Greek Giant

In a game that had more than a little personality and fight to it the Giants overcame some poor situational hitting and a depleted bullpen to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 in the deciding game of a three-game series that was memorable for the competitiveness and lead-changes. Yesterday Zach Littell was one of the heroes pitching a six out-two inning save after recently being called up from Sacramento. Littell pitched the 8th and 9th innings because the Giants relief corps was spent and needed the game off. Mr. Rogers, Mr. Garcia and Mr. McGee were not going to pitch in this game no matter what. In fact, I think Gabe Kapler would agree that Brandon Belt (another hero of the game) was more likely to pitch than the Giants set up man and closer.

Littell used a heavy and hard fastball with a very quick-shortish arm delivery to handcuff the heart of the Brew crew in the 8th allowing only one walk. In the 9th he steamrolled past three batters for an easy save and inning that belied the contentious nature of a ballgame that saw three lead changes and many close calls. The game had everything except a blocked punt. In the bottom of the 8th the Brewers continued their generosity toward their guests from San Francisco by running into a free out to end the frame and a potential Brewer threat when Eduardo Escobar, who was on first base, failed to touch second base after going past it during a play in which Kris Bryant caught a hard smash near the wall in left. If Escobar simply retreats by touching second base on his way back to first base, then the Brewers get another chance in the inning. Instead he missed the bag! Tommy LaStella was credited with the heads up play of seeing the infraction. What a ballplayer|. Bryant made a routine throw to Craw who threw to LaStella who was at the unoccupied bag at second to end the inning. It was a bit surreal.

The winning hit for the Giants came off the bat of one Tommy LaStella who was pinch-hitting for Donovan Solano with two outs and Brandon Crawford at second. LaStella proceeded with the Wade Boggs approach to hitting: taking the first and second pitch fastballs right down the middle to dig himself into a 0-2 hole. No worries here as LaStella fouled of 346 difficult sliders and fastballs down in the zone to push the count to 3-2. He was working Brewer reliever Brad Boxberger like a new leather glove, breaking him in till he was ready to unleash a full cut on a fastball just manageable enough to smash up the middle and score Brandon Crawford. As I sat there watching the LaStella hit I was aghast at the fact that Giant lefty would take two meatballs to start the at bat. Only later did I realise LaStella was playing chess while I was playing checkers.

BCraw, by the way had one of the key plays in the game by doubling to lead off the 8th. It was the epitome of a hustle double as the Giant shortstop struck a ball near the left line that would be better described as a Rafael Nadal drop shot. Crawford noticed that Brewer left fielder Christian Yelich was playing very deep and over to center and would need quite a few extra steps and seconds to get to the hit. In the process Crawford ran hard out of the box and made a perfect slide avoiding the Brewer tag by a millisecond or two. It was an exhilarating play thanks to Yelich’s fantastic off balance throw that made the play closer than one thought possible. These types of Brandon Crawford plays do not make the box score as the old adage says but it was a HUGE key in the game.

My third hero of the game was Brandon Belt who is simply on fire. In the top of the 7th with the Giants trailing 4-2 Belt took a low fastball down the middle and swatted it out of the park to dead center. The ball rode an express train off the bat. It was launched in that patented BB9 quick strike swing. The homer cleared the wall before Daniel Norris, the Brewer reliever, finished his wind up. Belt’s blast came during pinch-hit duty.

Johnny Cueto started the game and pitched five and one third innings allowing four runs on five hits, a line that looks worse than it actually was. Cueto was very good on this day but his pitch count was elevated on a few long at bats that saw the Brewers foul off many sliders and fastballs. The extra pitches would cost Cueto who then allowed a two-run homer to Brewer catcher Omar Narvaez in a tough at bat when the Giants were leading 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth and Cueto looked like he might be cruising to an 8-inning outing. In fact Cueto retired the first nine batters he faced but was not perfect, as more than a few Brewers had 3-2 counts along the way.

Darrin Ruf got the Giants on the board first with a solo home run in the top of the first. In fact when the Giants score first this season their winning percentage is approaching .800.

Make no mistake this was a special series and both the Giants and Brewers played like it. The Giants have now played their last nine games against the teams with the second, third and fourth best records in baseball. They went 6-3 in the process, all without Evan Longoria. Not too shabby.

Don’t think the Dodgers, Astros, and Padres didn’t notice it.

With the win the Giants keep their four-game lead over the Hollywoodians with 50 games to play in the season.

The Box