EPIC: Cutch is Clutch, Giants Win Instant Classic

 

Full box here

by Dr Lefty

I gave up. I’ll admit it.

No, I didn’t quit watching. But, beaten down by what’s happened since July 2016, I knew the script: Bochy stayed too long with a laboring starter. Gearrin allowed his inherited runners to score. A trusted bullpen arm from the past coughed up another lead. Cajillions of runners were stranded in scoring position.

Call it PGSD: Post-Giants Stress Disorder. And I’m not the only one. Consider this in-the-moment tweet (after the Dodgers took the lead and before the walk-off) from Alex Pavlovic.

Luckily for all of us, the Dodgers’ 2018 season seems to have a script, too, and the stench of the sewage spill in Chavez Latrine during their last exhibition game seems to still be in their nostrils. Right now, this week, their stink (2-6, worst start since 1976) is stronger than ours from last season.

May it ever be thus.

 

McCutchen walks right into Dodger-Giant rivalry lore

Andrew McCutchen has been a Giant for exactly seven (7) games, and yet he now owns one of the iconic performances in this storied rivalry. Coming into the game, he’d had only two hits the whole season, and was saying things about how at least he was preventing runs with his defense. Indeed, he played Utley’s early double perfectly off the right-field bricks, a play that Yasiel Puig, who’s played a lot more games in right field at AT & T Park than McCutchen has, later muffed, leading to a run for the Giants.

McCutchen had once, back in 2010(!), had a five-hit game for the Pirates. He’d never had a six-hit game. And #6 was a classic. With runners on first and third and nobody out, and the Giants trailing by a run, McCutchen fought off pitch after pitch. And then on the 12th pitch–the longest at-bat of his illustrious career–this happened.

His teammates got it. After the game, they turned down the lights in the clubhouse, all donned McCutchen t-shirts, and had a wild party.

For however long it lasts, we’re going to enjoy having Andrew McCutchen on the Giants.

 

The AAA bullpen that got us there

Two weeks ago, the Giants played the River Cats in an exhibition game in Sacramento. Reyes Moronta earned the save for Sacramento in a messy but gritty performance. No one could have guessed that five days later, after a couple of injuries, he’d be lining up with his teammates for Opening Day…in Dodger Stadium. He didn’t even make it to the Bay Bridge series–it was Derek Law and Pierce Johnson (more on him in a minute) getting the reps there.

One of the key moments in last night’s game happened with Moronta on the mound. The Dodgers had two on and two out in the top of the 12th inning, with Kike Hernandez coming to the plate and the pitcher’s spot on deck. Bochy knew that Dave Roberts had used his last position player and that a pitcher would have to hit after Hernandez. So he took a risk and asked his burly rookie pitcher to intentionally walk the bases loaded. From Henry Schulman’s gamer:

Bochy trusted his rookie and told him, “I believe in you that you can throw strikes.”

The move would have backfired with a walk, a wild pitch, a passed ball or even an infield dribbler resulting in no play.

“You’re taking a chance,” Bochy said, “but I would have felt worse if Kiké got a base hit, a lot worse, because you’re facing a pitcher batting zero and I’ve got a guy throwing 95, 96.”

Pierce Johnson was a Cubs cast-off whom the Giants quietly grabbed off waivers in late September. After a sparkling spring in which he gave up 0 runs and 1 hit, he…was one of the first cuts sent to minor league camp. But a funny thing happened to Pierce Johnson on the way to Sacramento. He never got there. So far this season, in three games and five innings, he’s given up one hit and one walk, including last night’s six-up, six-down outing.

I didn’t believe in Roberto Gomez when he got a surprise September call-up, and I was stunned when he made the team at the last minute. I watched him in Sacramento a lot last year and he did not impress me. I’m still not sure I believe in him in the slightest (he has an ERA of 22.50), but darned if he wasn’t the winning pitcher in last night’s game. And to be fair, he gave up three straight seeing-eye singles, and the third one arguably should have been knocked down by Longoria at third. It looked like the game was going to go south in a hurry, and last year, it absolutely would have. But to “Gomey’s” credit, he bore down and held the score right there, making a comeback still possible, even if it seemed unlikely from an offense that had apparently gone to sleep around the seventh inning.

Andrew McCutchen said after the game that he’d never heard of any of them before spring training. He knows who they are now.

 

Some love for Kelby Tomlinson

I’m a bigger KT fan than some here. I like his grit and his attitude and the way he maximizes his very specific skill-set. Still, he had a rough spring and, it seemed, barely made the team. Even though Crawford hasn’t hit much to start the season and hadn’t had a good night at the plate, I wasn’t thrilled when I saw that Bochy had double-switched him out of the game when Gomez came in, replacing that Gold Glove at shortstop with Kelby’s serviceable-at-best glove. But Kelby made a nice play after the Dodgers’ run scored, getting the lead runner at third. Then, with the Giants desperately needing a whiff of hope, he took one of the tenacious late-inning at-bats that have become his calling card, singled, and then outraced Puig’s great arm to take third on Panik’s single, putting the tying run at third with nobody out.  It was a small thing, it seemed. But it breathed a little life back into the park.

 

Some stuff we practically forgot about the game because it was so long

This post is getting to be as long as the game, so I’ll put it in list form.

  1. Stratton wasn’t sharp. He limited the damage for five innings, but he walked more hitters (4) than he struck out (3), seemed to be pitching behind everyone, and was at 78 pitches after five. After two starts, I’m feeling less bullish about him. I’d hoped he would progress into a reliable part of the rotation, but so far he’s a five-and-dive kind of guy. We shall see.
  2. Bochy stuck with Stratton too long. Stratton had walked two guys at the bottom of the order before struggling his way out of the fifth. He’d been through the order twice and had a 3-1 lead. After the fifth, with a fully rested bullpen that hadn’t pitched since Wednesday, I hoped Bochy would turn over the new leaf he’d hinted at during the spring and pull Stratton. But he didn’t, and Stratton didn’t get an out in the top of the sixth, leaving two runners on who both scored (thanks, Cory!).

3. Cory Gearrin and Sam Dyson are bringing up bad memories of 2017. Gearrin’s very first pitch, with the bases loaded, crossed up Posey and led to a passed ball and a run scoring, and then he allowed a second run to score on a ground ball out. Dyson held the lead the Giants had re-taken for about 5 seconds, giving up a home run to 73-year-old Chase Utley for Pete’s sake. Dyson and Gearrin are making over $6 million together, and I question whether either is worth it. With the Giants’ lack of bullpen depth due to injuries (see three rookies, above), they’re not going anywhere, but it will interesting to see whether guys like Johnson and Moronta start moving deeper into Bochy’s circle of trust.

4. Buster Posey hit his first home run since August 10 of last year off Rich Hill, and it was a beautiful thing. Heck, let’s link the video!  And I love this photo of Cutch’s homer, with Buster behind him.

Buster knows.

 

 

Today’s game

Dodgers at Giants, 1:05 p.m., AT & T Park
Clayton Kershaw (0-2, 2.25 ERA) vs. Ty Blach (1-1, 5.79 ERA)

 

Do it for Surf Maui and the Crawniks, guys!  Lefty out.