Bullpen Boost: Giants rebound to outlast the Rockies 10-7 in 10 innings

By Morris Phillips

If there was a theme to the 336 pitches thrown in Monday night’s marathon contest between the Giants and Rockies, it was the ones thrown by the visitors’ pitching staff weren’t very effective initially, but by the game’s end they were.

As was the Giants’ defense and clutch hitting in a gritty 10-7 win in 10 innings that broke the team’s three-game losing streak.

“You make four errors at Coors Field and you win the game and it’s a minor miracle,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

Scott Alexander, Camilo Doval and Thairo Estrada were the team’s heroes, a significant footnote for a club that has uncertainty engulfing its roster heading into the 2023 season.

Doval pitched a scoreless ninth after the Giants wiped out a 7-5 deficit in the top half of the inning to force extra innings. Of all the players on the roster, Doval maybe number one in having youth on his side and an established role going forward. The closer has allowed just five hits in eight appearances in September and lowered his ERA to 2.45.

Estrada committed one of the Giants’ four errors, misplaying a ground ball that allowed Yonathon Daza to reach base in the sixth, and later score the Rockies’ seventh and final run of the night. But the 26-year old rebounded to hit the game-winning, three-run homer in the 10th, one of his three hits in the game.

“His plate discipline is improving and in the biggest moments he seems to really lock in and focus,” Kapler said of Estrada. “He showed up in a big way today.”

“It shows the type of team that we are,” Estrada said with the assistance of an interpreter. “All of us put a little bit into this win. I just happened to hit the game-winning home run.”

Alexander picked up his second save by pitching a three-up, three-down 10th inning. The 33-year old reliever who spent the previous four seasons with the Dodgers, has allowed two runs in 11 appearances, putting him in the running for a spot in the Giants’ overhauled bullpen in 2023.

Starter Jakob Junis ran into trouble immediately by plunking leadoff hitter Ryan McMahon. He went on to allow runs in each of his four, full innings and was lifted in the fifth. Junis gave up 12 hits, including two doubles and two triples that had Giants’ running all over the expansive Coors outfield to chase down hits. Five of the six runs Junis allowed were earned.

Wilmer Flores had three hits, Mike Yastrzemski and David Villar had two each. Villar delivered the game-tying double with two outs in the ninth inning, scoring pinch runner Austin Slater from first base.

The Rockies got caught short-handed with high-leverage relievers Daniel Bard and Carlos Estevez unable to pitch. That left Justin Lawrence to pitch the ninth, and he was saddled with a blown save after allowing three hits in the Giants’ comeback.

Rookie Gavin Hollowell, in his Major League debut, took the loss. Hallowell, who was promoted from Double-A Hartford, admitted nerves may have surfaced when he walked Lamonte Wade Jr. ahead of Estrada’s home run.

“The adrenaline was definitely up in the beginning, then I started to settle down and maybe let the foot off the gas a little bit,” Hollowell said. “I’ve just got to be better.”

San Francisco Giants podast with Marko Ukaloic: Giants need to shore up defense and bullpen needs to shut it down in second half

Brandon Belt San Francisco Giants first baseman is expected to help lead the way for the second half of the season (mercurynews.com file photo)

On the Giaints podcast with Marko:

#1 Going into the second half of the season how important is accomplished players like Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford.

#2 Also taking a look at the second half with infielders Marco Luciano and Thairo Estrada they’ve been a big help and manager Gabe Kapler can insert them in the line up at anytime.

#3 Evan Longoria has entertained the possibility of retiring at the end of this season playing away from his family who live in Arizona could this be his last season?

#4 Carlos Rodon who starts tonight for the Giants at Dodgers Stadium after resting in LA during the All Star Game had a great first half and is looking forward to the second half.

#5 Marko for the second half the Giants have some talent in their bullpen but can they keep it together in the middle and late innings with pitchers like Dom Leone, John Brebbia, Jarlin Garcia, Tyler Rogers, Camilo Doval and Trevor Rosenthal.

