Sorry, I’ve done this schtick earlier in the season, but it’s worth doing again.
There were 306 pitches during Wednesday’s game between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers. After each of the first 305 pitches the game sat in one of two states: a tie, or a Giants lead.
After the 306th pitch, the Rangers led.
At my $10,000 all-inclusive coach’s retreat, Father B’s Coaches Colony, I reveal my No. 1, fool-proof secret to success.
Like I said, I normally charge $10,000 for this, but just for this week I’m going to give you the advice for free. Don’t miss this opportunity, because it’s not going to happen again.
Here it is. Have a notepad? Great.
If you’re leading at the end of the game, you’ll always win.
The Rangers found this out because they are smart. The Giants did not because they are silly, and got up to shenanigans.
If I sound bitter, I’m not. Losses happen, and it was only the fourth loss the Giants have suffered in their last 14 games. It happened on the road, in a scheduled bullpen game, with Buster Posey resting. You can’t win them all and that’s a very justifiable one to not win.
But it sure is an experience to watch a game for three and a half hours, spend exactly zero seconds of that game seeing your team trailing, and then realize they’ve lost. That’s one way to spend your Wednesday morning. Your mood probably looks exactly like the win probability chart.
It all happened late, which makes things less fun. The Giants had a 2-0 lead after the fifth inning courtesy of back-to-back homers by one of the least likely duos you could put together: Jason Vosler and Chadwick Tromp.
Texas two-step pic.twitter.com/90UGpZ36QK— SFGiants (@SFGiants) June 9, 2021
This point would have hit a little bit harder had the Giants won, but on Twitter I marveled at the Giants contributions from unheralded players they had brought in from other organizations, and someone responded with this:
Where are they finding these guys?— Oscar Gomez (@otg2504) June 9, 2021
Remember how many chunks of hair you’ve pulled out in the last half-decade yelling those six words at the TV as a player on the Dodgers who you hadn’t heard of until an hour earlier hits his third home run in two at-bats?
It’s fun to say those words with affection and wonderment, not anger and debilitating disbelief.
Anyway, back to the game. The Giants gave back one of those runs in the sixth inning on an Eli White double — the first hit of the game by the Rangers — followed by a pair of productive outs. The Giants were winning 2-1 but it still felt like they were cruising, because Texas couldn’t do anything.
The dreaded ninth inning came around, and the Giants let Texas tie the game, again while doing minimal things on offense. Isiah Kiner-Falefa singled, stole second, and took third on a fly out. And then Adolis García — he of outrageous power — hit the game-tying single by popping a ball up so shallowly that it found a place to land in the grass.
It was a very Tyler Rogers way of blowing a save, by allowing one of baseball’s best home run hitters to hit a ball with an exit velocity of 73 mph and a distance of 208 feet, with an expected batting average of .090.
But it’s exactly what happened.
The Giants only scored one run in the 10th, despite a leadoff single by Chadwick Tromp that put runners at the corners with no outs. Rogers pitched the bottom half of the inning and limited the damage to just the freebie runner.
And then came the 11th, which was a bad inning. Brandon Belt flied out, but not deep enough for LaMonte Wade Jr. — the ghost runner — to advance. Then Wade got caught in a rundown on a fielder’s choice, and Brandon Crawford flew out.
Up came Jake McGee, who needed to keep the runner at second from scoring in order to keep the Giants alive.
You knew what he would throw, and so did the Rangers: four-seam fastballs.
First up was Eli White who attempted a bunt but popped it up for out No. 1.
Here’s the pitch McGee threw him:
One four-seam fastball, right over the plate.
Then came Jose Trevino, who swung and missed at two pitches and then popped one up in the infield.
Here are the pitches McGee threw him:
Three four-seam fastballs, two right over the plate.
The Giants intentionally walked Kiner-Falefa to get to a lefty in Brock Holt.
Here are the three pitches McGee threw him:
Three four-seam fastballs, three T-ball locations (different tees, but ... ).
Holt took the first one, fouled off the second one, and hit a walk-off single on the third.
McGee’s fastball-heavy approach works, when it’s executed perfectly. But the margin for error is slim when you’re throwing the same pitch every time. The velocity in those three pitches to Holt varied by only 1.2 mph, and the location only by a few inches, from “right down the middle” to “also right down the middle.”
Even against a poor lineup with a handedness advantage, you’re not going to fool many hitters doing that.
And so the Giants lost.
Still, if you watched the game it’s hard to be too upset, because something really exciting happened: Sammy Long.
Long made his MLB debut, and by now you likely know his story, so let’s just cut to the “today” part of it: he looked flat out awesome.
It was Long who gave up the sixth inning leadoff double to White, and that was the last batter he faced. It was also the only hit he allowed.
He struck out 7 Rangers batters, which is exactly half of the hitters he faced. He gave up only a lone walk, hit, and run, while pitching 4 innings. He threw 47 of his 69 pitches for strikes, threw first-pitch strikes to 9 of 14 batters, and worked 10 whiffs.
Sammy Long with 7 strikeouts today in his MLB debut— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) June 9, 2021
That's tied for the 4th-most strikeouts by a Giants pitcher in his MLB debut since at least 1901, behind only:
1937 Cliff Melton: 13
1960 Juan Marichal: 12
1912 Al Demaree: 9
And it’s not like he was throwing gimmicks that teams will eventually adjust to. Long’s strikeouts came in various ways:
- Fastball swinging
- Curveball looking
- Fastball looking
- Curveball swinging
- Curveball swinging
- Fastball swinging
- Curveball swinging
That line is electric, but it looked even better.
Your first thought watching that should be, “holy crap.”
Your second thought watching that should be, “can you please teach Jake McGee how to throw fastballs on the corners, thanks.”
One appearance does not a star pitcher make, but the fact that the Giants fast-tracked Long, and then ate guaranteed money to Matt Wisler to get him on the roster tells you how high the team is on him to contribute immediately. My guess is he plays a big role for the rest of the season, either out of the bullpen or as a starter.
And as long (no pun intended ... I think ... the subconscious is a powerful thing) as we’re talking about strong pitchers, Conner Menez was spectacular for a pair of innings, allowing 1 hit, 0 walks, and striking out 3, while throwing 18 of 28 pitches for strikes and getting 7 swing-throughs. His season line is now 8 innings, 2 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs, and 10 strikeouts. Might be time to start putting him in more high-leverage situations.
Anyways, the Giants lost, but it happened during brunch so hopefully you’re silly off of mimosas and just marveling at Sammy Long instead of Jake McGee.