The San Francisco Giants' game Saturday night had a familiar feel to it and not just because Buster Posey hit a walk-off home run the night before.
Guillermo Quiroz's game-winning home run off Brandon League is a nearly perfect metaphor for what's happening between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers thus far in 2013.
Quiroz is a 31-year-old journeyman backup catcher who is making $575,000 this year (according to Baseball-Reference.com).
Before pinch hitting for Santiago Casilla in the 10th inning of another Giants-Dodgers classic, the big fella had 292 plate appearances scattered over nine years. During that time, he'd slashed a meager .211/.273/.279 with two homers.
Only the struggles of recently demoted Hector Sanchez gave Quiroz the honor of being Posey's relief.
League, on the other hand, is one of the big-ticket players whom the Los Doyers bought as part of their notorious spending orgy.
His acquisition from the Seattle Mariners last July and subsequent re-signing didn't make the same splashes as the Bums' other moves. But that's more a statement about the reputations and contracts attached to the other players than an indictment of League. The closer is a former All-Star who's making $4.5 million in this, the first of a three-year, $22.5 million deal he inked last October.
Even though he got shelled out of the Mariners' closer gig, League vs. Quiroz wasn't a matchup that figured to favor the Gents—at least not on paper and especially not after League jumped out to an 0-2 stranglehold with two quick strikes.
Nevertheless, it was the familiar name with the multi-million dollar contract who served up the walk-off no-doubter, and it was the last man on the bench jumping into a joyous mob of teammates after circling the bases.
For a comparison, look at the teams themselves.
The Dodgers and their $216 million (and change) payroll became offseason darlings as the baseball world marveled at a New York Yankees-esque embarrassment of riches. They even got the first laugh when the two teams met on Opening Day, winning comfortably behind a gem from Clayton Kershaw—that would be because of League and his 0-2 count.
The Giants have responded with five straight victories over their rivals, including two consecutive wins via the walk-off bomb. Despite some mild issues of their own, their recent winning streak has them atop the National League West, while the Bums have been dragged down toward its cellar.
That would be because of Quiroz's improbable yard work.
Of course, I say the metaphor is nearly perfect for a reason.
For one thing, Guillermo's not quite a fair underdog proxy for San Francisco, given its lofty payroll of over $142 million, and its significant group of proven stars and two World Series championships in three years.
More importantly, there was no consequent trip to the DL for League—which is to say the Dodgers have been by decimated by the injury bug. There is simply no way around it.
Zack Greinke's damaged clavicle is a well-worn subject. Hanley Ramirez started the year on the shelf, returned for a quartet of games and now he's been re-shelved thanks to a strained hamstring (via Yahoo! Sports).
Adrian Gonzalez has missed time as has Mark Ellis, though both have avoided a trip to the disabled list for the moment. Neither Chad Billingsley—who is done for the year—Ted Lilly nor Chris Capuano were so lucky, and yet Luis Cruz remains healthy as a reminder that the baseball gods can be cruel when provoked.
But so what?
Perfection is overrated, and this comes pretty close, anyway.
When you spend a quarter of a billion dollars on talent, nobody cares about your injuries and for good reason. Los Angeles is still dropping games it should win—even accounting for missing personnel—losing five of six games to the visiting San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies in back-to-back home series.
The team is underperforming, and it's not just because of the injuries.
And while some observers stood by the Giants since they are the champs, many others were seduced by the Dodgers' freewheeling ways. More than a few experts succumbed, tabbed them as NL West favorites and saw them as the safe World Series bet.
So yes, reducing the Giants' early success and the Dodgers' relative struggles to Quiroz's at-bat against League is both an oversimplification and an overdramatization, but not terribly so in either case.
Which isn't wonderful news for the Dodgers because if that parallel still holds up in September, they'll be staring at a very long offseason.
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