Marko filled in for Daniel Dullum for the Giants podcast at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Tense, Tight: Giants-Braves opener has playoff feel, Arcia propels Atlanta to a 2-1 win

By Morris Phillips

Supposedly there have been a bunch of lopsided results between the Giants and Braves over the last ten seasons, just not one on Monday night.

The opener of the four-game series at Truist Park was a pitcher’s duel with the Braves sneaking past the Giants with Orlando Arcia’s game-winning RBI single in the ninth. Max Fried and Logan Webb were brilliant, allowing just one run each, but neither was around when Arcia’s hard-hit, ground ball to the left side of the infield saw daylight.

The Giants had a pair of opportunities late to knock in a go-ahead run with a runner at third and just one out, but failed both times. Wilmer Flores struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth, and Thairo Estrada struck out facing Kenley Jansen in the ninth with runners at second and third.

With less than 70 games played this season, the Giants and Braves have already eyeballed each other with both trying to at least take advantage of the new postseason format and finish with the best record among non-division winners and gain homefield advantage in the opening round. Currently, both teams are looking up at the first place teams in their division, the Mets in the NL East and the Dodgers in the West.

Camilo Doval walked Matt Olson to leadoff the ninth on four pitches. The only free pass issued by the Giants all evening would be their undoing Marcell Ozuna singled to move Olson up, ahead of Arcia’s base hit with two outs.

Fried went seven innings, striking out eight and walking two. He was saddled with a no-decision when the Giants pushed a run across in the eighth. Fried has yet to lose to the Giants after five starts and one relief appearance.

Webb also pitched seven innings and allowed a run, while striking out seven and walking none. Travis D’Arnaud’s second inning homer was the only blemish for Webb, who has allowed six home runs this season–all on the road.

Joc Pederson received his World Series ring before the game, he was a late season acquisition by the Braves last year that contributed to their run to the title despite getting limited at-bats in the World Series. Pederson, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford were all absent from the Giants’ starting lineup, but all three got pinch-hitting assignments.

The Giants will activate Anthony DeSclafani for a start in Tuesday’s game, his first action since being injured in April. Spencer Strider will get the start for the Braves, who have won 16 of 18.

Personality-lacking Giants win games somewhat anonymously… As a fan, what more should you ask for?

By Morris Phillips

What distinguishes the 2022 Giants from the rest of the pack? Well, that’s a tough one.

Numerically, this version of SFG isn’t the record-breaking group of 2021 in terms of home runs hit or games won, but they’re pretty good. In baseball’s newly expanded postseason, the Giants are in–as of now–and that’s after more than a month of tough results and far too little encouraging news on the injury front. But that doesn’t make the team or its players–now without the iconic Buster Posey who hung up his cleats after 2021–particularly noticeable.

Looking for a Giant in baseball-reference.com‘s myriad of individual, statistical categories like WAR (wins above replacement), home runs or games started for pitchers, keep looking. Broken up into categories of pitching, hitting and fielding only one Giants’ name comes up… Thairo Estrada. Estrada is one of a group of seven base stealers that hasn’t been apprehended with eight steals in eight attempts. In fact, Estrada is perfect for his four-year, big league career with a modest 14 steals without being caught.

In the newly, expanding world of fielding statistics, perfect for a game dominated by defensive shifts and measured by defensive range, Estrada leads MLB as the most efficient second baseman having successfully handled 99.4 percent of his ball handling chances. But let Estrada botch one opportunity and he’ll likely fall back into a large group of defensively-proficient second basemen. That’s all it takes to return to anonymity.

Last season, the Giants set themselves apart by hitting home runs; their 241 in 162 games led the National League. Individually, “Late Night” Lamonte Wade Jr. led major league baseball in slugging percentage from the seventh inning on, a stat that more than anything earned him a bunch of dramatic highlights on ESPN’s SportsCenter. This season, there’s nothing rivaling either of those stats.

