If Josh Donaldson was a team, he would be the 2014 San Francisco Giants.
Please don’t kill me.
It seems like forever, but the Giants looked like the best team in baseball only a month or so ago. But since June 9th, they’ve only managed to win 2 out their last 9 series, and have gotten swept three times. The offense has entirely ceased to exist, and they’re giving regular PAs to Brandon Hicks, Gregor Blanco, Tyler Colvin, Ehire Adrianza, etc, etc, etc. Their historically dominant bullpen early in the season has completely fallen apart at the seams (baseball pun totally intentional). Their best pitcher is Tim Lincecum.
The Giants are not a good team right now.
Josh Donaldson hasn’t been a good player since … basically, that exact same point. I hesitate to bring up his splits, just because they make me sad, but you should already be familiar. After looking like the leading AL MVP candidate through May, he hit .181/.223/.286 in June. His booming home runs were replaced by weak groundouts to the left side. The opposite field approach that caused Ray Fosse to develop a terrifying man-crush was replaced by feebly attempting to pull everything. Strikeouts strikeouts strikeouts strikeouts strikeouts strikeouts strikeouts strikeouts.
It’s been a forgettable month for Donaldson. It’s been an even more forgettable month for the Giants.
So, Giants fans that came here to lurk, maybe today should be a sign of hope for you. Probably not, since your team very nearly got shut out. But hey, look at Donaldson. Teams can rebound. Sometimes all it takes is a long opposite field dinger to bust out. Not that many people on the Giants can actually hit home runs, but, you know. Metaphor.
A big reason the Giants are still even in any race whatsoever is that Tim Hudson has pitched like an ace this year. His 57.5% GB rate, 1.27 BB/9, and 2.53 ERA put him on the map as one of the most egregious All-Star snubs of the year. His performance today proved that … maybe he’ll be better off going fishing, or something.
He went against A’s ace Scott Kazmir — the AL version of Tim Hudson. Except, you know. Better. Kazmir is on a practically identical two year deal, with a similar BB rate, and with an literally identical ERA coming into today’s game: 2.53. The narratives write themselves, jeez.
So, what happened in today’s duel between aces? Did the Ghost of A’s Past shut us down? Was it a riveting pitchers duel?
Nah, the A’s won in dominating fashion, as they are wont to do.
Kazmir started out the game by going four no-hit innings, completely dominating whatever major league hitters the Giants actually have on the roster. His only blemish through that time was an 11-pitch walk after an incredible AB by … Tim Hudson. The NL is so weird, guys. I miss clownball.
Even after actually giving some hits up, Kazmir was dominant. The only legitimate chance the Giants had to score was in the bottom of the fifth inning. Michael Morse immediately broke up Kazmir’s no hit bid by driving a base hit on the first pitch of the inning. Kazmir went on to strike out Brandon Belt and Brandon Hicks, but then Gregor Blanco doubled to right field. Luckily, Michael Morse is slow and couldn’t score, and, because the NL is dumb, the Giants had to look to Tim Hudson himself to drive in a run. He failed, and Kazmir continued to cruise along.
Kaz ended his day after 7 innings pitched, 3 hits allowed, 9 Ks, 1 BB, and 0 ER/R. It’s super weird to say this, but Kazmir has cemented himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for him to remember, "oh wait, I’m 30-year-old Scott Kazmir" and blow up. But it just refuses to happen.
Scott Kazmir is good.
Tim Hudson was less good. After immediately moving from the batter’s box to the mound following the end of the fifth inning, he collapsed. Moss led off the inning with a booming double, and Josh Donaldson eased thousands of worried hearts by lofting an opposite field homer to right field. It’s been a damn long wait for Donaldson to get his swing going, but it looks like it’s going. He looked good today — and you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to say that. It wasn’t just one or two good ABs: he looked confident all game, his swing looked great all game. It has been a while since he was uniformly good.
Tim Hudson was removed after getting one out in the sixth. That one out was Kazmir, because of course it was. I hate the NL.
Meanwhile, Stephen Vogt would continue the ridiculous, team-saving tear he’s been on. He drove in three runs with two singles, raising his batting average to a ridiculous .367. He is the leader in batting average among players with at least 100 PAs. He has a 162 wRC+. He’s been worth 1.2 WAR in some 30 games played. In case you want some perspective, that’s 6.5 WAR projected out across a season of 162 games. I BELIEVE IN STEPHEN VOGT.
Dan Otero got in some minor trouble in the 8th, allowing a run to score. But he got through it, and Abad shut the Giants down in the 9th.
So, there you have it: Donaldson’s back, Vogt has arrived, Kazmir is doing Kazmir things. If you had told me in 2012 that those three guys would form the core of the best A’s team in decades, I would never have believed you. So it goes with this team, I guess.