by DrLefty

MrLefty and I were out to dinner last night, and we were between courses, so he was monitoring the Giants game on his phone and updating me: “A run in…two men on…Chapman walks, bases loaded.”

“Who’s up, Soler?” I said.

“No, it’s Bailey.”

BAILEY. The guy that delivered the gut punch home run to win a game for the Giants in New York last June? THAT Bailey?

 

Anthony DiComo covers the Mets for MLB.com. He took a lot of mocking for that 2023 tweet.

Back to the dinner conversation. MrLefty is still reading off his phone: “In play, runs…OK, good…how many runs?…Bailey hit a GRAND SLAM, Giants up 7-6!”

Me: “Wait, what? He did NOT.”

Yes, he did. Here’s Anthony DiComo again. He apparently has a good ability to laugh at himself.

 

To be clear, my disbelief in the moment was not from any lack of faith in Bailey. Rather, I just couldn’t believe that for the third game in a row, the Giants had rallied late from a 4+ run deficit and that for the third game in a row, a grand slam factored heavily in the drama.

This time, of course, it was our grand slam. I like this way better.

 

Now let’s talk about Matt Chapman. For the third game in a row, he made a critical defensive play in the late innings to help the Giants hold the lead. On Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, he made a great play to get the final out in a hairy save situation for Camilo Doval, exacerbated by a a critical error by young shortstop Marco Luciano. On Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh, after the Giants had rallied in the top of the eighth to take the lead, Chapman made two sparkling plays in the bottom of the eighth behind Randy Rodriguez.

Last night’s gem was the best one of all. It was like a repeat of Wednesday–Luciano booted another grounder, Doval was scuffling–a run was in, and the bases were loaded with two outs. Then Chapman (assisted by first baseman LaMonte Wade Jr.) made the best defensive play of his career, according to…Matt Chapman.

 

Patrick Bailey, who is no slouch himself defensively, was pretty impressed, too.

 

There were some other good moments. Mike Yastrzemski and Jorge Soler both hit impressive home runs. Luis Matos made another great catch in the outfield. There were some warts, too. Starter Kyle Harrison wasn’t very effective, the team made three errors, and Doval once again wasn’t exactly Mr Lights Out. But it all worked out. The team seems to like “Harry Days”–they’re now 9-2 in Harrison’s eleven starts this season.  But the slam by Bailey and the play by Chapman…those are the ones we’re going to remember for a long time.

 

Other Notes on a Wild Week

When I published OOLF last Saturday, the Giants had won two games in a row, including a nice Friday night comeback win at home against the Rockies. I made some cautiously optimistic remarks that people seemed to enjoy. I wrote that column from a hotel room in San Francisco before we went to the park to see the Giants’ 14-4 win behind Harrison, an insanely fun day that included Matos’s six RBIs and Chapman getting on base five times and scoring five runs (he was in the middle of what turned out to be 11 straight plate appearances over three games in which he reached base).

Despite a gut-punch loss to start the series in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, they had a very good week, winning five out of six. One fan commented on Twitter, “The Giants should have an eight-game winning streak right now. But then I remember that they should also have a four-game losing streak right now” (meaning that they blew a ninth-inning lead on Tuesday and then made comebacks in the three straight grand slam games to win). The graphics in the tweet below show the roller coaster ride that those three games were, going from almost-zero win probabilities in the eighth inning to handshake lines a few minutes later. Pavlovic’s tweet at the bottom explains how rare and historic all of this is.

 

Grant Brisbee, in his article in The Athletic about last night’s game, came up with this brilliant analogy:

For the last three games, the Giants have been at the four-way stop sign of weird, hilarious, rare and fun. Right now, the Giants are the Road Runner, running off a cliff without falling. They’re refusing to look down and they’re saying meep meep as fans along the Eastern Seaboard pull their hair out and curse their Acme-brand relievers.

 

OK, a Reality Check

Brisbee also explores the short list of teams that have experienced this kind of silliness and made this observation:

Not-so-fun fact: Not one of those comeback kids up there finished over .500. The ’32 Cardinals and ’61 Red Sox both finished in sixth place, and the ’99 Marlins went 64-98. None of this has to mean anything in the big picture.

Most of the commenters were gushing over Chapman’s play and Brisbee’s Road Runner line, but one picked up on that and said, “Yeah. Good teams aren’t routinely getting down four-plus runs every game.” (And, it should be noted, neither the Pirates nor the Mets have been playing well, and their bullpens especially haven’t been very good. The two young starters in the last two games in Pittsburgh did their jobs.)

So what should we make of the Giants over the past eight games?

