Monday, July 4, 2016

The Glorious Fourth

If you understand that the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, is the founding document of the American nation, then chances are you've got your priorities straight. And when you read it, if you can say, to yourself and out loud, "Yes, that's me, that's what I believe," then you are truly an American-- because "American" is a state of mind and an attitude, not merely a result of birth or citizenship. 

The Glorious Eleventh

Inning, that is. Well, maybe "glorious" is overstating it just a tad, but we'll take the wins when and how we get 'em. Over the last thirty days the Giants' bullpen has blown eight leads by our count; this was one the club was able to rescue. Unlike many others, it was a solo effort: Cory Gearrin, charged with holding a 4-2 lead in the eighth, got one out, then gave up the tying home run to Jake Lamb after Buster Posey couldn't handle Paul Goldschmidt's grounder. Going against the grain, Bruce Bochy then left Gearrin in there to finish what was left of the job rather than play bullpen roulette. This kept designated closer/whipping-boy Santiago Casilla available to close out the 11th after the Giants had rallied to take the lead, and bless his heart, he did so-- but not without incident. Leadoff single, sac bunt, and then the old reliable, a wild pitch moving the runner to third with only one out. But Casilla then won the crucial AB, getting Brandon Drury on a sharp infield grounder. This allowed Welly Castillo, whose homer off Hunter Strickland had won Saturday's game for Arizona, to receive the old "unintentional intentional walk," baseball purists shuddering as the winning run ambled down to first base. Casilla then fanned Pete O'Brien on a 2-2 pitch and, for a change, that was it.

One of the comments on the Giants' site the other day plaintively asked whether Casilla had pitched even one three-up three-down inning in a save situation this year. That stirred our memory of Robb Nen back in 1999. A year after his tremendous inaugural season in San Francisco, the Nenster struggled through a nightmare year in '99, and after perusing our exhaustive statistical charts we determined, and triumphantly posted to the old Giants Usenet group, that Nen had not pitched a single three-up three-down ninth inning in a save situation all season. (He had in fact pitched one perfect inning that year for a save-- but it was a tenth inning, sports fans.) Whether we now take up the same research effort for Casilla is something we'll decide on later in the year.

Didja notice that Bochy's lineup yesterday had exactly one Opening Day starter at his preferred position: shortstop Brando Crawford? Yes, Posey was in there, but at first base, remember? And Brandon Belt, slated for a day off, was inserted at the last minute into left field. The rest of the crew featured catcher Trevor Brown, second baseman Grant Green, third baseman Ruben Tejada, Jarrett Parker in center field, and Mac Williamson in right. The game-winning hit was delivered by pinch-hitter Ramiro Pena, who in six tepid major-league seasons has never hit well enough to earn even 200 AB's-- but who is hitting .417 with 4 extra-base hits and 7 RBI in 36 at-bats with the Giants. His timely double scored Parker, who walked for the 14th time in his 87 at-bats, and who at 27 seems to be making his case for a big-league career at the Last Chance Saloon. 

Parker may want to get used to center field; word has it that Denard Span's neck stiffness may be enough to land him on the DL. Let's see, that would make five Giants starters disabled this year so far, including the entire starting outfield, and it would mean four on the DL at the same time (Matt Duffy, Joe Panik, Hunter Pence, and now perhaps Span).  

We confess that when saw Tejada's name in the leadoff spot next to that gaudy .160 average and .457 OPS (not OBP, mind you; OPS) we wondered if Bochy had lost his mind and was perhaps channeling those 1960s managers who all wanted their own Luis Aparicio (if you were Latin and a middle infielder in the sixties, chances are you were the leadoff man even if you hit .220). But Tejada, aside from his double and run scored in 5 AB's last night, has been a decent hitter most of his six-year career. His only real bad season was 2013. He bounced back the following year, and last year was his best yet, as he hit twice as many doubles in the same number of at-bats as 2014. He has no real power, but he will take a walk, averaging more than one free pass per ten AB's throughout his career, which is our own yardstick of minimum competence, and he's still only 26. A career .327 OBP is not a leadoff man's number, but it's not an absurd place to put him either, especially in this patchwork lineup. (Yes, we too would have preferred to see Green there.)   

Didja see "Boch" pull a rare "triple switch" in the eleventh last night? Pena had come in to bat for Josh Osich, who got the win; he stayed in the game at second base, replacing Green, who despite a fine 2-for-4 night yielded to pinch-hitter Angel Pagan two batters later. Why? Defense! Pagan went into left in the bottom of the frame, replacing Belt, who yielded his spot to pitcher Casilla. Did it work? Well, we won, didn't we?

Happy Independence Day to all who still treasure it.

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