Five Biggest “What-Ifs” of the SF Giants 2020 Season
1. Hunter Pence losing a flyball and Johnny Cueto’s perfect game bid
Yes, missing out on the postseason is difficult. At the same time, that was only in play because of MLB’s unprecedented playoff expansion caused by the league’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost no SF Giants fans expected a postseason contender on Opening Day.
While anything can happen in October, it’s even harder to envision a scenario where the Giants could get past the Dodgers, Padres, and Braves for a heroic playoff run. Would the games have been fun? Absolutely. Still, a lot would have had to go right.
A perfect game, however, is forever. Whether your team is in postseason contention or not. Whether by a Hall of Famer or a minor-league veteran receiving their only cup of coffee at the big-league level, a perfect game is hallowed ground.
On August 8th, Johnny Cueto had been perfect through five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then came the first batter of the sixth inning, Kiké Hernandez. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Cueto induced what looked like a routine flyball to left field. Then, the camera panned to left field and it was clear, Hunter Pence couldn’t find the ball.
Lost in the lights of Dodgers Stadium, the ball fell aimlessly to the outfield grass and Hernandez ended up with a triple. Unable to regain his rhythm, Cueto was pulled after allowing a home run to Justin Turner four batters later.
Nothing is guaranteed and Cueto may have been about to allow a baserunner even if Pence makes the grab, but it’s hard not to wonder.
The Giants may have pulled out the victory, but Cueto was dealing and would have been at just 70 pitches through 5.1 innings had Pence made the catch. I don’t think there’s anyone in the organization who wouldn’t like to go back in time and give him one more shot to get it done.