By Ben Leonard
SAN FRANCISCO—The stage seemed set for a comeback.
After an abysmal first half, Matt Moore had the benefit of a fresh start imposed by the carefully scripted spectacle in Miami. With a 3-1 lead and two outs in the fifth, it all seemed to be falling into place.
But just as quickly as it had come back, it slipped away. Moore smothered a bullet into the ground, took one casual step towards first, and lobbed the ball into the Indians’ bullpen. Amidst the quiet, a few piercing boos reverberate over the cheer of red-and-blue draped Cleveland fans—but just barely.
And so has gone the Giants season.
Perhaps it marked the ceremonial close of the sellout era—which began when a different but similarly perplexing left-hander, Jonathan Sanchez, made good on his promise to take the Giants back to the postseason in front of thousands of twirling orange rags. Monday was the first time in 530 games that the Giants failed to sell out AT&T Park—the second longest streak in baseball history.
“None of us saw it quite unraveling as much as it has, and it’s been a tough go,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “But the one constant has been our support, and we can’t thank them enough. They certainly did their part….We’re disappoitned we’re not in a better position for our fans because there is not a place in baseball like what we have here. There isn’t—it’s unmatched. Starting from 2010, the sellouts, so we thank them for hanging in there during these tough times.”
After winning three championships since 2010, San Francisco in a position that makes its fans queasy—too talented to rebuild, but not nearly good enough to buy. Sitting 29.5 games back in the NL West, the Giants will now face many tough questions about the direction of the franchise heading into the August 1 trade deadline. Can they afford to wait for Moore to figure it out? Can they continue to win with this core? Or is it time to set sail?
In a season where everything has gone wrong for the Giants, it all seemed to come together Monday—they failed to make throws to first base twice. The Giants will have to think long and hard about whether to exercise Moore’s $9 million club option for next season, but the left-hander certainly made strides in San Francisco’s 5-3 loss.
“He had great command of all his pitches—he was throwing with a lot of confidence out there tonight,” Bochy said. “It’s a shame what happened there 15 feet from first base—he just held on to it too long. But it’s encouraging to see how he threw. He should have fared better.”
Moore was coming off an outing July 7 in which he gave up 12 hits and got just ten outs against Miami, and he certainly rebounded. Moore was charged with just two runs in seven innings, striking out five, lowering his MLB-worst ERA to 5.81.
It clearly has not just been Moore—eveyrthing that could go wrong for the Giants has so far. Madison Bumgarner was lost for months after a dirt bike accident. For much of the season, the offense was on pace for its worst output since 1902.
The fan support has dwindled as the season has drudged on, with orange seeping out and the dull glow of green plastic chairs increasingly shining through.
Now, only time will tell whether they can start a new streak.
Cover Image: July 17, 2017: Umpire Tony Randazzo (11) breaks up a San Francisco meeting on the mound in the sixth inning, during a MLB baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California. Valerie Shoaps/CSM (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)