The game tonight is as good a microcosm of the Giants season as any. Having lost two more players to injury, probably for the rest of the season (Aoki, Susak), after Lincecum's season-ending surgery was announced and news on the return of Hunter Pence was fairly doleful, the Giants had to scratch first baseman Brandon Belt from the starting lineup because of a stomach issue.
Since manager Bochy was determined to give a banged-up Buster Posey the night off, that meant that Nick Noonan--called up this week--had to play first base, which he had never done professionally. Alejandro De Aza batted cleanup, for the first time in his big league career.
Then in the third inning, third-string catcher Hector Sanchez sprained his ankle trying to beat out a bunt. With Susak gone, the only catcher the Giants had was Posey. His night off was over.
So what happened? Giants announcers began the game carping on the lack of homers by the team. The only one in forever was the eye-rolling blast by pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. It was his first homer--in his entire career. How weird was that?
Apparently not weird enough. Because in this game, starting pitcher Jake Peavy, in addition to handcuffing the Rockies, hit a double. Then he hit another one, and got an RBI. Peavy is not only a pitcher, but he's about as close to legally blind as any player allowed in the bigs.
And the Giants got a home run--by Angel Pagan. Not the first in his career exactly, but the first all this season, and most of last season.
Nick Noonan doubled in a run--his first big league hit in a year. And when Duffy made a difficult backhanded grab at third and his back foot slipped as he made his throw, Noonan stretched to get it like he's been playing first base all his life, and got the out. Duffy had three hits, including a double that drove in two, giving the Giants a 4-1 lead. De Aza had two hits, and on his day off Posey had one.
Then another Giants power hitter got a home run. That would be Blanco. His fourth of the year.
So the good starting pitching and the great relief pitching that the Giants have been getting in this losing streak this time got runs behind them, and the Giants won 7-3.
Meanwhile in St. Louis, the Cards defeated the Pirates. That pretty much settles first place, barring a Cardinal dive and a Bucco surge.
Oh, also in Colorado, league home run leader Arenado hit another one--so he's homered in six straight games. That's a Rockies record. So what's the major league record for homers in consecutive games you ask? Well...
Return with me now to yesteryear (1958 or so), to an afternoon outside the confectionary (as they called themselves--the neighborhood store) about midway on my paper route where I often stopped for a frosty bottle of Verner's root beer from the cooler outside, and maybe some penny candy and a pack or two of baseball cards and the enclosed slice of pink bubble gum. (This was also the place where I once heard a local wit ask, how much are those nickel candy bars? A question I've been asking ever since, and getting increasingly shocking answers.)
This store was just a few doors up a sidestreet from Hamilton Avenue, catty-corner from the brick Knights of Columbus hall, behind which my grandfather occasionally played bocce, and next to the barber shop with the barber whose daughter was my 7th grade math teacher. I think we were vaguely related, but then just about all the Italians in western PA were vaguely related.
Besides color photos of a player on one side and his stats on the other, the bubble gum baseball cards had a baseball quiz question at the bottom, with the answer upsidedown beneath it. The question this particular sunny day was precisely the one I just asked.
The answer on that card was Dale Long, who homered in eight consecutive games. I remembered that today. And dang if that still isn't the record, although a couple of more recent players also own it: Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey, Jr. But Dale Long did it while he was on the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1956. which was only a couple of years before I read about it on that baseball card. I hadn't started really following the Pirates then--not until 1958, when they astonished everyone by finishing in second place.
Dale Long, by the way, remains the only National Leaguer to hit homers in 8 consecutive games. Arenado has a shot to be the second. But he's probably going to have to hit one off Madison Bumgarner, who starts for the Giants Sunday.
Update Sunday: Arenado's streak ended at 6. The only homer in Sunday's game was by Buster Posey, the 100th of his career. Giants won 7-4, MadBum got his 17th win. Dodgers won over Padres. Cubs won. Pirates rang up the Cards behind Gerrit Cole, to get 2 of 3. Close game until late innings, 7-1.