There’s something about playing the Astros that always turns my stomach just a little. Maybe it’s the fact that the Giants, in 2011, somehow went 3-4 against a team that ended up losing 106 games. Or maybe it’s the fact that I don’t know any of these Astros … like, I literally don’t know any of these guys, and the unknown is the perfect Petri dish for breeding fear. Marwin Gonzalez? That has to be an alias.
So, when I got to sit down to break a semi-hiatus from Giants baseball, I was pensive. I was nervous. This was the Astros, man. These guys aren’t very good and I just knew that they were going to totally job the Giants something good and that the Giants would Giants this game in really Giantsy ways.
The good news is that the Brandon Belt — singles machine, you guys — and Joaquin Arias superfriends combo proved fruitful, and the Giants ended up scoring two runs (two whole runs!) in the 9th inning to seal a 3-2 win.
Here’s some thoughts from my first Giants game in over a week.
1. Matt Cain was, of course, Matt Cain — i.e., a really good pitcher that limits batters when he needs to. I don’t know if it’s my memory playing tricks on me, but Cain seemed to really pitch out of trouble when he needed to. It seemed like in the latter stages of the game he had runners on first and second with no outs a couple of times and yet managed to pitch out of trouble. He also stranded a runner on third base in the bottom of the fifth inning, which is impressive against any team in the majors, regardless of their Astrosicity. Cain ended up with a no decision, but he pitched solidly to great and is always a treat to watch.
2. This happened:
I know, I know … I don’t want to keep beating you over the head with .GIFs but this thing is just splendid. It’s got Pablo Sandoval doing stuff. It’s got Brandon Crawford making a great (handsome) dive. It’s got everything you need in a good .GIF.
3. Brandon Belt is a pretty decent baserunner when he’s not careening around the basepaths like a drunken gazelle. Case in point: in the 9th inning, Belt led off with a single that was followed up by a first-pitch Joaquin Arias double that bounced around some in the LF corner. Belt scored from first base. I’m not sure if 75% of first basemen in baseball could have scored on that play, but Belt did. Even if he hasn’t hit for power like we would ideally want, Belt’s been pretty good in the “other things” of baserunning* and defense. Oh, and he’s pretty good at not making outs, too.
* Heading into tonight’s game, FanGraphs rates Belt as a -2.4 run runner on the basepaths. That doesn’t seem monstrously unfair or anything, but I think he can improve and be a pretty decent runner.
4. I love the idea of Sergio Romo closing games and kudos to Bruce Bochy for leaving Romo in to face a left-handed batter with Javier Lopez warming up in the pen. Romo started the 9th inning by striking out Brandon Barnes on four pitches — all sliders, of course — and then Brian Bogusevic, the aforementioned lefty, came to the plate. I was certain that Bochy would pull Romo to get the platoon advantage. But, to his credit, Bochy stuck with Romo and was rewarded with a one pitch ground out to Marco Scutaro. Romo ended up needing only seven pitches to close the game. I have to imagine that Bochy was grinding his teeth and rocking back and forth in his seat, but credit is credit. Good job, Bruce.
5. Hunter Pence hit a double, but otherwise looked like his was going to swing at everything, which he pretty much has done since he became a Giant. It’s really stupid to write a guy off with the track record that Pence has, but his approach to hitting right now is reminiscent of Aaron Rowand. The crappy Giants version. Tone it down a little, Hunter.
So, there you have it. A good game to come back to and, overall, a pretty painless “Astros Game” to watch. Oh, and the Dodgers lost. Man, that goes down smooth.