by
Greek Giant

Austin Slater: Giants Man of Mystery

“Slater drives one to left!… and that’s going to win it!”

Those were Dave Fleming’s words to describe Austin Slater’s winning hit!

A bit of a forgotten man if not an outright punching bag on this and other Giants blogs, Austin Slater came through in a big way last night as the Giants defeated the Houston Astros 4-3 with a three-run rally in the bottom of the tenth inning. It was Austin Slater’s liner over the left fielder’s head that drove in the winning run to send the Giants and their fans home happy after a loss looked imminent when they came to bat upon surrendering the lead to the Astros who had scored two runs to make the game 3-1 in the top of the tenth inning.

The faith in letting Austin Slater hit in that situation was rewarded. He had already pinch-hit for Yaz earlier in the game.

A Classic Pitcher’s Duel

It had been a classic pitcher’s duel until the final frame with Giants starter Kyle Harrison matching Astros starter Spencer Arrighetti in allowing only one run. Harrison would pitch 6 1/3 innings allowing zero walks, only four hits and striking out three Houstonians. Arrighetti, for his part, went 5 2/3 innings and struck out six Giants in allowing four hits and issuing three walks. This was interesting matchups of young hurlers with the Giants trying to get momentum after a good series win in Arlington and the Astros, an elite team, trying to get back over .500 after a start to the season that saw them on a pace to lose 100 games.

In fact the game had been scoreless through five  and one-half innings until the Giants scored a run in the bottom of the sixth inning when Jorge Soler walked with two outs and Yaz drove him in with a triple that hit off the base of the wall in Triples Alley, 420 feet from home plate.

In any other park that’s a two-run homer and the Giants win the game 2-1 but, Willie Mays Field giveth and Willie Mays Field taketh away.
Yaz also made a great play:

The Astros tied the game off Kyle Harrison when Yordan Alvarez tripled to lead off the top of the seventh inning. It was a funny play because Alvarez had slowed down and was ready to settle for a double until he saw Yaz either double-clutch or for some reason delay in getting the ball into the infield. Then Alvarez took off for third and just beat the relay throw from Thairo Estrada, which was a touch high. A better throw or a quicker tag from Casey Schmitt and the Giants get him. Instead Alavarez is on third with nobody out when Jeremy Pena lined a long ball to center that easily scored Yordan with the tying run from the sacrifice fly.

An Un-Necessary Passed Ball Nearly Undoes the Giants

It was 1-1 when in a very nervy top of the ninth inning with runners on first and second with two outs and Camilo Doval pitching when Patrick Bailey was not able to catch an outside fastball from the Giant closer. It was ruled a wild pitch but should have been called a passed ball. Both runners advanced. Doval was able to escape the inning with a strikeout of Jose Abreu but that passed ball was caused because Bailey was in the one-knee-down position which Analytics people claim gets more strike calls from the umpire. It is a failure of fundamentals when a passed ball happens in that situation and it’s caused by the catcher being in the wrong position. Had Bailey been in the traditional squat he gets that pitch easily. The one-knee-down is something that needs to be debated. With runners on a catcher should always be in the traditional squat position to prepare for all pitches, prevent passed balls and wild pitchers and be better able to throw. It’s basic baseball fundamentals and if I can see it from my living room in Venice one wonders why the Giants coaching staff can’t fix it.

The Winning Rally

The top of the tenth inning saw the Astros score two runs, one on a Caratini sac fly and the other on a Bregman RBI single to center. That made the game 3-1 for the Giants going into the bottom half of the tenth that went this way:

  • Schmitt at second
  • Wisely single up the middle (his second of the game), Schmitt scores.
  • Ramos safe on an error by the shortstop (on a very tough play)
  • Bailey single up the middle to score Wisely and tie the game
  • Conforto reaches on error
  • Soler hits into fielder’s choice in which a runner is thrown out at home
  • The Slater hit!

It was a wild and exciting game and gave the Giants their third win in their past four contests. With the win the Giants are now 33-34.

Tonight’s Game

Game two of the series takes place tonight at 6:45 PM with Ronel Blanco (5-2, 2.78) of the Astros facing Jordan Hicks (4-2, 2.82). It should be a good one.