Pablo Pitched the Ninth, and Other Tales from a Very Busy Day of Baseball

Full box here (if you must)

Full box here

 

by Dr Lefty

The day started out very poorly for the Giants. After an inspiring rivalry win on Friday night, there was nothing but bad news: Instead of going back into the lineup, Mac Williamson went on the 7-day concussion DL (eligible to return Tuesday, May 1–EDIT: Alex Pavlovic is now reporting that Mac can’t return until next Saturday. Bummer.). Worse, Joe Panik injured his thumb during Friday night’s game and was also placed on the DL–and later we heard that he likely needs surgery and may be out a couple of months. Early-season bright spot Chris Stratton, back from his whirlwind trip to Mississippi to see his daughter being born, had the worst start of his major league career and got only four outs–in the first game of the doubleheader.

But even in a 15-6 shellacking, there were a couple of good moments. Alen Hanson, who woke up Saturday morning in Sacramento expecting to go grocery shopping with his wife before heading to Raley Field for the River Cats’ night game, found himself on the roster and inserted into the lineup in the middle of Game 1–and promptly hit a three-run homer into one of the deepest spots in the park. Derek Law got his first major league hit. But all of that was a warm-up for this.

 

Andrew Baggarly was all over this. It was the first time since 1991 that a position player took the mound for the Giants, and Baggarly even got the last guy, Greg Litton, on the phone to discuss his memories of that day. Baggarly also unearthed the nugget that Pablo Sandoval is only the second player in MLB history to have hit three home runs in a World Series game and thrown a pitch in a major league game. The other, of course, is Babe Ruth.

There are so many good videos and tweets of this Pablo pitching masterpiece that it’s hard to pick, but here are a few.

 

And ohhhhhhh, SNAP!

 

And double snap!

Here’s maybe the most important thing. The Giants could have been pretty depressed going into game 2 of the doubleheader. They’d gotten hit with bad injury news, there was Stratton’s bad start, the bullpen was so torched that Bochy had to use the third baseman to pitch the ninth, and they were getting their butts kicked so badly that “Let’s Go Dodgers” chants were taking over their home ballpark.

Pablo’s outing was not only amusing–it was good. He threw 11 pitches, eight for strikes, in his 1-2-3 inning, and OK, the Dodgers’ hitters probably weren’t trying all that hard after a long, messy game with another one still to play, but Pablo actually looked like he had a clue out there. Prediction: It could happen again, even if only for one hitter.

But the whole episode lightened the mood and felt, then and later, like a momentum swing.

 

Game 2

The second game started out nearly as badly as the first. Johnny Cueto, who’s been practically unhittable this season, gave up three hits and two runs before ever recording an out. But then he pitched to 20 more guys and didn’t give up another hit, allowing the Giants the opportunity to get their offense going against a slow-starting Alex Wood (now 0-3, 4.11), which they finally did in the fifth inning. The big hit was by Austin Jackson, his first extra-base hit against a lefty this year, and it was well-timed: It cleared the bases after Joc Pederson briefly bobbled it, allowing Crawford to score all the way from first. So Cueto earned his third win with no losses, and his ERA remains a microscopic 0.84.

Other heroes of the game included Sam Dyson, who came in with the bases loaded and nobody out to relieve a wild Reyes Moronta and try to hold a two-run lead. Dyson did a masterful job, inducing a double play and striking out Chris Taylor to preserve the lead at 4-3. After such a rough spring and early season that he’d been buried in the back of the bullpen, Dyson has come on strong over the last week or two, and the Giants really do need him.

D.J. Snelten, a big lefty on the 40-man roster, got the word at 3:30 p.m. in Sacramento that he needed to head to San Francisco for Game 2. A few hours later, he was making his major league debut. So if you didn’t notice any video of his mom wiping away tears or his dad taking pictures, it’s because unless they live in the Mission, they didn’t have time to get to the ballpark. Snelten went an inning and a third and even got an at-bat in the bottom of the eighth. Here’s his first major league strikeout, and thanks to some finishing-up by Hunter Strickland (looking sharp and nasty again), Snelten doesn’t yet have an ERA and survived the postgame “back to Sacramento” purge.

