There are times when it seems destiny has plans of its for your favorite baseball team. In Wednesday night’s game, a 2-0 loss, the Giants could do nothing right. Every hard hit ball was caught. Every lead-off hitter was stranded, and every attempt to solve the Tyler Chatwood riddle was a failure. Last night, the Giants bounced back with a 7-2 victory set up largely on the sloppy defense of the Rockies’ infield and other forms of good fortune to win only their second home series of the second half. Yes that’s right, the Giants had only one home series win since the All Star Break!
A critical throwing error by Nolan Arenado on a Johnny Cueto bunt, a fielder’s choice decision by Gerardo Parra that failed to nab Brandon Crawford at third base and a some excellent situational hitting by Hunter Pence, Conor Gillaspie and Angel Pagan gave the Giants a 3- run sixth inning. The Giants added two insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th on a bases loaded walk and sacrifice fly by Buster Posey that scored pinch-hitter Jarret Parker.
Johnny Cueto: Guts and Glory
Johnny Cueto, while not sharp in the first inning where he allowed 3 hard hit balls and two runs, rebounded to take control of the game and silence the Rockies’ exceptional lineup of power hitters. Cueto appeared to be pitching on guile and guts more than stuff in the first three innings when he was shimmying around trouble. During the early innings our blog commenters were worried that his crab-bite groin pull was still affecting his ability to pitch effectively and command all his pitches. In the first inning, his first fastball was clocked at 90 mph. In the 5th he hit 94 mph with that same pitch. Johnny Cueto is one of those pitchers who finds his rhythm as the game progresses. If you don’t knock him out early, he usually pitches effectively. His stamina and his arm are worthy of paeans and platitudes. His heart and soul might just be worthy of the Willie Mac Award.
The good news: it appeared that Cueto was also free of the damage from his injury when he sprinted down the line after a perfect bunt in the fateful bottom of the 6th. The bottom line: Johnny Cueto was magnificent again, going 7 innings, allowing only 2 runs, on 9 hits and 11 strikeouts. That makes three starts in a row the Giants pitchers (Moore, Samardzija and Cueto) have thrown exactly 11 strikeouts! This is dominant stuff to be sure.
Small Ball and the Giants
Last night’s game hinged on two bunts, a sacrifice fly and poor infield defense. It is no secret the Giants are having a historically weak second half. While the bullpen has been an epic catastrophe, the offense has been worse. The Giants are last in runs scored, last in slugging and second to last in home runs since the All Star break. Bruce Bochy is a lover of the long ball, to be sure. He is averse to bunting and running. He is, as I have written before, an interesting amalgam of American League hitting philosopher and National League Bullpen Whisperer. He plays for big innings and lets his hitters hit, rarely putting runners in motion or forcing the issue to put pressure on opposing defenses and spritz a little of that Eau de Kansas City from time-to-time.
Last night was different. Whether by necessity or design, the Giants forced the issue in the 6th. A combination of aggressive base-running, excellent bunting and good situational hitting created runs and errors that lead to runs. There is a lesson to be learned here going forward. The Giants are not a power-hitting team. Nor are they a high-average team that can be counted on to string together 4 or 5 hits an inning to put up crooked numbers every game. For the Giants to succeed offensively they will need well-timed singles and doubles as well as flawless situational hitting. They will need to be aggressive and pressure opposing infielders and outfielders. They will also need their big bats to deliver key hits the way Buster Posey and Hunter Pence did last night.
The Wild Card Will Go Down to the Wire
Since the Cardinals won on a controversial call in the bottom of the 9th earlier in the evening, the Giants had to win to maintain their one game lead for the final Wild Card spot. The Mets were idle which means the Giants also gained a half game and trail the New Yorkers by one game for the top Wild Card. The Dodgers arrive for the final regular season series beginning tonight…This is going to be an interesting weekend.