Joe Panik is still here. With the acquisition of Scooter Gennett and the emergence of Donovan Solano, there was a nonzero chance that Panik would have been the odd man out on Friday. He may have lost his starting job, but the former All-Star and World Series hero still has a role to play on this team. It was Joe Panik who started the eventual game-winning rally with a pinch-hit walk.
Am I giving Panik too much credit for drawing a four-pitch walk? Yeah probably. Only one of the pitches was particularly close but watching Sandoval and Pillar wave at pitch after pitch out of the strike zone has taught me not to take a patient approach for granted.
Panik could have been over-amped, ready to prove himself again after his replacement hit a two-run homer in the beginning of the game. He could have tried to turn on one of those inside pitches. The ball carries at Coors. He wouldn’t even need to hit it all that hard to get it out and tie the game. But that’s not what the team needed in that moment. They needed him to lay off and reach base if the guy on the mound couldn’t throw strikes.
Buster Posey is the one who got the game-winning hit, and his at-bat was objectively more impressive. He had to foul away some absolute filth just to get a shot at doing something against a 100.7 mph fastball. But even with Posey’s relative struggles this year, we expect that sort of thing from him. Panik is fighting for a roster spot, and hit at-bat in the eighth shows that he still has a part to play in the wars to come.
Any time I’ve watched an indy league game or any non-major league quality game, I have a hard time discerning the difference in quality of play until someone does something that so obviously telegraphs that these are not the best players in the world. Whether that’s making a mental error or throwing a rainbow from third to first or some other minor difference, there’s always that reminder of why these players are on the Sonoma Stompers instead of in affiliated ball. When that happens, I get a sensation somewhere between bemusement and disappointment, and it was the same feeling I got watching Ian Desmond trying to throw out Pablo Sandoval in the first inning.
Any other runner against Desmond’s throw, and it wouldn’t have been a contest. Any other outfielder and Sandoval would have been out by a mile if he were even sent at all. Instead, we saw Sandoval chugging as hard as the fastest guy on your softball team to beat out Desmond’s six hopper. One guy is playing for a team that made the playoffs last year. The other is playing for a team that’s hoping to make the playoffs this year. Goodness.
Irrespective of how impressive the play looked, it helped the Giants to a four-run first inning. It was a welcome sight after the offense dried up over the last week or so. Sandoval himself doubled in Mike Yastrzemski, and Scooter Gennett hit his first homer as a Giant, his first home run of the season, and the first home run by a Giants second baseman since May 28.
This wasn’t the kind of home run that was going to impress Statcast (.260 xBA), but Gennett’s ability to turn on an inside pitch was what wowed here. The pitch was a ball’s width from the inside part of the plate, but Gennett got enough of his barrel on it to get into the thin air and over the wall.
The four-run first gave the Giants enough of a cushion if this game had been in San Francisco. Because this was Coors, however, the lead evaporated with a series of dingers and pop ups that no one (or too many people) could get to.
In Bumgarner’s first post-deadline start, he got tagged for five runs in five innings. It wasn’t the best that we’ve seen him pitch, but it also wasn’t the worst. Bumgarner deserved better tonight but an error and would should have been an error made his line look much worse.
Homers and softly hit singles that find the wide swath of outfield grass are just a part of playing at Coors. It’s hard to get too worked about them. Each side has the same advantages and disadvantages. But for the first seven innings, the difference was in the defense. While the Rockies were turning pretty double plays, the Giants were letting pop ups fall between three fielders and making errant throws that didn’t need to be made in the first place.
That’s not to say that the Giants were totally lost on defense. Steven Duggar, who was ultimately responsible for Daniel Murphy’s pop up to drop, redeemed himself by taking away what would have been a two-run homer.
A lot of home run robberies are just fancy catches at the wall. Some don’t even necessitate a leap. But this was no forgery. This was an honest to goodness robbery, and Duggar had been wanting to do this since he came back from Sacramento.
It appeared that keeping the game at 5-4 as opposed to 7-4 would have no effect other than preserving Madison Bumgarner’s ERA. After the four-run first inning, the Giants squandered every scoring opportunity they had with a ground ball to second base.
Stephen Vogt hits a one-out double? Grounder to second followed by a grounder to short.
Madison Bumgarner and Brandon Belt get back-to-back two out hits? Grounder to second.
Pablo Sandoval and Stephen Vogt lead off an inning with back-to-back singles? Back-to-back grounders to second.
Brandon Crawford up with a runner on in a 3-0 count? Grounder to second.
Every other inning, the Rockies asked the Giants, “Would you like to win this game?” and the Giants responded, “Nah, we’re good. I think we’ll just ground out to second.”
Even Posey’s double wasn’t so dissimilar from a ground ball to second. The only way Austin Slater could score from first on that was for Charlie Blackmon to be playing right field.
After taking the lead, the Giants squandered two bases loaded situations. They ultimately didn’t need the insurance, but boy, the ninth inning wouldn’t have been so stomach churning with it. The Giants still won. They didn’t necessarily play well, but they won.