  1. With the exception of Logan Webb on Tuesday (the game they ultimately lost in extras!), the starters haven’t been good on this road trip. Yeah, Mason Black (grand slam #2) wasn’t technically the starter, and Blake Snell (grand slam #1) didn’t technically throw the pitch that turned out to be a grand slam (that was Sean Hjelle, but Snell had loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter). Harrison threw 98 inefficient pitches in five innings last night, giving up five runs (four earned), including back-to-back homers.
  2. The defense has been good except when it’s not. I mentioned Chapman a few times, Matos made another great catch and almost robbed a homer in Pittsburgh, and Bailey had a key caught-stealing in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game. But Luciano has made three errors this week, two of them in critical ninth-inning situations. Chapman’s heroics bailed Luci out last night, but the Tuesday night error was a key factor in the Giants’ loss.
  3. The bullpen has been uneven. Ryan Walker, Tyler Rogers, and Randy Rodriguez have been fabulous this week. Hjelle, despite the cutter that didn’t cut and turned into a grand slam, has been pretty good. Doval has been shaky, and yes, there have been some external factors (bad home plate umpire on Tuesday, errors behind him)–but last night, he gave up a double and an RBI single before Luciano’s error. Luke Jackson has been a major weak link, and I don’t even know about adding Drew Pomeranz, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2021, to the bullpen. I’m not sure I had “35-year-old lefty” on my shopping list.
  4. The real story has been the turnaround of the offense. We don’t need to reiterate the dismal facts about how the Giants weren’t scoring runs/hitting with runners in scoring positions/swinging at strikes, etc. They were just awful up and down the lineup. But over the last eight games, it’s been a completely different story. Going back to the last game against the Dodgers, the Giants have scored 63 runs in eight games. That’s close to eight runs a game. Pretty different look for a team that at one stretch went nine straight games without even scoring four. You can overcome some uneven pitching performances and defensive lapses when you’re scoring runs like that.
  5. The story-behind-the-story is the contributions of the young players. We all know that Giants’ players were dropping like flies a couple of weeks ago. The transactions list for May reads like War and Peace. Specifically, Heliot Ramos, Luciano, and Matos have made a huge difference to the lineup. Matos has cooled off at the plate on the road trip, but he’s hitting .280 with a .754 OPS and 19 RBIs in 12 games this year. Ramos is hitting .281 with a .778 OPS and two homers and some very solid play in the outfield. As for Luciano? He’s currently hitting .409 with a 1.071 OPS. We could also talk about Brett Wisely (who had what turned out to be the game-winning hit against Aroldis Chapman on Thursday) or Rodriguez (who’s suddenly pitching in high-leverage situations).

Then there’s Nick “the Vulture” Avila. He’s only on the team at the moment because Snell is on paternity leave, Avila hasn’t been very good, and he gave up a run last night, but he was the pitcher of record when Bailey hit the slam and the Giants took the lead. Going back to AA Richmond, he is now 21-0 in his last 21 decisions. The last time he was the losing pitcher was August 11, 2022.

So to sum all this up, the Giants have played their most successful, most exciting week of baseball for the season by far and are now at .500 for the first time since they were 2-2. Going into today’s play, they are tied for the third NL wild card spot. Some of that success is likely unsustainable. The really interesting question is what happens when some of the injured veterans who weren’t getting it done are ready to come back. Nick Ahmed had a putrid 61 wRC+ when he was injured but was playing solid enough defense that he has a positive 0.3 fWAR. Luciano, who is hitting much (MUCH) better than Ahmed was but playing much (MUCH) worse defense at SS, also has a 0.3 WAR (in a lot fewer games). But more importantly, the Giants have been scoring runs and winning with Luciano.

To me, if Ahmed were coming back today, the choice would be easy: Luciano starts and gets most of the ABs, and Ahmed is a defensive replacement in late innings of close games. But Ahmed is not coming back today. It’s going to be at least another couple of weeks. Many things could happen between now and then, including Luciano cooling off at the plate or looking better defensively. Similar decisions will have to be made about Ramos when Michael Conforto and Austin Slater are ready to come back. But these things have a tendency to work themselves out.

For now, we can enjoy looking back on the most entertaining week of baseball the Giants have played since 2021. (Notice I said “most entertaining.” The 2023 Giants had some hot streaks where they played pretty well. But this past week has been unique.)

 

Today’s Game

Giants at Mets, 10:40 a.m., Citi Field, New York

Jordan Hicks vs. Luis Severino

We’ll see if the Giants can keep the…whatever this is…going. It would be great at minimum to win the series since they come home to a brutal homestand against the two hottest teams in MLB, one of which kicked their butts around Philly just a couple weeks ago. But we’ll worry about that later. For now, enjoy. Lefty out.