Saturday, July 18, 2015

Close Your Eyes and Count to Ten

For those of you who, like ourselves, instinctively wonder about these things, no, Bruce Bochy did not set the major-league record last night when he used ten pitchers over the course of twelve innings in the Giants' stirring comeback win at Arizona. The all-time record was set by the Seattle Mariners in 1992, when manager Bill Plummer deployed 11 pitchers (no less than four of them former Giants, by the way) in a 16-inning win at Texas. "Boch", for now, will have to settle for a second-place tie with several others, including Lee Mazzilli's 2004 Orioles, the only one to use ten pitchers in a nine-inning game, and Detroit's Larry Parrish in 1998, whose ten worthies were battered for seventeen runs over 12 innings in a true team effort. Like last night's marathon, Detroit's 17-16 loss to the White Sox clocked in several minutes past the five-hour mark. 

Ryan Vogelsong, recently added to the bullpen as Tim Hudson prepares to come off the DL Monday, got the win with two innings of work, knowing he was the Last Man Standing. Only Madison Bumgarner, Chris Heston, and tonight's starter, Jake Peavy, remained. "Vogey" did his job, shutting 'em out in the eleventh, dropping a bunt single that set up the winning run in the top of the twelfth, and surviving the inevitable Paul Goldschmidt leadoff single in the bottom by getting a double play, and ultimately his seventh win.

The Giants clearly have no interest in giving the venerable Hudson his unconditional release, though he has earned such with a 4.68 ERA and an opponents' batting average of .291 so far. Scratching for silver linings awhile back, we posited that perhaps Vogelsong and Hudson should split the number-five starter role, since Vogelsong's 3.12 home ERA is two runs per game lower than his road mark. But Hudson has been terrible on the road, at home, in the day, at night... he's a class act, he's worthy of Hall-of-Fame consideration if not selection, he's already announced this is his last season, and the Giants organization very badly does not want to send him packing outright.

Which they do need to do with Jean Machi Monday when Hudson comes off the DL. Machi, as is his wont this year, made a bad situation worse by his mere presence. Taking over for Matt Cain to begin the sixth, Machi surrendered a leadoff double and then a two-out RBI double when he was one pitch away from escape.  At 5.14, Machi simply can't be allowed to give away any more runs, not when worthies such as  Hunter Strickland, George Kontos, and Josh Osich have emerged as bullpen mainstays and deserve all the innings they can get.

Indeed, if you posit Kontos-- who has not allowed one inherited runner to score all year--  as the "new" Sergio Romo, Osich as the "new" Jeremy Affeldt, and, perhaps the toughest task of all, Strickland as closer-in-waiting behind Santiago Casilla, you have the makings of an updated "Core Four." Javier (0.74 WHIP) Lopez continues to be his ineffable self, and DL-denizen Affeldt, to his credit, was pitching hurt when he ran up his awful early-season numbers. But Casilla and, especially, Romo, have given indicators that they may have "hit the wall" this year, and so we look to the new arrivals with hope. 

Meanwhile, Vogelsong needs to remain close, in the bullpen for now, but ready to step in and start should the fragile back-end of the rotation-- Cain, Peavy, Hudson-- begin to falter or wear out. Cain was "the real Matt Cain" only in his lone home start, but he's been extremely hittable in his other two forays. Peavy has fared better, with both his starts being quality outings against good teams despite not winning either game. Hudson-- well, as one commenter on the Giants' website put it, Hudson's style simply doesn't translate to the bullpen; unlike "Vogey", he can't come out and "pitch like Rambo for one or two innings." True enough, and where all this leaves Tim Lincecum (once he comes off the DL) and Yusmeiro "The Invisible Man" Petit is unclear. What is clear is, the Giants lead all of baseball in marginal starting pitchers. At last count, we have six of them.

Belated congratulations to the Giants' DP combo, Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik, for making the National League All-Star team and playing together on the field during the final innings. For Craw, it's been a long time coming. For Panik, making All-Star in his first full season just confirms what Giants fans have known for some time now. Let's see if Matt Duffy (.297, .337, .465, better-than-average range) joins them soon...  Of course, our perennials, Bumgarner and Buster Posey, were there, with Buster starting at catcher and "Bum" coming in after Zach Grienke and Gerritt Cole...  Arizona's David Peralta had him a night last night, didn't he? How many guys hit two triples in one game, anyway? Peralta's second three-bagger, leading off the seventh, was the only hit off Kontos, and he then ensured his night would be especially memorable by "lollygagging" off third on a grounder to Crawford-- which Brandon promptly fired over to Duffy for an embarrassing tag-out. Like they say, never make the first out of an inning at third base... Not that that play completely killed the budding rally. With first and second now occupied, Bochy called on Osich to face Jake Lamb. "Big O" struck him out on a full count, which was good, since he'd previously wild-pitched himself out of the double-play option. With two down, "Boch" called on his third pitcher of the inning, Strickland. He got his 27th "K" in 21 innings and that was that... Holding the 'Snakes' scoreless in that seventh inning kept them from "answering back" to the Giants' game-tying rally in the top of the frame, when singles by Panik and Duffy preceded a sac fly from Posey and Hunter Pence's 4th homer... It was Crawford who scored the winning run when his opposite number, Cliff Pennington, apparently suffered a case of the 'yips' and short-armed his throw home into the dirt on what should have been a simple bases-loaded force... Very quietly, Gregor Blanco's one-on one-out walk (his 22nd in 184 at-bats, .383 OBP) set up "Vogey's" perfect bunt, which set up Pennington's error, which won the game.