Jaylin Davis finally got a fat breaking ball like the ones he saw in the minor leagues this year and the final at bat of the game had gone on just long enough — six pitches — for him to feel comfortable and confident enough in himself and his swing to do what he knows best against them.
Jaylin Davis called game: pic.twitter.com/IZ2I98RwbZ— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 26, 2019
There’s no better way to get your first major league home run. Maybe if it’s against a Hall of Famer, but even in the case of Clark v. Ryan, a walk-off against Nolan Ryan would’ve heightened Will Clark’s legendary status. No, Jaylin Davis did not hit a better first major league home run than Will Clark did, but then again, if Davis goes on to an All-Star career, maybe our view of this one might change a bit.
But in less context-y news, here’s a rookie who has struggled after working so hard to get here. It hasn’t looked easy for him but he’s never looked like he’s folded, and that perseverance is what got him to tonight. And because he’s a baseball player, it means he wasn’t thinking about his 4-for-32 coming into the at bat nor at any point in the 7-pitch at bat.
All we have is now. We can use now to dwell on the past or fret about the future or we can simply be in the moment. The Giants will suffer their third consecutive losing season (the past). They probably won’t be much better next year (the future). What about these final five games? They matter. Just not in the profound way we’d like them to. But they exist. They serve the purpose of entertainment. They serve to payoff dangling threads or simply as a reward for all the time we’ve spent watching them. We heard Jaylin Davis hit 35 home runs in the minors. Tonight we got to see that power in action. And it was beautiful.
Most baseball fans who followed the game at all thought that Jeff Samardzija’s career was over after the mysterious shoulder injury he suffered last season. There weren’t reports of his demise this offseason, but we really didn’t have a sense of what had happened to him or what had been going on with him just before Spring Training. And then, as the season approached, it looked like Samardzija was going to stick to the roster. The team said they were going to simply let him go out there and throw as much as he could and pull him whenever it looked like he had run out of gas.
No 7-inning goal. No 100-pitch minimum. Just max effort for as long as possible. That’s the modern pitching staff ethos, anyway. A sign that Farhan Zaidi had started to insert some of the cutting edge thinking into the supposedly stodgy old Giants.
Samardzija didn’t wind up throwing 100 pitches or more until his 10th start of the season. By then, he’d already thrown a game with seven shutout innings and three other starts without an earned run. Yes, he did have a 5.04 FIP through those first nine starts, but that undercurrent of dread ran throughout the season (32 starts total) and it never came back to bring his performance crashing down like a house of cards.
FIP is one of those “under the hood” numbers the computers look at to determine a human being’s worth, but there’s always more to it than that. If he had simply been “lucky”, he wouldn’t have maintained his ERA/FIP split the entire season. To quote myself:
Samardzija's second half:— McCovey Chronicles (@McCoveyChron) September 26, 2019
2.96 ERA / 4.78 FIP
His final start of 2019 was solid, if unspectacular. 5 hits and a walk in six innings along with five strikeouts. But as has been the case all season long, his stuff played. He was getting swing-throughs. All year long, his spin rates have been consistently above the league average even as his average velocity dipped. That explains why he managed to get by with a 6.9 K/9 — his hits per 9 dropped to a career-low 7.5. He rebounded from his shoulder issues quite nicely to throw 181.1 innings. 15 of those 32 starts went six or more innings.
Who knows how it will go for him next year, but this year, in this moment, he was good. He helped the Giants win baseball games. Definitely a phoenix rising from the ashes season.
The Giants might’ve won this game 1-0 had there not been a double error in the 7th inning. Tyler Rogers, who didn’t pitch in last night’s whatever, relieved Jeff Samardzija and promptly gave up a single and hit by pitch. Then he got a groundout which led to a really tough play involving Mauricio Dubon (see below), then he struck out Garrett Hampson, and then it got sloppy.
Brandon Crawford made a nice play behind the bag at second base but his throw to Brandon Belt was low and couldn’t be scooped up, allowing Raimel Tapia to reach base. But Belt’s missed scoop flung the ball away from him and the first base bag, allowing the leadoff single (Josh Fuentes) to score and tie the game.
Belt came into the game with Tyler Rogers on a double switch. That was his first fielding chance of the night. Crawford hit leadoff tonight (because it’s the only spot in the lineup he’d never hit from and so Bruce Bochy obliged him). They combined for an 0-for-4. They’ve had rough seasons. That’s when trying to stay in the present moment becomes tough.
The Brandons have a certain degree of expectation on them that goes with them moment to moment. Buster Posey has this weight, too. So does Madison Bumgarner. It’s because they’ve been winners for so long. It’s difficult to watch the contrast. But there are four games left and every moment presents an opportunity for a new narrative of that moment.
Here’s hoping we get one last great story from these two before the season ends.
After all that talk about being present in the current moment, allow me to bring up the past. These past two nights have had a very 2010 vibe to them. Tight contests with offense hard to come by and a somewhat excited crowd? I’d like to think I’m not biased or some sort of odd spiritualist, but the crowd sounds a little more engaged than they did in, oh, I don’t know, May? If it’s because Bochy’s leaving, then it’s also because it’s like the last leg of a famous band’s final tour. Fans just want the team to play the hits.
Then again, the 2010 team didn’t have 38 one-run wins, which accounts for exactly half of the 2019 team’s win total (so far).
I’m circling back to Davis’ home run to mention that the home run was his second hit of the night. The first was an infield single in the 7th inning. Coming into the game, the slugging rookie had put 20 balls in play. The average launch angle? -3 degrees. He’s done nothing but hit groundballs. He finally got one he could get in the air and he did.
September call-up numbers don’t matter, but that’s future talk. For now, let’s just enjoy what Davis did tonight and allow ourselves to be open to the next four days of now where he might rack up a few more hits after having gotten comfortable.
Giants have 2 walk-off HR from rookies in 2019: Jaylin Davis & Mike Yastrzemski— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) September 26, 2019
Last time Giants had multiple rookie walk-off HR in a season: 1945, 2 by Danny Gardella
Last time Giants had at least 1 walk-off HR by 2+ rookies in a season: 1944, 1 each by Buddy Kerr & Hal Lubby
I don’t know if we’re going to remember this season 10 years from now, but let’s hope we remember some of it. Maybe I won’t remember their 38-16 record in one-run games, or the 13-3 extra innings record, or the eight walk-off wins, but I hope like hell that I remember Stephen Vogt.
Coming into tonight’s game, he’d stolen two bases in his major league career. He stole two tonight, the first time a Giants catcher has stolen two bases in a game since Bob Brenly did it back in June 1987. Brenly would eventually become a TV broadcaster and then a manager. I would be fine with Stephen Vogt becoming a TV broadcaster, but I’d like it to come after he manages the Giants for at least a few years, beginning next season . . .
The Rockies’ backup catcher Tony Wolters knocked the wind out of our beloved Mauricio Dubon while running from first to second on a groundball on the infield. Wolters was watching the bouncing ball the whole way so he didn’t notice Dubon rushing forward to field it, and it worked out so that when Wolters timed a jump to miss the bouncing ball that he wound up propelling his lower half into 85-pound Mauricio.
Wolters was called out, but that was less important. Dubon was on the ground for a few minutes. At one point, Cristhian Adames came over to check him out and talk to him and touched the kid’s head to make sure he was okay. It was a moment of kindness, locked in the present moment.
Dubon says he just had the wind knocked out of him.