 

A Big Yellow Taxi (Squad)

Do you know where the expression “taxi squad” came from?  I vaguely was aware it referred to the practice squads that NFL teams have, but I didn’t know the “taxi” part, so we looked it up. Here’s the story, per Wikipedia: In the 1940s, the Cleveland Browns coach and owner recruited a group of promising reserve players who did not make the team but who would participate in practices. The owner put them on the payroll of his cab company so that they would officially have jobs, so–“taxi squad.”

I don’t know if the Giants’ AAA players are hailing cabs, calling Ubers, or taking the Capitol Corridor Amtrak train, but there certainly has been a lot of movement between Sacramento and San Francisco in a season that isn’t yet out of April. To recap, the following players have, starting in spring training, been optioned and recalled (and in several instances, optioned again) so far this year:

Position players: Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Alen Hanson*

Starting pitchers: Tyler Beede, Andrew Suarez*

Relief pitchers: Steven Okert, Derek Law, Roberto Gomez, Pierce Johnson, Reyes Moronta, D.J. Snelten

*Technically, Hanson and Suarez were not initially optioned because they were not on the 40-man roster to start the season, but they both are now (obviously).

If you’ve had trouble keeping up over the last few days, well, that’s what I’m here for!

Wednesday: Chris Stratton placed on paternity list, Roberto Gomez recalled

Friday: Josh Osich on the DL, Austin Slater recalled

Saturday: Derek Law added to roster as extra 26th man for doubleheader, Chris Stratton off paternity list, Slater optioned, Mac Williamson on 7-day concussion DL, Slater recalled (as the story goes, he’d just crossed the Bay Bridge when he got the word to turn back around), Joe Panik on DL with thumb injury, Alen Hanson’s contract purchased, Roberto Gomez optioned after Game 1, D.J. Snelten recalled for Game 2, Derek Law optioned after Game 2.

The only healthy pitcher (i.e., not Chase Johnson or Will Smith) on the 40-man roster who hasn’t spent a day with the Giants yet this season is Tyler Herb, and–if I were him, I’d be checking with his River Cats teammates about the quickest way to get to AT & T Park from Sacramento.

 

More Decisions Ahead

Joe Panik is getting a second opinion on his thumb, but it sure sounds like he needs surgery and that he’ll be out until sometime around the All-Star break. This is a major bummer since he’s been one of the steadiest hitters on the team this season and a good leadoff man. For the foreseeable future, it looks like it’s Kelby Tomlinson (who had a great day yesterday and is hitting over .300 for the season now) and the versatile Alen Hanson–and pray that no other infielder gets injured. The next line of “depth” would be Orlando Calixte and Chase d’Arnaud in Sacramento, Miguel Gomez in Richmond, or even SS Ryan Howard. (This reminds me: why is Miguel Gomez in Richmond? Time to bring him back to Sacramento, I’d say.) I’m hoping that Bochy will give the speedy infielders a shot at batting leadoff because why not, at least until MyGuy™ Duggar (three hits last night, two homers in his last two games) finally gets the call?

Will Smith is almost ready to be activated, ending his long road back from Tommy John surgery in March 2017. They mentioned him on the broadcast last night, and it was an odd discussion.

Kuiper: The Giants want Smith to “pitch in traffic.”

Mr. Lefty: Does that mean they want him to suck on purpose? (Smith has only allowed one baserunner in five appearances for Sacramento.)

Krukow: I think by that they mean having him into an existing inning. (Oh, OK! So they want someone else to suck!)

And the Giants will need a starting pitcher for Tuesday night’s game, presumably Andrew Suarez. My guess is that they promote Suarez, option Snelten, and then demote Suarez on Wednesday, activating Smith. But the way things are going, who the heck knows?

 

Today’s Game

If the Giants can take today’s series finale behind Dodger-killer Ty Blach, they will pull to .500 on the year and finish 6-4 in their opening ten games versus their rivals. The Dodgers must be wondering what’s happened to the Giants since three weeks ago. In the first two series (six games), the Giants scored a total of ten runs, and seven of those were in one game (the Andrew McCutchen extra-inning walk-off thriller). In this series, the Giants have scored 20 runs in three games.

Dodgers at Giants, 2:05 p.m., AT & T Park (note later time)

Kenta Maeda (2-1, 3.10 ERA) vs. Ty Blach (1-3, 4.31 ERA)

 

And so ends one of the busiest days in Bay Area sports I can remember–besides the Dodgers and Giants playing two, there were Sharks and Warriors playoff games and the NFL draft to talk about. Lefty out.