about movies, think of this like a sequel where they feel the need to add a second villain. It’s not just enough to have the Green Goblin. Now there has to be a Doctor Octopus, too. It’s not great.
There was good, bad and ugly on Friday night, and if you’re thinking long term, you can spin it positively with Ruf and the overall approach and process of the lineup. If you’re worried about the game you wasted a Friday night on, well, it was bad and ugly.
Long term is probably better, but you’re still not getting those three hours back.
(Top photo of Jurickson Profar: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images)