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A belated (and way too long) look at Chase d’Arnaud’s relief inning

Was it as entertaining as Pablo Sandoval’s dominant appearance?

San Francisco Giants v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

First off, my apologies to Chase d’Arnaud for taking so long to get around to this. Nothing intentional, just had other items pop up in the queue. Sure, there wasn’t nearly as much novelty and surprise with this appearance because of what Pablo Sandoval did, but Bruce Bochy doesn’t do this very often. Even though it’s the new trend in Major Leauge Baseball, the San Francisco Giants don’t follow trends. Whatever’s going on in 2018, they want to do the exact opposite.

But I digress!

Chase d’Arnaud pitched the bottom of the eighth inning of last Sunday’s sweep at the hands of the lowly Cincinnati Reds and saved the Giants’ bullpen from another humiliating inning. We’ll never know the real reason why the Giants are unspeakably awful against the Reds in Cincinnati (in the regular season), but we should all know by now that there is no escaping a domination at the Great American Ballpark.

Which is why Chase’s inning was so great — it was a sign that even though the Giants had lost the battle, the war, their pride, and any chance at the postseason, they were still alive in the sense that they could breathe oxygen and mimic what baseball kinda looks like. Like a television character coming out of a coma. Maybe the Giants didn’t remember everyone’s name or even that pitchers are supposed to pitch, but they vaguely remembered the game of baseball.

I digress again! Back to Chase and his accomplishment. His 4 minute, 18 second inning was basically two minutes longer than Pablo’s, but it came against a fiercer opponent in that the Reds were hitting in a high run-scoring environment and, quite frankly, against stuff that wasn’t nearly as sharp as Pablo Sandoval’s.

As Kenny wrote in his recap:

D’Arnaud was one of two Giants pitchers to not allow a run today, and he did it by throwing 78 MPH fastballs. Maybe everyone else is just trying too hard?

That looks like a focused individual who nonetheless is just ready to get this thing over with. I appreciate d’Arnaud’s workmanlike face.

That’s still not a great stat. It means that at least two games have gone completely off the rails for a team that just had an entire season that was off the rails. Anyway, here was Javier the scouting report Javier Lopez improvised on air after Duane Kuiper goaded him:

d’Arnaud coming out for the first time for the Giants. He’s gonna have a little three-pitch mix most likely. Probably gonna throw four-seamers, sinkers, anywhere from low-to-mid-eighties. Reach back heater is probably going to be right around 89-90. If he’s got a chance to break off something, he’s going to do that. Former pitcher... [Duane Kuiper starts laughing] back in his college days at UCLA [d’Arnaud went to Pepperdine].

Kuiper’s laugh rolled into this remark:

The beauty of that is you said it with a straight face.

It’s important to note that Javier Lopez deadpanned a bit through this entire inning, which really elevated the moment. Chase d’Arnaud d’Arknew why he was in there and it was just to put the game out of its misery. Lopez is in a position where he’s a guest — he still needs to be professional, but he also has to have a little fun. It’s a position player pitching, after all, and I think he walked the tightrope beautifully, never giving away that he was being tongue in cheek. For once, his super serious and somewhat reserved broadcasting demeanor really sold the whole bit. Makes sense, though, as he’s a communications expert.

Back to Chase... let’s take a look at his first pitch of the inning:

That sure is a 78 mph something ball. I read it as a fastball, Lopez called it a changeup. Sure, Javy. If we’re going strictly off of traditional radar gun readings, that’s what it was. But look at d’Arnaud’s pitching motion — that shows intent. He’s trying to whip a get-it-in fastball for strike one. Changeups don’t fly up and in like that.

Can we talk about Chase’s pitching motion? I’m gonna talk about Chase d’Arnaud’s pitching motion. He’s just slinging the ball up there, almost care-free. That’s not a solid “ready to defend” finish for someone who used to pitch in college. Still there was a lot of movement on this first pitch, called a ball even though it could’ve been a strike. And, in an 11-4 game with a position player pitching, should have been.

Check out the movement on the next fastball —

Out of the digital box, but called a strike on the field. Maybe a makeup call there for the beleaguered Giants and their pitching position player.

