On Saturday, the San Francisco Giants won consecutive games in a row for just the second time this year. The first time was on Friday.
In other words, the Giants have their first three-game winning streak of 2019, and with all three coming against the Colorado Rockies, they also have their first season win. They’ll go for the sweep on Sunday.
There was a lot to like in the Giants’ 5-2 victory. There wasn’t much to dislike, which is kind of a new thing. The Giants haven’t had many comfortable wins or losses - all their losses seem to have the frustration of feeling like it should have been closer, and every win seems to be accompanied by the annoyance of the team feeling like they tried hard to lose.
Not on Saturday!
The Giants, playing barely 12 hours after winning an 18-inning marathon, looked rested. The defense, which so often sputters when a team is shy on rest, was exceptional. Beyond exceptional. Extraceptional.
San Francisco’s defense has been strong all year, but on Saturday it wasn’t just superb - it was the catalyst. It was the motor for the team.
Pablo Sandoval, who was a late start after Brandon Belt was scratched with a sore neck, had one of the better defensive plays of the season, turning a rare 1-3-6 double play. It instilled the kind of emotion in Madison Bumgarner that would lead to him throwing a pitch at himself, if such a thing were possible.
That’s one way to end an inning. pic.twitter.com/iBuUpAOPf5— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) April 13, 2019
Sadly there’s no video that shows Bumgarner’s emotion, but he was truly fired up.
Then he got fired up two innings later, when Evan Longoria raced in from third to barehand a bunt and throw a remarkable one-legged rocket to Sandoval for the out.
The defensive highlights go on and on: Sandoval had another great play once he moved to third, Steven Duggar made defending the outfield look easy, and so on and so forth.
The defense truly got the team going.
The Giants didn’t exactly put on an offensive display, but for what felt like the first time all year, they didn’t seem reliant on the big hit that may or more likely may not come.
There were stranded runners, sure, but there were even more that found their way home. One of Bruce Zaidi or Farhan Bochy opted to go with the pitcher batting eighth strategy, and in the third inning, Gerardo Parra - batting ninth - led off with a single. An infield hit by Steven Duggar and a bunt by Yangervis Solarte later, the Giants had runners at second and third.
Kevin Pillar did a perfectly competent thing - he hit a sacrifice fly.
In the eighth inning they one-upped themselves. They started the inning with perhaps the most unlikely play this team can make: Sandoval stealing first. Joe Panik then singled, and Brandon Belt walked, to load the bases. This time it was Parra who had the sacrifice fly, and then Duggar added his own.
Five runs, and three of them came by way of the sacrifice fly.
Now on the one hand, you can criticize the Giants limp bats for being incapable of getting the big hits that, you know, are eventually necessary. On the other hand, we’ve seen them try for those so many times this year, just to leave players eternally stranded, that taking the runs felt so, so nice. Especially since the sacrifice hits were barreled up, and just found gloves.
But there were other runs, and we should talk about those. Kevin Pillar did it again, smashing a big home run to left-center. He just won’t stop! That’s okay with me.
The broadcast is showing more stats this year, which I appreciate. One of the interesting ones they occasionally show is the home run probability in other parks.
According to their metric, Pillar’s dinger clears the fence in 28 of the league’s 30 parks. That’s probably par for the course with Oracle home runs, but pretty cool nonetheless.
Buster Posey drove in the other run, with a very nice double. His swing has been looking good - he looks healthy and balanced, which he didn’t last year. The results aren’t there yet, but a 2-for-4 night helps.
But we maybe don’t have such an optimistic disposition if not for the heroic services of Reyes Moronta.
Brucy Bochy tried to push Bumgarner as far as he could - understandable, given that the Giants used their entire bullpen for 13 innings on Friday - and it nearly backfired. In the seventh inning, the Rockies started to hit Bumgarner hard, including a big fly from Mark Reynolds.
Bochy gave Bumgarner a chance to come out for the eighth, but after allowing a leadoff double, he was pulled.
Moronta came in, nursing a one-run lead, and struck out Raimel Tapia, Charlie Blackmon, and Garrett Hampson. It was masterful.
And Bumgarner looked good, too, allowing just two runs in seven innings, with six hits, no walks, and seven strikeouts. He only had nine swing-throughs, but pounded the zone relentlessly and rather safely. 67 of his 98 pitches were strikes, including 18 first pitch strikes to 26 batters.
He also had a single. A bullet of a single.
This Bumgarner is good. Really good.
Admittedly the Rockies offense is . . . well, a unit that makes the Giants look stellar offensively, but here’s what San Francisco’s pitching has done in the series thus far:
Starters: 19 IP, 13 H, 2 BB, 19 K, 4 ER
Bullpen: 17 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 23 K, 0 ER
That’ll do, pig.