Postgame Wrap: Phlippin’ Phantastic

The Giants have a rivalry with the Phillies. I mean, the Giants have a rivalry with a lot of teams: the Dodgers for being from Southern California, the Padres for daring to be good in 2010, the Diamondbacks for daring to be good in 2011, the A’s for sharing a fan base, the Marlins for injury Buster Posey (see the explanation given by the best personal injury lawyer), the Braves for being the toughest competitors in the 2010 playoffs and consistently dominating the Giants for the past 100 years, the Reds for Matt Latos, the Angels for 2002, and the Rockies for that juiced ball bullshit.

But man, the Phillies. It’s hard to know exactly when the rivalry with the Phillies started, but it’s almost certain that toolbag Phillies fans had something to do with it. Phillies fans have the swagger every year that they won the previous year, which is really irritating. And since that World Series win in 2008, the Phillies have had a slow and steady decline: Won World Series, Lost World Series, Lost NLCS, Lost NLDS, and this year they won’t make the playoffs. At least the Giants had the good graces to completely fall off a cliff after they won it all.

Maybe it’s just something about the Phanatic that reminds me of Dinger, the Rockies mascot, and his propensity to stand and dance as the pitcher is in his windup, as though he is intentionally trying to distract him. Bush League, Philllies. Shameful. Maybe it’s just that I want to see Jonathan Sanchez go all bat-shit crazy on Chase Utley in the Thunderdome, and Ryan Howard’s defense makes me want to take a shower. It could be any number of those things, but I could watch this Shane Victorino GIF over and over again.

Don’t look away, just stare at it. Breathe deep with the knowledge that even when you do look away, Shane Victorino will continue being hit by the ball time after time, until you close your browser.

So yeah, it feels good to beat the Phillies.

On the offensive side, it’s hard to know exactly what changed. Vance Worley had the Giants figured out for most of five innings, and looked utterly unhittable. He pitched in, he pitched out, and almost everything he threw seemed to be called a strike. It’s funny, because often I criticize an umpire, then see a replay and realize he was correct all along, that he’s very good at his job, and that I’m the asshole for thinking I knew what happened better than him. Yeah, not the case last night:

It wasn’t quite as egregious against righties, but you can see above that home plate umpire Laz Diaz gave Worley calls he clearly shouldn’t have gotten. I’m not sure if the turnaround in the fifth and sixth innings had more to do with the Giants figuring him out, or the umpire just not helping him anymore after Worley walked Lincecum on a close full-count pitch in the fifth, or what. But the beginning was pretty hard to watch from a human-element-apologist like myself.

But hit they did! And quite well. Just days after Henry Schulman wrote about Nate Schierholtz’s frustration over playing time and willingness to be traded to a team that will play him, Nate busts out with a 1-3 game with a walk during the crucial sixth inning rally leading up to the grand slam. Yesterday he played to give Pagan a day off, and today’s in batting leadoff and giving Blanco a rest. Nate has the ability to be the hottest player on the team, so sure, give him a shot.

But the other story of the game is Tim Lincecum, who had another great start against a barely below-average offensive team. He mixed speeds well, made hitters look silly, and mostly relied on his fastball. He also kept it together with runners on base, which has been his major vulnerability before. Even after he balked in a run in hilarious fashion, and walked two more, he managed to get out of it. If there was a single at-bat that impressed me from Lincecum more than any other, I think it was his strikeout of Victorino in the fifth inning, after Jimmy Rollins singled and stole second.

After going 3-0, Timmy blew a challenge get-it-in fastball down the middle. After that, he proceeded to throw three breaking balls well below the zone, trying to get Victorino to swing, which he did. To me, this at-bat showed the kind of Timmy swagger that he’s been missing, and the oft-quoted confidence to “throw anything, anytime.” If this truly was a sign of things to come, then I’m a fan.

So is he “back”? I have no idea.

Brandon Watch 2012

Belt: Defensive replacement, strikeout. I have no idea. It’s easy (and fun!) to say that if he were put in a position to succeed, with regular at-bats, he would be a star. That certainly seemed to work for Pedro Alvarez. I just don’t know. Today he’s batting eighth. We’ll see. Let’s move on to happier Brandons.

Crawford: Dude hits grand slams. After crushing a three-run, extra-inning home run in Atlanta on Wednesday, it’s certainly nice to see Crawford maintain some of that power. I am thrilled with Crawford’s year so far.