There’s something particularly deflating about a game that the bullpen loses.
The average baseball loss isn’t that deflating. There are 162 of these god forsaken contests each year, and even a great team will lose 50 or 60 every season. You simply learn to not let your emotional state following a loss eclipse a shrug and a meh. At worst, it’s an excuse to have another drink.
That goes out the window with bullpen loses, which are deflating for the obvious reason: You’re winning, and you’re still winning, and then, all of a sudden, when it matters most, you’re not winning. You’ve been struck by a red turtle shell on the final turn.
This is doubly true for the San Francisco Giants, who count the bullpen as one of the few things they do well.
The Giants entered Thursday’s four-and-a-half hour day game tied for 10th in the National League in stolen bases. They were 14th in batting average. And on base percentage. And slugging percentage. And OPS. And weighted on base. And weighted runs created.
As for their starting pitching, the Giants were 14th in ERA, and second-to-last is actually representative of good luck, since they were 15th in FIP. They’re the only team in the NL whose rotation has been worse than replacement level.
But my oh my can they play defense and pitch in relief.
Except yesterday, when their defense largely cost them the game. And today, when their bullpen primarily cost them the game.
Tony Watson was the culprit on this afternoon-long affair.
Pitching the eighth inning with a 4-2 lead, Watson allowed a leadoff single to Dansby Swanson, before retiring the next two batters. Then Austin Riley came to bat.
Now, you must forgive Riley for his innocence. Monday’s series opener was only his fifth day as a Major League player. He’s still doe-eyed and ignorant. He doesn’t yet understand what an “Oracle Park” is, or what it means to “Get AT&T’d”.
So he did what he did Monday, and also what he did Wednesday: He blasted a baseball over the fence, because no one has taught him that that’s not how you do things in San Francisco.
Here’s a tweet from Giants beat reporter Alex Pavlovic:
It would be cool if the Giants had an Austin Riley.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) May 23, 2019
That tweet was composed yesterday, before Riley’s 3-6 game with the tying dinger today.
He’s now 14-36 with a double and five home runs. His career is less than ten days old and he has two fewer home runs than the Giants leader.
Would be cool indeed.
And while we’re at it, I’ll take a Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies too, please.
Speaking of Acuna, the Giants had an extremely difficult time this series getting hits in his vicinity. He’s a veritable industrial-strength vacuum cleaner in center field.
However, in the series finale, Tyler Austin figured out how to get a ball by Acuna. It was an innovative approach, really, and I recommend more Giants try it. At this point, what’s the worst that could happen?
Madison Bumgarner was not dominant, but he was very good. His pitches had as much movement on them as I can remember seeing. He commanded the strike zone, and wasn’t easily hit. Of his 102 pitches, 71 went for strikes, including 20 out of 25 first pitches. He got 17 swing-throughs on the day, and finished with eight baserunners, two earned runs, and six strikeouts in six innings.
So. Mac Williamson, huh.
So far he’s avoided the fate that befell Michael Reed, and then Connor Joe, and then Gerardo Parra, and then Mike Gerber.
The Giants were honest when they said they’d give him an extended look, and that’s good. There’s no one waiting in the wings this time that absolutely needs the chance, and this truly is their last look at Mac.
And it’s rough to watch.
Williamson began the day by getting smacked with a pitch. Hooray, on base percentage!
He then proceeded to have a quintet of strikeouts.
Williamson began the year with a 2-5 day that featured a home run.
Since then, he’s gone 4-43 with one double, no home runs, four walks, and 15 strikeouts.
It’s getting tough to watch.
Bumgarner handed a slim lead to the Giants bullpen, and Bruce Bochy opted to not make Reyes Moronta a part of it. He gave Mark Melancon the seventh, then Watson the eighth, Will Smith the ninth, Sam Dyson the 10th, and Trevor Gott the 11th.
Bochy finally turned things over to Moronta in the 12th, which worked out. But the 13th inning was less kind to the young reliever, who gave up three singles and the losing run, to send the Giants home with a 5-4 loss, and a 3-1 series defeat.