SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants have played exactly 552 hours of baseball this year, and these last four explain them as well as any could.
Not the 11-4 final score that put them back even with the Kansas City Royals at two games apiece in this World Series. That’s your classic outlier, a score out of place in a series that still doesn’t make a lot of macro-sense.
But in this season when the Giants were the game’s best team and then the game’s worst team and then the game’s best team and then the game’s white-knuckle specialists and then the game’s best team again and then the cagey postseason veterans and then the helpless underdogs – well, this was exactly the year squeezed under pressure into, well, a diamond.
A diamond, it must be said, that could decompose back into basic carbon as soon as Sunday evening – just because that’s how they roll.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants storm back, rout Royals in Game 4]
They entered Game 4 hot off a pair of wildly disparate beatings, with a bullpen in tatters and stories of potential panic within the manager’s office that turned out to be just one more fevered media specu-guess gone bad.
They couldn’t hit. Their relief pitching was in tatters, with people falling in and out of confidence at a moment’s notice. Their starting pitching, which was better than it looked, wasn’t good enough. The middle of their order was failing at an almost Padre-level rate. And the Royals were too, well, Royaltastic for them.
But here’s the weird thing – nothing about this team is ever a permanent condition. Everything that is broken can be fixed, and everything that is fixed can be broken again. And somehow, fixed one more time.
For instance, Ryan Vogelsong, who was persistently guilty of not being Madison Bumgarner, wasn’t that again Saturday. But he was bailed out of a very rocky third by Jean Machi, whom we had all believed had been abandoned as lost. And Yusmeiro Petit, the eternal fifth or sixth starter, cemented his place as one of the game’s best long men.
And at the other end, Hunter Strickland, who was equally buried, was brought back in a low leverage situation and gave up zero long flies. Hey, every little shattered preconception matters.
The Buster Posey-Hunter Pence-Pablo Sandoval consortium, which had struggled in Games 2 and 3 after thriving in Game 1, totaled three runs and drove in six others in the Giants’ five scoring innings.
The Michael Morse second guesses, in which some people thought he should have played instead of Juan Perez in left field and others instead of Brandon Belt at first base, worked all around as all three extended innings with singles, walks or sacrifice flies, and Perez added some striking defense as well.
In short, it was just another day in You Don’t Know Giants history. They stood with their backs against a port-a-loo leaning at the side of a cliff and danced away from all of it laughing. They are back to even, and they have Bumgarner in his rightful place, ready to deliver the Giants back to Missouri with a 3-2 lead unless, in true Giant form, he turns out not to be Bumgarner at all.
They were so un-Giant, which is to say so very Giant, that they even seemed to discombobulate Kansas City manager Ned Yost, who all but raved about getting beaten by a touchdown in a game that could have given them a hammerlock on the series.
“We got our tails whipped today, but it’s Game 4 of the World Series,” he said. “We’re tied 2-2, and how much more fun can that be? There is nothing better in the world. I’ve never felt so good about getting my tail whooped in all my life because I’m sitting here thinking it’s Game Four, we’re tied, 2-2 . . . it’s exciting, it’s fun and we’ve got another great game to play tomorrow.
“Somewhere inside of me secretly I had hoped it would go seven games for the excitement and the thrill of it.”
And Bruce Bochy, whose every violently questioned move turned out better than usual, which is to say about normal, said when asked the same thing, “Do I wish it would go seven? If I had my choice, no, but the way these teams go at it, it wouldn’t surprise me.”
Nothing would surprise him at this point, because every day’s a testimonial to the central truth of the game, and these Giants, namely:
Everything you know is going to be wrong, and sooner rather than later. They’re just perfect that way.