The Giants lost to the Padres 3-2 but you don’t care about that. What you care about is that the Dodgers need to win this weekend’s series to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention. I agree with you: that’s way, way more worth caring about, but before you start dreaming of Joe Panik book-ending the season with a pair of walk-offs, let’s at least take a moment to address all the many good things that happened for the Giants in this game.
The fog that hung over the stadium might as well have been the ghost of Bobby Evans, and that ethereal abstraction was embodied no more so than in Abiatal Avelino’s start and subsequent 2-hit night, which included his first major league hit.
Welcome to the big leagues, Abiatal Avelino! pic.twitter.com/GNBYAVP9jy— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 27, 2018
His bat speed allowed him to really fight through that inside pitch, and when the broadcast cut to Major League Baseball’s official authenticator handling that first hit ball, I get really excited, because just look at it —
That scuff mark tells the story even more than the official sticker the authenticator is going to slap on it. Avelino’s family and friends will see this in a trophy case and know for sure that he got a major league hit. That scuff mark will be the subject of a poem his teenage daughter writes years from now, about how that scuff mark represents all her father’s love and labor. Or, it’s just going to look really cool up in that trophy case.
His second hit of the night came in the 7th inning off of reliever Jose Castillo. It was a single to left field and had an exit velocity of 109.7 mph — the hardest hit ball of tonight’s game.
Before the game, Jon Miller interviewed Bruce Bochy on the radio for the daily Bruce Bochy pre-game show, and Bochy said that Avelino looked tight and nervous in last night’s game, but that was mostly because he hadn’t played in a few weeks. Bochy was very paternal and thoughtful about this kid, and it’s a reminder that the Giants can break in young players — Bruce Bochy’s not the wrong man for that job.
We won’t know if Bobby Evans and Andrew McCutchen left the Giants with a tremendous parting gift in Avelino for a while yet, but at least for tonight — at least before season’s end — we got to see some positives from the transaction.
Overall, there was a strangeness to this game. It wasn’t so much that the Padres are actually a decent-ish team now — rather, you can see the outline of how they’re going to be good next year — but more practical stuff, like, there were bubbles blowing across the field for most of the game...
... right after Avelino’s first major league hit, Casey Kelly had a really bad bunt attempt that looked like this:
In the top of the fifth inning, Casey Kelly shovel passed a ground ball to Austin Slater at first base who wasn’t actually at first base because he had moved to field the ground ball, but Casey Kelly didn’t see him move and so Kelly’s ball toss to nowhere allowed Travis Jankowski to get to second base. Two batters later, Casey Kelly was called for a balk and Jankowski was able to trot home to give the Padres a 2-0 lead.
Later, Wil Myers stole second base in the top of the 8th inning and the second base bag popped loose
On that same play, Aramís García couldn’t get a grip on Sam Dyson’s pitch but still trieed to throw out Wil Myers. That looked like this:
In the bottom of the 8th, Hunter Pence fouled off three straight hanging breaking balls before lining a fastball into center field with a leadoff single. With a 3-2 count, Gregor Blanco swung through a blazing fastball as part of a hit and run and Hunter Pence was thrown out to seal the double play:
The ol’ strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out 24 hours after these same two players led the charge of the Giants’ comeback.
The Giants losing this game wasn’t weird — not even the ways in which they lost was weird — but it didn’t look normal, and hey, that’s something.
Also abnormal? Aramís García drew a g-d walk, man. Like, an honest to goodness base on balls. He never does that. Or, rather, he’s never done that. He now has 1 walk in 54 major league plate appearances. According to Baseball Cube, he drew all of 22 walks this season in Double- and Triple-A. So, he’s now drawn 23. For reference, Evan Longoria has 22 walks this season at the Major League level.
But enough about walks, check out his dinger:
Aramis Garcia showing off his super power on Marvel Night pic.twitter.com/8JA1M6FLBs— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 27, 2018
That’s not quite easy power, but it’s close. Twice now, García has followed up 0-for-4s with productive nights. That’s impressive. Does it make him the biggest surprise of the season?
He now has 4 home runs on the season, one away from tying Buster Posey — who, admittedly, was injured most of the year. Even if he doesn’t hit another home run, the Giants’ catchers will have combined for 18 home runs, 80 RBI, and a wRC+ around 103.
That’s solid. It’s also the only position on the team except right field (thanks solely to Andrew McCutchen) that put up numbers above league average.
But it’s not about numbers and it’s not about winning right now. That’s a 2030s problem. This month, there have been very few positives for the now-moribund franchise, but surprise, surprise, there were some of those rarities tonight.