Six days ago, the Giants added Scooter Gennett to the roster. At the time, they were right in the middle of the Wild Card scrum, and Gennett was the simplest upgrade they could make without forfeiting the future. They needed some extra production from second base. In those six days, the Giants have played like we expected them to at the beginning of the year. That’s a nice way of saying they’ve played like absolute bozos which is itself a nice way of saying what they’ve really played like. I’ll let you fill that in with whatever cuss words you want.
Today, the Giants found themselves with too many second basemen and designated Joe Panik for assignment. Had they not picked up Gennett, there would have been room for Panik on the roster, and the reason that Gennett is here is immaterial now. The Giants could have been this bad with Panik on the roster. They didn’t need to jettison him to play themselves out of a playoff spot. Maybe the Panik DFA was as inevitable as the collapse, but did they both have to happen within a week?
The best part of Conner Menez’s outing was definitely his pick-off move. It’s a bit silly that Sam Coonrod got called for a balk last night for moving his torso slightly and Menez could hang his foot in the air to wait for Trea Turner to move, but whatever. As long as it’s legal, it’s a nasty, nasty move.
Turner eventually got Menez back by vaporizing one of his pitches into the twilight. Kurt Suzuki took revenge for last night when he was robbed of a double and just barely hooked a would-be homer foul. Other than that, the Nationals didn’t have a ton of hard contact against Menez. They did have about 30 doinks that leapfrogged the infield. He also didn’t get a few borderline calls which contributed to the three walks.
The results for Menez weren’t there, but I wouldn’t say that the process was bad. Menez set out to throw the ball low on the glove side and he certainly filled up that part of the zone. It’s not that hard to imagine how he threw tonight working at the major league level. He just didn’t get any breaks.
Among the three starters rotating in and out of Triple-A: Menez, Andrew Suárez, and Dereck Rodríguez, I’m most optimistic about Menez. If you went back in time to a year ago and told me that I preferred a recent promotion over Suárez or D-Rod, I’d be feeling pretty good about the future of the Giants rotation. In actuality, I’ve got “Jeff Samardzija: Staff Ace of 2020” written down in a Google Keep note. Please come back soon, Johnny Cueto.
The Washington Nationals, a team with a 74.7 chance of making the postseason, used Hunter Strickland and Fernando Rodney in the seventh and eighth innings of a close-ish game. That’s, uh, certainly a way to build a bullpen.
The last time Hunter Strickland took the mound in San Francisco, he left it to a chorus of boos. He had just given up three runs in a third of an inning, but Giants fans don’t generally boo poor performance in isolation. Players have to screw up consistently and spectacularly to get the hometown crowd to turn on them.
Earlier that season, Strickland spent a month on the IL because he punched a door. (He punched a door because he got beat by Lewis Brinson, a guy who couldn’t stick on the Marlins’ roster for most of this season.) Before that, he started a fight with Bryce Harper. The ensuing brawl led to Mike Morse suffering what was ultimately a career-ending concussion. He contributed to a lot of the bad memories in the 2014 postseason.
When he took the mound tonight wearing a Washington Nationals uniform, he was mostly met with indifference. After Scooter Gennett flied out on two pitches, Strickland immediately got Kevin Pillar down to an 0-2 hole. At that point, I didn’t need the Giants to light him up, I just needed them to not go down quietly. Pillar came through with a grounder through the infield. Crawford advanced him to second, and sweet, sweet Pablo Sandoval ripped a flat Strickland fastball into the gap to score Pillar.
It wound up being the platonic ideal of a Hunter Strickland outing. He mostly pitched well, but he still gave up exactly one run. It was nice to be on the other side of that for a change.
The double that Sandoval hit off Strickland was his second of the game. He entered the game in the sixth as a pinch hitter and smashed a 113-mph double down the right field line. He later scored on a Brandon Belt grounder that he managed to get through the shift. Without Sandoval’s contributions, this game wouldn’t have looked half as close. He came up in the ninth with a chance to tie the game, but he didn’t have a third double (or dinger) in the tank.
Earlier today, I was thinking about how Brandon Crawford doesn’t make as many highlights as he used to. He’s at the age where fielding tends to decline; he’s at a cool zero defensive runs saved. While he’s nowhere near a liability in the field, he hasn’t been as jaw-dropping as he’s been as recently as last year. The human highlight reel had apparently run out until Crawford took a hit away from Victor Robles.
That may very well be the highest hop I’ve ever seen a shortstop field going to their right. With Robles’s speed, every part of the exchange needed to be perfect and it was. The Statcast measurements given by the broadcast said that the exchange time was 0.83 seconds. While that’s one of those numbers you hear and just think, “Is that good?” I’m guess that’s approaching the limits of human capabilities. “The blink of an eye” takes around 0.3 to 0.4 seconds, so blink your eyes twice and that’s how long it took for Brandon Crawford field a ball, do a 180-degree turn, and throw a baseball 100-something feet with accuracy. Baseball players, especially Brandon Crawford, are amazing.