by
Johnny Black

Yesterday the Giants won an important baseball game, 5-1, courtesy of some excellent pitching by Jakob Junis and a grand salaaaami by Donovan (Donnie Barrels II) Walton, the former Seattle Mariner. It was Walton’s first career grand slam at any level in baseball, from Little League to High School to the Show.

Walton, a young and newish Giant, homered to right center in the top of the fourth inning off a curve ball from Marlin starter Braxton Garrett. Just look at that stroke! Look at the arc of the baseball! The most notable thing about the grand slam was seeing actual, live, human beings watching a Miami Marlins baseball game in Jeffrey (Robber Baron) Loria Stadium brought to you by the Miami-Dade County taxpayers.

Enter Jakob Junis

Just when you thought the Giants starting pitching situation was getting dicey you get Jakob Junis doing his best Ryan Vogelsong impression and man-handling the Marlins, a team better than its record, by the looks of things. Junis, like Vogelson, relies on pinpoint command, putting the fastball in locations in and out of the heart of the plate but close enough to be called strikes. The movement on his two-seamer comes back to righties and coupled with his slider, is a great weapon. When Junis can throw the slider for a strike he can be very dominating, particularly against right-handed hitters.

Picture the setting before yesterday’s series finale: The Giants are nearing the end of what could only be called a disappointing road trip. They had already lost two of three to the Miami ballclub after going 3-3 in their previous two stops in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. A loss in yesterday’s game is nothing short of a disaster. It would mean a 4-6 road trip agains teams, albeit on the upswing, with very bad records. On paper, you think the Giants must go at least 6-4 on this trip. Well, that did not happen but Junis and Walton made sure the Giants had a relatively serene flight back home with the win on Sunday.

His tally for the day: Six innings pitched, two hits, one run, eight strikeouts and only one walk. Yes Sirreeee!

The Relief

Dominic Leone, Tyler Rogers, and Camil Doval pitched the 7th, 8th, and 9th respectively. Each was a shutout inning. Coming off Saturday night’s loss (I’ll get to that in a minute) the Giants really needed not only a win but one without drama, where Johnny Black and the TWG family could enjoy their Sunday brunch (maybe with a mimosa) and watch the Giants win a baseball game.

Austin Slater Returns

Austin Slater returned from a stint on the IL. He was actually activated Saturday. He hit a big RBI single in the top of the 8th inning to make the game 5-1. Curt Casali went 2-3 and Luis Gonzales also had a hit to raise his batting average to .321.

The DEEEEEEFENSE!

We have all been critical of the Giants inability to make plays and their overall lack of quality in the infield when it comes to defensive play. The Giants are actually ranked 29th (2nd worst) in all of baseball when it comes to BABIP by their opponents. This means they are not getting to balls and making plays they should be making. If you’ve been watching this season that stat is no surprise. Well, in the bottom of the 8th inning with two on and two outs Thairos Estrada made a diving snare of a rocket off the bat of Jorge Soler. if that ball gets through it’s a 5-2 game with two on and the tying run at the plate. His dive and throw ended the inning and was something special.

The win gives the Giants a split in Miami and a 5-5 road trip, as I mentioned. It also means they are now 5.5 games behind the division-leading Los Angeles Bums, who lost yesterday.

Saturday’s Game: Taking Some Lumps

This is what Gabe Kapler said after Saturday’s really annoying 5-4 loss in Miami:

“We’ve taken some lumps right now and we expected to take some lumps.”

It’s very Jim Mora in its sports wisdom. “Playoffs?, You kidding me?!”

Here is the setting in the bottom of the fifth inning with the Marlins coming to bat: Logan Webb is cruising, pitching a shutout, the Giants have taken a 4-0 lead. We’re all thinking the same thing: Yes, here we go. We win this one and steal a win on Sunday and we take 3-4 in the capital of Hispanic America. But the baseball gods, the Marlins hitters would quash this dream. Logan Webb surrendered four in that bottom of the fifth. Logan Webb would not make it out of the inning, going 4 2/3 innings on the day and throwing 87 pitches. There was a throwing error by Joey Bart that allowed a run to score. There was also a series of Marlins RBI hits, a double by Sanchez and a two-run single by Cooper.

Logan Webb’s Weird Saturday in South Beach

The strange thing about this game is that I was kind of uneasy with Webb’s stuff early on. Yes, he was getting swings and misses. Yes, he had command of his pitches and was pitching with his characteristic rhythm: grab the ball from the catcher, get on the rubber and fire away. The problem, at least from my view on my couch here in the Cole Valley was this: Webb’s velocity looked down at least 3-4 MPH. He was not throwing many fastballs and was instead relying too much on the sinker/splitter and the slider. He was, in other words, becoming predictable. I would like to know if this was addressed in the postgame conference or in the Giants coaching hierarchy. It should be a topic of conversation and cause for worry.

The winning run scored on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning from Jesus Sanchez with Tyler Rogers on the mound. C’est la vie.

Walton’s Big Double

The Giant Bats finally got a big hit. This one came courtesy of a bases-loaded RBI double by Donovan Walton in the top of the fourth inning with the Giants leading 1-0. With the score going to 4-0 and Webb cruising,…. but you already know how it ends.

The double, however, was a beautiful example of hitting the other way. It was a line drive just out of reach of Jorge Soler, about 20 feet inside the left field line. It was a sight to behold. Walton is looking very hitterish right now.

The Giants scored first on a 416-foot home run from Jason Vosler in the top of the third inning. The Vosler homer came off Marlins starter Pablo Lopez, a big, burly and lanky pitcher with an interesting arsenal of offspeed pitches. Wearing those Little League monstrosities the Marlins call “uniforms” (they were in primary red, light blue, and a strange, incomprehensible logo), Sanchez was an imposing force early on. I had to adjust my eyes and my sense of good taste as I was watching this game. It was rough.

Vosler home was a no-doubter off the second deck facing:

The Wrap: Are the Giants Pretending or Contending?

Soooooo, how do we feel about the Giants road trip? Hmmm, as I said in my introduction, 5-5 against the likes of the Reds, Phillies and Marlins is simply not acceptable if the Giants want to challenge the Bums for first place. At this stage of the season, nearly a third of the way through, it looks like the Giants just do not have the horses to run the race for a pennant with San Diego and Los Angeles. By the way, if you have not already done so, you must read Dr. Lefty’s sizzling hot Out of Left Field column from Saturday in which she grades the Giants in a very blunt and, I would say, accurate manner. It’s not to be missed ladies and gents.

The Poll

Let’s make today’s poll about the Giants season so far.

Are the Giants Contenders for the NL West?