A pitcher who entered having struck out 5.2 hitters per inning struck out one of the best hitters in baseball in all three tries.
A team that had 88 home runs at the break, the 27th most in baseball, launched five that accounted for all its damage.
A strong bullpen, that entered with the sixth-best ERA in the majors, blew it.
One slumping, one aging Giants hitter slammed homers off one of the most dominant relievers in baseball, and the Giants’ perfect closer became imperfect.
But Buster Posey first grand slam since 2015, in the 10th inning, was the stunning cherry on top of a strange sundae.
It was an unfamiliar set of circumstances that led to the Giants winning, 10-7, over the Brewers on Friday at Miller Park, starting the second half with a significant step forward in their seventh win in eight games.
The victory elevated the Giants to 42-48, still hanging in the wild-card race somehow, and making Farhan Zaidi think a little bit harder. The team’s president of baseball operations indicated just before the break that he wanted this team to tell him how to proceed at the trade deadline as his hands hover above heads like Madison Bumgarner’s and Will Smith’s.
Smith blowing his first save of the year, letting Christian Yelich triple and then score in the ninth, must have made Zaidi’s hand twitch. But Posey came through, the catcher now 13-for-31 (.419) in his past nine games, saving the biggest hit for Friday.
The Giants opened the 10th with a Joe Panik single against Matt Albers, and Mike Yastrzemski followed with a walk. Brandon Belt hammered a single to right, which loaded the bases without an out for Posey. He sent it 435 feet to center, and the party was on.
Smith’s run at perfection ended on the first game of the second half, his first blown save after recording 23 in a row this season. After Yelich’s leadoff triple, Mike Moustakas hit a hard ground ball that Panik couldn’t field cleanly. It was enough for Yelich to score, Smith now with back-to-back uneasy outings – if you include the All-Star Game, in which Joey Gallo launched a homer off the left-hander.
Smith wasn’t the only star who proved human. Josh Hader gave up a pair of blasts, a Tyler Austin shot in the eighth that tied it, and a Brandon Crawford, two-out homer in the ninth being the go-ahead blast.
Austin Slater and Evan Longoria went yard, too, all of the Giants’ runs coming via the long ball.
The Giants, though, appeared buried after Reyes Moronta imploded in the sixth, the Giants’ fireman instead tossing gasoline on the flames. Shaun Anderson had opened the inning with a walk to Yasmani Grandal and double to Mike Moustakas, putting the 4-2 Giants lead in jeopardy. Bruce Bochy called on Moronta, his go-to flamethrower for escaping such jams, who was not up to the job.
He quickly gave up a ripped double to Ryan Braun, the ball bounding off Longoria’s glove, to tie the game. Moronta moved Braun to third with a wild pitch, and Marcus Thames moved him home with a single to right, making it 5-4 Brewers. Moronta walked Keston Hiura, facing three hitters before recording an out.
Moronta’s slip – after having allowed two runs in his past 16 1/3 innings – disguised what a solid game Anderson pitched. He struck out a career-high eight in five-plus innings, in which he was charged with four runs – two of which Moronta let in – on six hits and three walks. His 13 swinging strikes were also a career high, his stuff as upper echelon as it’s flashed in the majors, a pitcher finding the tools with which to succeed. He struck out Yelich in all three of his at-bats, saving his very best for the very best.
But he does not yet possess the tools with which to finish.
But on this night, the Giants did.