Baseball is very silly, and that silliness manifests itself as nonsense occasionally. Fun nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless.
As evidence, I would like to present the jury with Thursday’s game between the San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners. If the jury can please direct their attention to the Giants situation in right field.
Mike Yastrzemski started the game in right field, and in the middle of the second inning he left the game due to tightness in his right calf. He’ll get an MRI on Friday.
It is with zero hyperbole that I state that the Giants losing Yastrzemski in the middle of a game is one of the worst downgrades that an MLB team can make. Yastrzemski has been one of 10 best position players in all of baseball this season.
The man tasked with replacing him — Luis Basabe — is a mid-level prospect who was designated for assignment earlier in this year, promoted to the Majors a year too early, and had one career plate appearance entering the game.
You can probably see how this ends.
Basabe led off the sixth inning, with the Giants trailing 4-1, and got his first career hit on a single.
First MLB hit for Luis Basabe pic.twitter.com/wV0qZ33v1s— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 17, 2020
He would score, when Wilmer Flores singled, Alex Dickerson walked, and Evan Longoria singled. A Brandon Crawford sacrifice fly rounded out the rally, and the Giants had cut the deficit to 4-3.
An inning later, with one on and two outs, Basabe drew the first walk of his career, moving the tying run into scoring position and putting the go-ahead run on base.
That gave Flores the opportunity to prove that the Triple’s Alley obituaries were premature, with just the third three-bagger of his eight-year career.
Flores drives in a few F•R•I•E•N•D•S pic.twitter.com/ANuhpiXrEL— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 17, 2020
Suddenly the Giants led, and Dickerson would push the lead to 6-4 with a single.
Basabe would get on base again, with his second walk, which led to his first career stolen base.
The first of many. Congrats on your first steal, Luis Basabe! #SFGiants pic.twitter.com/mWwLN3hA8b— SFGiants (@SFGiants) September 17, 2020
This time he’d be stranded, but the damage was done, and the Giants had a 6-4 lead that they would carry with them through the final out.
So where am I going with this, other than congratulating Basabe on a trio of career firsts?
That batting line — 1-2 with 2 walks — is an OPS of 1.250, more than .300 points above Yastrzemski’s season mark. And they were timely walks and singles, leading to the Giants two big rallies.
You can never truly understand the baseball butterfly effect, but it’s not a stretch to say that if Yastrzemski (again: a top 10 player in baseball this year) doesn’t need to be replaced by Basabe (again: a mid-tier prospect who was DFA’d earlier this year), the Giants don’t win.
But he did, and they did.
Lest we focus solely on the five unanswered comeback runs, I should mention how the Giants first got on the board, to take a brief 1-0 lead. Here, let me let Darin Ruf do the talking for me:
Bye, Bye, Baby! #SFGiants pic.twitter.com/21mGyJf4sN— SFGiants (@SFGiants) September 17, 2020
The Giants didn’t know that they’d get to have 28 players on the active roster when they signed Ruf, but it worked out perfectly. He’s been platooned heavily — which the Giants can afford to do — and he’s hitting .297/.375/.578.
That was a good signing. A very good signing.
Tyler Anderson made the start, and it wasn’t a good night, in multiple ways. He didn’t pitch well, but was bound to have a long leash anyway. The Giants were playing just the second day of a stretch in which they play 13 games in 12 days to finish the season. They need to preserve the bullpen, especially with a series against the Oakland A’s about to start.
But Anderson — who gave up 4 earned runs — got ejected before recording an out in the third inning.
At the risk of sounding like a politician (it is election season after all), there are two sides to this one.
On the one hand, baseball umps are a laughably insecure bunch (just ask Josh Donaldson) and the fact that Anderson got ejected for essentially letting the home plate ump know that he wasn’t having the best day at the office, is silly, stupid, and unnecessary.
Pitch eight, which became a walk to Kyle Lewis, had Tyler Anderson yelling at the ump, who had a short temper. pic.twitter.com/nZFqGJLIjf— Mark W. Sanchez (@MarkWSanchez) September 17, 2020
On the other hand, sensitive umps with quick triggers on their ejection finger are nothing new, and Anderson was issued a warning prior to the ejection. He knew his team needed him to eat innings, and he knew he might be ejected, and he pushed the limit anyway.
Thankfully, all’s well that ends well, as Wandy Peralta took over and was spectacular for 3 no-hit innings.
Rico Garcia, Tony Watson, Tyler Rogers, and Sam Selman (in that order) handled an inning each after Peralta’s stint, giving the Giants 7 innings of shutout baseball from the bullpen.
If that’s the performance we see from the bullpen next month, the Giants could make some postseason noise.
But before the postseason come the remaining 11 games, and while the Giants are back to above .500, and holding onto a postseason spot, there’s work to be done.
Having Basabe in the lineup may have helped today, but they’ll need Yastrzemski going forward. Baseball may be silly, but not in predictable, repeatable ways.