I began last night’s recap by saying that the Giants were bad again. They had turned back into pumpkins, and any delusions of a Wild Card hunt needed to stop. It appears that I was too hasty in my proclamation. The Giants are still good. They’re just six games back. They’ve come back from greater deficits. As soon as they come back from the All-Star break, they play the Brewers who currently hold the second Wild Card spot. Destiny is in the Giants’ hands.
If nothing else, this recent hot streak has done wonders for the Giants’ run differential. Over their last six games, they’ve outscored their opponents 52-29. Just three or four more weeks of this and the Giants will be back in the black.
Call it a hunch, but I think Austin Slater’s new swing is working out for him. Hitting two home runs in the short time that he’s been back up is impressive enough. That he managed to hit an opposite field home run in a pinch-hit appearance is incredible.
Andrew Baggarly pointed out that this was the first pinch-hit grand slam by a Giant since Rich Aurillia hit one in 2003.
Slater's pinch slam was the 22nd by a Giant in the San Francisco era. The list of names is a trip: pic.twitter.com/AKBISm9fq2— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) July 7, 2019
Slater is now 6-for-11 with two walks, two doubles, a triple, and two home runs. He’s hitting .545/.615/1.455 for a 398 wRC+. That’ll play.
Slater’s grand slam is the third by a Giant this year. He joins Alex Dickerson and Kevin Pillar as the other two Giants with Papa Slams in 2019. The Giants are now 2-2 over the last four games in which they’ve hit a grand slam, so it might be time to put to rest the narrative that grand slams curse the Giants. I’m going to have crunch the numbers on this one, but I suspect that grand slams are good actually. They might even be the best possible outcome that a batter could have in a single plate appearance.
Statcast will try to tell you that this was a cheap shot, that this was only a home run in one other ballpark: Yankee Stadium. Sure, the expected batting average was a paltry .210, but there’s no such thing as a cheap opposite field homer at Oracle Park, especially by a right-handed hitter. That was just the 32th oppo shot hit by a right hander since 2008 and that includes opponents. (Paul Goldschmidt’s was 33).
Paul Goldschmidt is one of five right-handers to hit two opposite field home runs at Oracle Park in that time. The other four are Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen, Hunter Pence, and Nick Hundley. Pence and Hundley are the only players with three. I can’t look this up easily, but I’m willing to bet that this is the first time there have been two opposite field homers hit by right-handed hitters in the same game.
No other stadium that’s been open since 2008 has allowed fewer than 53. Kauffman Stadium is the next toughest park in which to hit an oppo taco as a righty. Only the purest power hitters can take on the Willie Mays wall from the right-handed batter’s box. Hitters like Javier Báez, Giancarlo Stanton, Manny Machado, Tyler Austin, and uh, Kelby Tomlinson.
I keep waiting for Alex Dickerson to fall off a cliff, but it hasn’t happened yet. He added another triple to his line this year helping the Giants put up a three-spot in the seventh. Statcast tracked his triple at 111.2 mph which tied him for the hardest hit ball of the game with… himself. In the third inning, he laced a 111.2 mph grounder that went right to Kolten Wong. It’d be one thing if Dickerson were dunking in a bunch of singles and hitting doubles down the line, but he’s hitting the bajeezus out of the ball. That’s a hard skill to fake.
The first inning was nothing if not eventful for Madison Bumgarner. He took a 98-mph liner off the elbow which threatened to take him out of the game and tank his trade value. Bumgarner, being a stubborn tough guy, remained in the game despite Dave Groeschner’s best attempts to convince Bumgarner to put his health over his ego.
Look at the welt José Martínez put on Madison Bumgarner's pitching arm with a liner pic.twitter.com/RYdHanJf5S— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) July 7, 2019
With a big ole nasty welt already pulsing on his elbow, Bumgarner struck out Paul DeJong with a curveball which moved him into fourth all-time on the Giants strikeout leaderboard. In his last three outings, Bumgarner moved past Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Now, he reigns supreme in the Tri-Force of starters that ushered in the golden age of Giants baseball.
It feels appropriate that Bumgarner had to do something so deeply Bumgarneresque immediately before reaching this milestone. After he got drilled, Kruk and Kuip all but said it was inevitable he would come out of the game eventually. The swelling wasn’t going to get better as the game wore on. I’m sure that’s something Groeschner told him, but Bum was going to pitch as long as he was able to. That wound up being 39 pitches over two innings.
In addition to what the comebacker means for Bumgarner’s immediate future, it also meant that the Giants had to play a bullpen game. Sam Dyson, Reyes Moronta, and Mark Melancon kept the Cardinals off the board through the seventh inning. Dyson and Moronta were their usual, dominant selves, and Melancon worked a quick inning. Tony Watson ran into some trouble, but someone had to pay the Goldschmidt toll.
Hopefully, this wasn’t the last start that Bumgarner makes for the Giants. The circumstances make it difficult to give him a Matt Cain-style send off where he comes off the mound, hugs everyone, and there’s a whole lot of crying, but we deserve more than another Tim Lincecum where he comes out of the game and just never comes back. Bumgarner’s x-rays were negative, so the only way he’ll get the Lincecum treatment is if he’s traded by his next start. When/if Bumgarner is traded, let’s hope his goodbye lands somewhere in the middle. The fans, and Bumgarner himself, deserve a proper send off.