First of all, Wade may be the team’s biggest missing piece. Due to a pair of injuries, Wade’s appeared in just 10 games, has six hits and just one home run. With those paltry numbers, no one’s scouring the database to see which of those six hits came before or after the seventh inning. The home run story’s not so bleak: the Giants are still among the best teams in MLB in hitting them (66 in 53 games) and slugging percentage (.410). If anything, the pitching staff deserves credit for being stingy, and allowing just 44 round trippers, which is tied with the Braves for the fewest in the National League.

What’s apparent is anonymity is synonymous with success. The Kapler/Zaidi formula for platooning, and limiting pitcher’s pitch menu works. The Giants put their players in positions to succeed more often that not, by playing the percentages, and having them do what they do best. Nothing better illustrates that then right-handed hitting Donovan Walton’s grand slam off left-handed throwing Brad Garrett as the deciding blow in yesterday’s 5-1 Giants’ win in Miami. A tiring Garrett–pushed in that direction by patient Giants’ hitters elevating his pitch count–throwing his 13th pitch of the fourth inning, offered a less-than blazing 82 mph slider and Walton pounced. The situation needed to be just right, and it was. Walton, hitting ninth and playing shortstop, had never hit a grand slam in his career, pro or amateur.

Want personality? Manager Gabe Kapler fills the bill. Baseball’s new-aged thinker was raised to question authority, and it shows again and again from his disdain for baseball’s unwritten rules to his outspoken views on the state of the country, gun control and racial inclusion. Winning games, and pushing the right buttons, and being forthright when he doesn’t sets Kapler apart as well. Sure, baseball fans want their teams to distinguish themselves on the field, not in the dugout, but through two plus seasons, Kapler’s making a difference.

So what should fans hope for to spice it up? That’s simple: the trade deadline. If the Giants stay in contention, they’ll make some spicy moves in August to keep things moving. They did it last season by dealing for Kris Bryant, and they kept the door open for future moves, by not retaining Bryant. At some point–you can almost count on it–Farhan Zaidi and the front office will make a big move on the trade front and get the Giants a star, someone who fits financially and schematically.

The Giants open a nine-game home stand on Tuesday against the Rockies with Carlos Rodon facing Colorado’s struggling German Marquez at 6:45pm.

Back To Jacks: Giants go home run-happy once again in 10-5 win at Colorado

By Morris Phillips

Now that the pressure’s off, the Giants are swing happy once again.

Definitely a statement made tongue in cheek, but the Giants are done battling the Dodgers for now, and they looked loose and lethal in whipping the Rockies 10-5 on Labor Day afternoon in Denver.

The final 25 games of what’s becoming a signature season in the century plus history of the franchise promise to be jam-packed with tense moments. Those moments just didn’t surface on Monday: Kevin Gausman pitched the Giants into a comfortable place, and the team’s home run bats took it from there. A short turnaround from a late afternoon start in San Francisco to an early afternoon start two time zones away didn’t take away from the effort either.

“To be honest, I was expecting everyone to be a little sluggish,” starter Kevin Gausman said. “We expended a lot of energy that last series just mentally. And being locked in every single pitch and to come out, from the get-go, they were locked in. Quality at-bats and really making Freeland work.”

“The whole crew has a very, very quick turnaround and tired eyes this morning,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “These guys got ramped up well, got prepared and ready to hit, obviously, from the first pitch.”

Darin Ruf starred as the unlikely catalyst, thrust into the leadoff role in the absence of injured Austin Slater, who has concussion symptoms. Ruf homered in the first, and tripled in the four-run fifth, as the Giants jumped to a 8-1 lead and chased the Rockies’ Kyle Freeland, who beat the Giants earlier at Oracle Park and had been on a roll since the All-Star break. Freeland was looking to build on his 5-1 record against the Giants at Coors Field in his 10th home start against the visitors, but he was in trouble from the start.

