And in a crucial game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants’ bullpen threw 3⅔ scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out seven. They did not allow a walk.
[looks around furtively]
I ... I have nothing prepared for this. I pre-wrote a bunch of stuff, but, uh, dammit, none of it works for this particular recap, and I need to stall, so, uh, here’s a 24-minute YouTube video for you to watch while I rewrite a few paragraphs. Please watch the whole thing.
Okay, I think I’ve got a handle on it. See, the Giants needed the bullpen to bail them out. Not do just enough. Not fail less than usual and hope for good things. Actually carry the burden. Do everything, and do it flawlessly. It wasn’t supposed to be like that, but Johnny Cueto left the game with an injury.
Cueto said it felt like he got bitten by a crab. Seemed to be in a good mood, is hopeful MRI brings good news.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) September 21, 2016
Some stories are dog bites man, but this one was crab bites groin, and it came at a horrible time. Cueto was pitching fantastically, even as he dipped in and out of trouble. The Giants were desperate for seven, maybe eight, innings out of him, and they would probably have taken a 115-pitch complete game if he were offering to throw one. He was on his way.
And then, sproing. Not only was it a bullpen game, it was an all-hands bullpen game. Come on in, young guys, new guys, old guys, everyone. Their margin for error was roughly the space between Eduardo Nuñez’s home run and the left-field fence. They had to be essentially perfect.
They were? They were! Roll call!
Steven Okert had thrown 12 pitches to three batters over the last week. Two of them got a hit, and one of them schimpfed the Giants right in the groin, like some sort of metaphorical groin-gnawing crab. There was not one swing and miss included with those 12 pitches. His last appearance was a one-and-done in which he allowed a hit to the only batter he faced. If there’s really going to be a steel cage match next year with him and Josh Osich (and possibly Matt Reynolds), he hadn’t done much to distinguish himself.
In this game, he distinguished himself. He cleaned up a mess on behalf of Cueto (courtesy of an Ehire Adrianza error and a groin crab of a walk), and then he powered through his own minefield in the seventh inning. He was particularly dismissive of Adrian Gonzalez, striking him out on three pitches and looking like Andrew Miller’s stunt double at just the right time.
Will Smith is actually pretty good. Were you aware? Did you know that he was on the team? Throughout this collective bullpen meltdown, Smith has been used in blowouts or for limited platoon action in tight spots. He’s a setup man, he is. Use him like one. It’s not like Bruce Bochy has never seen a lefty mow throw all comers before, lefty or righty. It’s kind of Madison Bumgarner’s thing, along with the yelling.
Smith had a dominant eighth, striking out two, including MVP candidate Andrew Toles. At no point did he look like anything other than an eighth-inning guy.
Which brings up Sergio Romo, sweet, forgotten prince. The reliever who was taken out so that Santiago Casilla could be the one to face a right-hander in a save situation. The one who took a minor amount of heat for possibly laughing at his manager, even though he should have been commended for his restraint.
He used to be the closer you know. He used to have a plan against left-handed batters, and it often worked. It took him a bad weekend against the Rockies to lose his gig, though. I think it was just one bad weekend that cost Casilla his job, too. Can’t remember.
He used to be the closer because he could throw sliders like this:
That slider allows me to rehash the old Deep Thoughts reference.
Anytime I see something screech across a room and latch onto someone's neck, and the guy screams and tries to get it off, I have to laugh, because what is that thing
It was a neck-latching slider. And those used to mess lefties up, too. Bonus points for Chase Utley stumbling like a drunk prizefighter at the end of the play. Throughout Tuesday, I read people suggesting Matt Cain should be the new closer, and there was even a couple weirdos suggesting that Jeff Samardzija should take over in the postseason if the Giants get there.
That all seems very complicated. How about this guy? He’s done it before. And he seems more comfortable against lefties this season (they were batting under .200 against him in a small sample before Tuesday’s game).
You don’t have to submit your answer right now. Sleep on it. But for an inning, it was old times. Old times can be very fun.
Do you realize this is how other teams live? One-two-three in the ninth, nothing to it. Three-plus innings of scoreless relief, nothing to it. What an absolute treat. The Giants should try to have a good bullpen next year, that’s my opinion.
* * *
Johnny Cueto had to leave the game early (groin, crab), but as you can see from the tweet up there, he’s day to day. Brandon Crawford dislocated his pinkie while sliding into third base on a two-out metaphor, but he’s also expected to just miss a few days.
It was shaping up like the roughest night of the season — assuming the Giants were going to hork away the 1-0 lead, which was a safe assumption. Another rough loss combined with lasting injuries to two of the team’s better players? Uncle. Just eat a box of baking soda, chug a bottle of vinegar, and ride the wave of foam until you’re gently dropped in the middle of the ocean.
Instead, both are fine? Mostly fine? It was nice of Adrianza to make us instantly apprehensive and remorseful by reminding us he was absolutely not Brandon Crawford, and that’s going to last a couple days, apparently. But it could have been so, so much worse.
* * *
I was not aware of this stat. Apparently, neither was Bruce Bochy until the floating chyron let him know.
Those are 80-grade Bochy faces. They’re now one for their last 32,, by the way.
No matter. The Giants won a taut, stressful baseball game without any margin for error. Which teams apparently do every so often? What a world.