by Dr Lefty
No new celebrity sightings for Day 3. Since the game was later (3:05 p.m.), we had a leisurely lunch at The Mission (Sunday Pork Pig-Out, which is all-you-can-eat carnitas and you build your own street tacos) and then strolled over just in time for the lineups being announced. We also sat in a different spot, Sec. 312 behind first base. I’ve learned that shade is best, but with the game starting later, I figured we could deal with the sun for a little while. They were good seats, and I enjoyed the different perspective from the previous days.
From here we had a good vantage point on Sandoval (playing first yesterday) and, as I shared at the time, the golden opportunity to heckle new Padre Eric Hosmer. He was a good sport about it, though.
Since the game was televised back to the Bay Area, I won’t belabor the details. The short version is that the Giants scored five runs on five hits (and three walks) in the first inning, with the big blow being Hunter Pence’s grand slam, and made it stand up for eight innings, winning 5-4.
GRAND SLAM ALERT: @hunterpence clears the bases with one swing of the bat#sfgiants pic.twitter.com/2R60WGXOa5
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) March 11, 2018
I didn’t like the lack of offense after the first inning. I did like that the various relief pitchers before and after Melancon (more on him in a minute) held the line. I also enjoyed watching some above-average outfield defense, most notably from Gregor Blanco in left and Eury Perez, playing CF with a one-run lead in the ninth. The other hitting performance of note was from Austin Jackson, who hit the ball hard four times and had three hits. Here’s his RBI single in the first inning (he batted twice!).
Individuals of note
- Gregor Blanco is one of the fastest men in the majors at age 34. Yesterday we saw him race easily around the bases for a triple and glide around left field. Here are some comments from Alex Pavlovic’s story.
Bruce Bochy has repeatedly said that Blanco looks like he’s still in his twenties, and after he legged out an easy triple — his second of the spring — on Sunday, Hunter Pence noted that Blanco looks faster. Pence said Blanco has opened eyes with his explosive work in the weight room.
“You watch some of what he’s doing…it’s incredible,” Pence said.
Blanco has made speed work his emphasis, doing work with training bands and mixing in plenty of box jumps. He said Pence is actually the one who deserves credit. Blanco overhauled his workout routine after seeing Pence’s work on explosiveness when the two were teammates the first time. He has continued to tweak things. Blanco said he recently ran a 6.4-second 60-yard dash.
“The last time I did that was when I was like 16 years old,” he said, laughing.
The beat writers all think Blanco’s a lock to make the team, leaving one spot to claim in the crowded outfield competition. The early guess is that everyone with options (Mac, Slater, Shaw, Duggar) is going to Sacramento, and the competition is between Jarrett Parker and Gorkys Hernandez–and some comments from Bochy lead the writers to think he may be leaning towards Gorkys. It also sounds like Blanco (and maybe Gorkys) will be utilized as a regular late-innings defensive replacement for Pence. However, Bochy has also emphasized that all of the outfielders are still in the mix, and no final decisions have been made.
2. Ty Blach was OK yesterday, not great and not terrible. He certainly wasn’t getting knocked around like Samardzija on Friday or Suarez and Beede on Saturday, but he fell behind hitters a lot and got the pitch count up quickly. That said, he limited the damage and left with a 5-3 lead after four innings of work, earning the win.
3. Mark Melancon pitched the sixth inning after a clean fifth inning from D.J. Snelten. (We saw Snelten twice this weekend and thought he looked great. He does not seem to be overwhelmed by being with the big club.) We were a little surprised that Aramis Garcia replaced Posey right as Melancon came in, thinking that Bochy might have wanted Posey working with Melancon, but I’m guessing that caution regarding Posey’s cranky ankle trumped that consideration. Melancon gave up a leadoff home run and then pitched pretty well with some nice swing-throughs. It was only his second appearance, so he gets a pass for now for the home run.
4. Pierce Johnson and Tyler Herb pitched the last three innings, with Herb throwing two innings for the save. Johnson, whom the Giants obtained from the Cubs off waivers in September, is quietly having a nice spring. Herb’s previous innings had been rocky, but he looked great yesterday, helped in the ninth by a beautiful running catch in deep center by Eury Perez. (Who is Eury Perez? Every time I look up he’s getting a big hit or running down a ball in the outfield. In 10 spring ABs, he has five hits, 4 RBIs, two triples, and a stolen base. Looking him up, I see that he has nearly 350 stolen bases in his minor league career. He could be fun to watch in Sacramento this year, if he can find a spot in what looks to be a crowded outfield. Maybe it’s Richmond for him, at that.)
The weekend: some impressions
This is the weekend we typically go to Scottsdale; it works out best for our schedule each year. It also is “Investors Weekend,” when the people with money in the Giants visit and party. It’s been a running joke(?) for years that the Giants always look awful and lose nearly all the games on Investors Weekend. There have been years we’ve gone 1-2 or even 0-3 while there, which isn’t to say we didn’t still have a good time(!). But this year they went 3-0 at Scottsdale Stadium and 4-0 for the weekend and have a nice little five-game winning streak going. How are they doing it?
Well, it wasn’t starting pitching. Blach’s three runs in four innings was the best starter performance of the weekend, though Cueto started the run with a sharp outing on Thursday night in Peoria. It was a combination of robust offense, including solid ABs up and down the lineup and some hard-hit balls, and the odd feeling that the Giants were never out of a game even when they fell behind. I liked this quote from Hunter Pence:
“It matters, these games. We’re competing”
Normally I wouldn’t think that the Cactus League games “matter,” but when you’re coming off a 98-loss season and have a lot of new faces, the tone you set early does matter. You get the sense that everyone understands that.
I also enjoyed seeing aggressive base running. There were two caught-stealing plays–Duggar on Saturday and Mac on Sunday–where it looked like they were safe (and both players seemed to think so, too), but replay will sort that out when the games are for keeps. One of my favorite moments of the weekend was an eighth-inning rally on Saturday that involved both Blanco and Duggar using their speed on the bases to make things happen.
The outfield defense was a pleasure to watch. There was not one cringe-worthy moment, though I think it will take me (and other fans) awhile to get over the throat-clutching terror that the Pagan-Span years have left behind. We could call it Pagan-To-Span-Disorder (PTSD).
Giants at A’s, 1:05 p.m., Radio: KNBR
Stratton vs. Cotton
Here’s the Giants’ lineup:
#sfgiants lineup for Bay Bridge tremender. pic.twitter.com/Psr7Ytj3E3
— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) March 12, 2018
First cuts coming today. With Opening Day just 17 days off(!) and the Giants breaking camp in Arizona in just 11 days(!), it’s time for the main guys to get more playing time and those who won’t be making the team to play in minor league games. What are your predictions for the cuts?
This was our ninth straight year going to spring training and tenth overall. As I’ve shared here, it’s a calendar highlight we look forward to and plan for (Southwest/Marriott points!). This time I felt not only like a fan having fun but also like a reporter, looking for interesting things to report back. It made it even more fun to know that I was experiencing it with you all, virtually speaking.
(True story: I usually, as a rule, never bring my laptop on “fun” trips. It feels like too much temptation to work, so I go with just the iPad/phone combo. But last year I found that it was pretty hard to manage WordPress effectively when doing posts on my iPad, so I decided to bring the computer–just for the blog posts! And OK, I answered some work emails, too. Sighhhhh.)
Thanks for reading. Lefty out.