Ruf and Buster Posey hit homers in the first inning, and Thairo Estrada homered in the fourth and the fifth innings. Ruf’s two-run triple capped the rally in the fifth. That blast came off Ben Bowden, who was summoned to replace Freeland.

Gausman turned in his most impressive and lengthiest outing since the All-Star break, pitching seven innings, allowing five hits and three runs. The Centennial, Colorado native may have energized by participating in the first starting pitcher matchup between Denver-area natives (Freeland is from Denver), but after some short outings in early July, he’s been trending back toward his season start and he picked up his 13th win for his efforts.

“I almost talked to Kap before the game, ‘Let me go 130 pitches, whatever it takes. These guys need a day off.,'” Gausman said. “I had some quick innings, some long (at-bats) and then followed by a one-pitch out.”

Despite their ragged effort, the Rockies stand as one of the Giants most formidable obstacles down the stretch. The Giants finish a 16 games in 16 days stretch here this week, and return on September 24 for three more meetings. While the Rockies have been dreadful on the road, winning just 18 of 68 games thus far, they’re 45-25 at home, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde peformance that would be the biggest differential in home and road performance in the history of the Major Leagues if the percentages persist.

Freeland loomed as a big portion of the challenge facing Giants, as did the short turnaround, but at least on Monday, the Giants were up to the task.

On Tuesday, the Giants return to normalcy so to speak with an announced starter in Logan Webb, who may also give the bullpen a breather if he can continue his lengthy success now spanning more than half the season. The Rockies have announced Chi Chi Rodriguez as their starter.

Giants break losing spell with 5-1 win over Milwaukee, enter showdown with LA tied atop the NL West

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Big moments against the best performers. If you’re a San Francisco Giant, this is your official welcome to September baseball.

Darin Ruf had his moment first. With the Giants in a tense, and speedy 1-1 tie in the eighth inning, Ruf delivered a two-run double off Devin Williams, a lights-out setup man for the Brewers, who hadn’t allowed a run of any kind since June 23.

Six pitches after that, Thairo Estrada joined Ruf in the baseball cauldron by delivering a three-run homer that iced a 5-1 win for the Giants. That blast was only the fifth allowed by Williams this season, and the first to a right-handed hitter.

“The boys came hot late,” starter Logan Webb said. “It was fun to watch.”

Fun to watch, and absolutely essential. The win broke a four-game slide for the Giants, and allows them to enter Friday’s showdown with the Dodgers in a dead heat atop the NL West at 85-49. 28 games remain in the season, and only the next three are between the two, hated rivals. That means a lot of scoreboard watching and divided attention to come for the rest of the month.

“It’s a good boost of confidence going into the next series, but obviously, all of our attention and focus was on today’s game,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

The Giants were locked into a pitcher’s duel through seven innings with Webb, arguably the NL’s hottest starting pitcher dueling with Milwaukee’s unheralded Eric Lauer. Lauer allowed three hits and struck out four, with Austin Slater’s first pitch of the outing home run as his only blemish. Webb had sliders darting in and out of the strike zone for seven innings like clockwork, striking out 10 in a dominant outing in which he only allowed Jace Peterson’s RBI single in the fourth.

But by the eighth, both starters were gone, and both teams were scratching for a win as hard as they could.

The Giants caught a break when Kris Bryant was initially called out trying to steal second base, but a replay that needed all the looks and angles possible, reversed the call. After Brandon Belt drew a walk, Ruf struck with his lead-providing double, and Estrada left his mark as the next batter. Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell sat through it all–the replay and the meltdown of his top reliever–but remained philosophical.

In the end, I think they got that call right,” Counsell said. “When a guy that’s 75 feet away from the call gets the call reversed, it’s just a little suspicious. So that was my argument, but they got it right.”

The Giants open the series with the Dodgers on Friday with Anthony DeSclafani facing David Price.