It’s not a particularly honest appraisal to say that I was fortunate this week. But even in times of misfortune we find pockets of the opposite, and the fact that I didn’t need to watch — let alone cover — any of the last four San Francisco Giants games certainly falls into the “fortunate” category.
Poor Bill. What a cruel task I left him with. What a remarkably bad baseball team I handed over to him. (On a more serious note, let’s all give it up for Bill Hanstock, who so brilliantly handled this site in my absence. I can’t be the only one who thoroughly enjoyed seeing Bill dust off the keyboard and get some blogs in.)
But while I had the fortune to avoid watching Trevor Gott blow three saves* in three chances in four days, I still couldn’t escape the box scores and headlines and overall grim reality of what transpired for the San Francisco Giants Baseball Club LLC.
* Technically speaking, Gott only blew two saves, because in Friday’s game the lead was so big that it wasn’t a save opportunity, so even though it was statistically an oversized blown save, it wasn’t technically a blown save.
And as I read about Saturday’s game from a creaky bed in a questionably-sanitized hotel room in Weed, California — two days before Gott would complete the hat trick — I thought of one thing, and of one man: Sergio Romo.
Specifically, I thought of Romo and the Giants brief spell of blowing saves, which, to further illuminate the fact that 2020 has utterly massacred my sense of time, I thought occurred in 2017. Then I remembered that Romo wasn’t on the Giants in 2017, so it had to be 2016. A glance at the box scores from 2016 revealed nothing, so it had to be 2015. A glance at the box scores from 2015 revealed nothing, so it had to be 2014.
2014 it was.
From June 13 to June 15, 2014, the Giants hosted the Colorado Rockies for a three-game series. Here are the McCovey Chronicles recap headlines, courtesy of Grant, Bryan, and Grant.
And just for fun, here are the subheaders for each article:
There was ninth-inning nonsense.
It was exactly like last night, but the uniforms were a little different.
Everything is ruined. Everything is ruined. Everything is ruined. Everything is ruined.
Tweak the team names and final scores, and those could easily be the headlines and subheads from Friday, Saturday, and Monday.
Back in 2014 it was franchise legend Romo — a year removed from an All-Star appearance — that did the save blowing. The Giants carried a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning of the series opener, and Romo — who had converted 20 of 22 save opportunities on the year — took the bump for the final frame.
Aided by some inexcusable brain farts from his defense (sound familiar?) Romo got just one out, and gave up five runs.
A night later, the Giants took a 4-3 lead into the ninth. A perfect time for redemption. But Romo gave up a single and a home run, and the Giants once again lost.
Unlike Gott, Romo didn’t receive a third chance, in part because the Giants relievers, in a remarkable showing of solidarity (Gabe Kapler could learn a thing or two from Bruce Bochy here), didn’t let it get to him. Led by 4 earned runs from J.C. Gutierrez, the Giants managed to blow a late 7-2 lead, dust themselves off, and call it a night before the ninth inning even arrived.
It was the start of a six-game losing streak for the Giants, and the heart of a stretch in which they lost 15 of 19 games to finish June. I assume that drowned the 2014 Giants for good, but I’ll have to check that one.
Romo would pick himself up a week later with a pair of saves — albeit not clean ones — but blew a save again on June 28, giving up a two-run home run to Brandon Phillips in the ninth inning.
He would have just one more save that year, and just seven more in his Giants tenure.
Despite being stripped of closer duties, Romo bounced back. He pitched 7 innings in the postseason that year, allowing just 6 hits, 0 walks, and 1 run, while striking out 7. In 2015 he had a sub-3.00 ERA and a sub-2.00 FIP (though he somewhat hilariously had an 0-5 record despite that). He was strong in 2016, his final year in the Bay Area.
What does that mean for Gott? Nothing, of course.
It just serves as a reminder that a horrific stretch of games — and 5 home runs, 2 walks, 11 earned runs, and 2 but really 3 blown saves, all in a span of 1.1 innings is a truly horrific stretch of games — doesn’t mean you’re a bad reliever, and doesn’t mean you can’t rebound to be a strong contributor on a good team.
But it might mean that your team won’t ever trust you in that role again.