In the top of the second inning, in a scoreless baseball game, the San Francisco Giants put together a two-out rally against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Pablo Sandoval singled, then Brandon Crawford did the same. then Kevin Pillar, making his return to Toronto, made it three in a row with a rocket to left field, and Ron Wotus showed no hesitation in sending Sandoval, who scored when the throw drifted far up the line.
Joe Panik scorched a double into the corner, and Pillar set his speedy wheels in motion, and suddenly the Giants led 3-0.
"SMASHED."— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) April 23, 2019
A two-run double for @JoePanik. #SFGiants pic.twitter.com/PBNCQA9JDo
It was a little bittersweet.
On the one hand, the defining characteristic of the 2019 Giants offense has been the team’s remarkable ability to fail to knock runners in. Seeing them do so twice - not just in one series, not even in one game, but in one inning - was invigorating.
On the other hand, it was a reminder that when you’re as feckless as this offense, you need everything to go your way just to plate a few runs. The Giants needed the sequencing of four hits coming in a row. They needed a remarkably poor throw from an outfielder, and fifth gear from one of their fastest players. You can’t rely on those things, which is why the Giants have lost more games than they won this year.
And then, of course, just to show me how little I know, the Giants got four more runs, on a quartet of stately homers.
Earlier in the day I McCovey Chronicled how Panik, the team’s worst hitter this season, had only two extra-base hits all year. He doubled that (pun only mildly intended) in this game, adding a no-doubt dinger in the fifth inning.
If you think he’s been frustrated, he has been. That much was apparent in the emotion he showed following his first big fly of the year.
Crushed pic.twitter.com/fYga6v9KTZ— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 24, 2019
Panik wasn’t the only Giant with some foreign hits. Sandoval entered the game with only one non-double hit all year. That’s not a bad stat - the Panda has been a good hitter - but it’s a remarkable one. Seven of his eight hits this season had been of the two-base variety.
That is no more, as Sandoval had a pair of singles and a towering home run that gave the Giants their seventh run, which proved to be critical.
Remarkably, and certainly depressingly, it was the first time all season that a Giant had three hits in a single game.
Several of us spent our dinner hour trying to think of the last Giant with a three-hit game. We couldn't remember one. That's because it hasn't happened this season! It's true. The last three-hit game was Sept. 22 of last season. Aramis Garcia and Joe Panik each had three hits.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) April 23, 2019
Sandoval’s home run not only gave the Giants their first three-hit batter since September, but gave the team their first four-homer game since 2016.
The last time the Giants hit four home runs in a road game, it was July 16, 2016 at San Diego. And the blows were struck by this foursome: Angel Pagan, Mac Williamson, Ramiro Peña and Buster Posey.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) April 24, 2019
Speaking of Sandoval, he’s still fighting a war with the small sample size gremlins, but so far his placement on the team has been rewarded. He’s only 32 plate appearances into his season, but his slash line of .344/.344/.656 has been massive for the Giants.
His clean 1.000 OPS is .208 points higher than any other position player on the team.
As for the other home runs? Evan Longoria - who has quietly had a very strong last two weeks - took on dead center field, and made it look easy. Brandon Belt hit a ball so far and so high that he TKO’d a third-deck advertising screen.
Absolutely BELTED. pic.twitter.com/gTqCSKNike— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 24, 2019
If you know what to make of Jeff Samardzija’s start, then by all means, let me know. Because I sure as hell don’t.
Shark had a highly bizarre outing. In the past, his success has largely been dictated by his ability to find the strike zone. At his best, he’s a no-walk pitcher who suppresses runs beautifully. At his worst, he’s a walk machine who can’t find an out.
On Tuesday, he was locating the strike zone with ease. But, employing a rare and questionable strategy, he simply couldn’t miss bats.
Samardzija threw 85 pitches, and a whopping 60 were strikes. But of those 60, just six were swings and misses. The Blue Jays managed to foul off 24 Samardzija pitches - a staggering number.
But after a slow start - he needed 46 pitches to get through two innings, in which he gave up one run - Samardzija started to find a groove. He was perfect in innings 3, 4, and 5, needing just 26 total pitches.
But that still didn’t tell the whole story, as the Blue Jays were barreling up a fair share of balls that just happened to be outs.
In the sixth inning, they finally began to break through, and Bruce Bochy let his starter stay in a little too long. Samardzija gave up a dinger to begin the inning, then a very deep fly out, then a very hard single, then his only walk of the game. Finally the skipper had seen enough, and pulled the plug on a very odd start.
Which brings us to Mark Melancon, and a very interesting question. What if Melancon is quite good? He entered the game with two on and one out, in a 5-2 game. His cutter was dynamic, and he retired both batters he faced.
Melancon was a hot topic in Spring Training, as many wondered if Farhan Zaidi would cut the veteran pitcher. That seemed to be a conflation of a bad contract with a bad pitcher, and through the first month of the season, Melancon has looked stellar.
He won’t ever justify that horrendous contract the Giants doled out, but there was a reason they were in the market for him, and that reason has been on display. Tuesday was Melancon’s 10th appearance of the season. He’s pitched 10.2 innings, has a sub-1 WHIP, and has struck out eight batters. He’s yet to allow a run, and his cutter is cutting like a high end chef’s knife through a block of room temperature butter.
Maybe he’s really good! That would be quite a get for an already stellar bullpen.
Melancon may have been great, but the rest of the bullpen was not. After mowing down the side in the seventh, Sam Dyson got into big trouble in the eighth, allowing a walk, single, and a hilarious hit that was rocketed off the wall for what should have been a two-run double, but was a no-run single when the baserunners got confused and had to retreat.
Tony Watson took over a bases-loaded, no-out situation, and even though it was a 7-2 lead, that doesn’t feel particularly safe in Toronto.
It wasn’t. Rowdy Tellez did exactly what you would expect a person named ‘Rowdy Tellez’ to do, by muscling a ball over the wall for a grand slam that made it a 7-6 game.
But Watson settled down to finish the inning, and Will Smith put them away in order in the ninth, and the Giants won, just as the drew it up: With enough home runs to survive a poor bullpen experience.
Two final notes: First, the Giants streak of no-run first innings lives on, in hilarious fashion. This time their attempt to score was thwarted by Gerardo Parra’s failed theft of home.
Second, Kevin Pillar was returning to Toronto, the city where he had played his entire career until the Giants traded for him earlier this season. Turns out the Blue Jays fans really love him. It was a great showing by the team and the fanbase in welcoming Pillar home.
What a moment.— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 23, 2019
Pillar had tears in his eyes as he was honored in Toronto pic.twitter.com/hIx2E1soQK