Javier Lopez said of this pitch that curled up in the zone:

a “get me over” slider

It was a good “show me” pitch. Chase didn’t want the batter (Eugenio Suarez) sitting fastball. So, two fastballs and then a slider. Lopez speculated:

let’s see if we get a reach-back fastball here

Instead, we got a 78 mph changeup / backup slider / slopball that Eugenio Suarez skied to right field, leading to the inning’s biggest spike of excitement — Austin Slater’s catch.

(Slater did not tumble to the ground.)

This was just another example in a series that demonstrated the Giants had forgotten how to play baseball. But it was also the first out of the inning. Big deal for a position player.

Philip Ervin hit a walk-off home run in the first game of this dreadful series. Could he bookend the series with an unnecessary blast in a blowout?

0-0 pitch to Ervin goes outside for a ball. Lopez:

throws a little cut fastball there

He gets a little better grip on the next pitch:

But it’s still outside for ball two. So, two fastballs out of the zone against a dangerous fastball hitter. What did Hundley have in mind for the next one?

78 mph high cheese — more like a slice of Kraft American Cheese — to get a huge swing-through from Ervin. Lopez chimed in again:

he’s got that good cut-change goin’. Deceptive arm angle.

At least we agree, Javier, that he’s trying to throw a fastball.

And that’s when d’Arnaud really let it fly.

There’s the reach-back heater. 84.

It’s clear now that Chase had been building arm strength and confidence. These wild fastballs out of the zone? Practice. He doesn’t want to throw an errant strike. Or maybe he wants the batter to think he has no idea what he’s doing on the mound... rope-a-dope?

Yep. That’s the strategy. A total whiff on a 78 mph slider, just like we saw on the strike 1 pitch to Suarez. Some pitchers deceive with arm angle and delivery, d’Arnaud went pro wrestler.

Alas, Ervin wasn’t fooled by the next pitch:

And a hard hit single to right field gave d’Arnaud a base runner against a team that had disemboweled his teammates thrice over. Could he get a double play against Preston Tucker? Tucker was a real challenge: a left-handed batter. How would d’Arnaud ad’just to the situation?

That’s a challenge fastball that he couldn’t throw close enough to the strike zone. Now what?

Another challenge fastball, but he took a little bit off of it to gain control. Got Tucker to swing right through it. That’s what we call Pitching, people.

Look at that confidence. It’s just jumping off the screen. That’s confidence. Also charm. But also... oddly seductive? How did Nick Hundley call the next pitch?

Tucker missed this d’Arnaudball and flied out to center. Two down!

Chaseball right down the middle. Bang. Strike one.

Another darting fangeup to even the count. Was Chase d’Arnaud about to lose his grip on the inning? Lopez thought he still looked great:

He’s got a good finish. Squared to the plate.

d’Arnaud got away from his slider in the latter part of the inning. On the next pitch, he tried to blow it by Dilson Herrera:

But Herrera was on it and shot it out to right field —

Where it found Austin Slater’s glove without incident or imbalance. Lopez made sure to commemorate the moment:

Remember where you were.

And there you have it. Another successful inning of relief work by a Giants position player. As Kenny noted in his recap:

One thing I noticed about Chase d’Arnaud was that he did a pretty good job of holding the runner on at first which seems like an unnecessary skill for a position player to have.

He didn’t throw over, but he altered his delivery time, never getting predictable for the baserunner. Now, that’s some subtle work, but it’s also, once again, Pitching.

Still, this relief appearance just didn’t have the magic of Pablo Sandoval’s. As I said in that recap:

This was the most fun and excitement the Giants have had in the regular season since 2015, around the premiere of that Full Clubhouse video. Pablo Sandoval has consistently been the team’s biggest personality, for better or worse. A little levity in a long season, at the end of a blowout, is exactly what the Giants needed. For a team that hasn’t been able to get what it has needed recently, this Pablo pitching appearance is the biggest sign that things are different this season.

d’Arnaud pitched the final inning of the Giants’ death wheeze in the middle of a road trip that everybody (player and viewer alike) just wanted to end. Pablo Sandoval has wanted to pitch an inning of relief for probably his entire career. The Giants were desperate to have somebody jump on the grenade for an inning.

Credit to Chase d’Arnaud. He Captain America’d the hell out of jumping on that grenade.