There’s a nasty rumor going around that the San Francisco Giants bullpen isn’t that good.
Don’t listen to that rumor. In fact, don’t listen to rumors. Rumors are bad, unless they’re a Fleetwood Mac album. And even that’s not Rumors it’s Rumours, so we’re really working with technicalities here.
People think the Giants have a shaky bullpen primarily for two reasons.
The first is that the bullpen got off to a poor start to the season, and it’s always easier to form an opinion than change one.
And the second is that, in any given year, I’d estimate that between 27 and 29 fanbases think their team has a poor bullpen, because every team blows leads, and you remember the blown leads. “Yeah, but remember that one time they didn’t blow a lead?” isn’t a very sexy argument, so your brain kind of dismisses it for sexier things, like charcuterie plates and oysters.
Since the All-Star break, the Giants bullpen is first in the National League in ERA, first in the National League in FIP, and first in the National League in WAR, by a considerable margin. All while being second in the National League in innings (which admittedly makes the WAR figure less impressive, but the ERA and FIP more noteworthy).
It’s a good bullpen. So when the Giants opted for a bullpen game on Friday against the Chicago Cubs, it shouldn’t have been scary.
Mind you, bullpen games aren’t ideal, even when the bullpen is. Admitting before a series opener that you’re gonna run through your bullpen isn’t a home you want to occupy, but if you do have to occupy it, it’s best to bring a steady and solid crop of relievers with you, and that’s exactly what the Giants did.
The Giants bullpen two-hit the Cubs, though perhaps that’s overselling it just a touch. They also issued four walks and hit a batter, so it wasn’t thoroughly dominant. But regardless, they two-hit them, the only damage coming on a home run via Frank Schwindel, a player you totally knew existed before today.
They allowed the Cubs to have just one at-bat all day with a runner in scoring position. They were rarely in trouble.
Except for, you know, after that home run which occurred in the fourth inning, and left the then-listless Giants looking like they might lose in saddest of ways.
But that’s what Captain Brandon is for.
Prior to the game, Brandon Belt constructed an old school captain’s “C” on his jersey, out of what I can only imagine was electrical tape. Maybe eye black strips? Who knows (update: Kris Bryant knows: it’s electrical tape).
Brandon Belt is very much absolutely the Official San Francisco Giants Captain pic.twitter.com/gFA8tW4y7I— Cut4 (@Cut4) September 10, 2021
It appeared to be either an homage to, or inspired by Derek Jeter, who was elected into the Hall of Fame on Thursday. And I’m sure it came with a six-figure fine, due to MLB rule 1.A which states, “fun things no just no.”
And it also came with the type of confidence that I would order in bulk from Costco if they sold it.
Giants win 6-1. They're 91-50. Brandon Belt: "Somebody's got to step up. When you're the alpha male, it's got to be you. I put the C on my chest and it worked out. Whenever I'm put to the test, I'm gonna ace it."— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) September 10, 2021
Yet it was also just a joke, because that’s who Brandon Belt is, and that’s becoming what this team is. I’m not even going to try and dissect or explain this, I’m just going to leave you with quotes.
Did Gabe Kapler appoint Brandon Belt the captain of the team?— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) September 10, 2021
Kapler: "Brandon is the captain of something."
Kapler on self-appointed Captain Belt: "You can be playful and be a grinder. I think that is who Belt is. The tape was sort of bootleg but that's the only knock I have on it. It was a really fun, timely gesture."— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) September 10, 2021
Evan Longoria said he was the one who put the 'C' on Brandon Belt's jersey because Belt was claiming on the plane and bus that he was the captain of the team. Longoria didn't think Belt was actually going to wear it out to the field.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 10, 2021
Belt on his C: “it was trying to fall off the entire game. I don’t know if it was sweat or if I was running too fast.”!— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 10, 2021
Belt (and yes very very much tongue in cheek. I think.) : “I felt in my heart I was the captain of the team all year.”— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 10, 2021
Is this the most confident you’ve been all year? “I don’t know if I can get much more confident than I am right now. I just made myself captain.”
I will be very sad whenever Brandon Belt is no longer on this baseball team.
But while the captaincy claim may have been a joke, the captaincy performance was not.
Belt tried to rally the troops in the first inning with a walk, but they weren’t buying it. He tried to rally them again in the third with a walk, but they still weren’t buying it.
This required stronger action. Captain Belt needed to do more for a team that ended the fifth inning with two hits: one that didn’t leave the infield, and one by reliever Zack Littell.
So Captain Belt led off the sixth inning with a double, and scored on a Tiger Woods-esque pitch shot, placed perfectly on the shallow left field green by LaMonte Wade Jr.
The Giants had tied the game!
Belt’s captainly approach had gotten the team’s collective butt in gear, so when the seventh inning rolled around, his namesake Brandon Crawford was ready with a single, and his facial hairsake Evan Longoria was armed with one of those home runs that makes you believe in things your grumpy ass didn’t believe in this morning.
But, being the alpha that he so clearly is (and I can say this, because I am very clearly an alpha as well), Belt couldn’t let his teammates have all the glory. So when he came up later in the inning, in the same position Longoria was, he did the same thing, as though to remind his team that he could have done it the whole time, he just wanted to motivate them to get on with it.
And with that, the Giants won 6-1, taking the first game of the series and pushing their lead in the NL West to three games.
The bullpen is good. And so is Captain Belt.
Oh, and while I have you here, Crawford did this:
And Drew Robinson did this (great move, Cubs):
We are honored to have @SFGiants Mental Health Advocate @Drewrobbb throw a ceremonial first pitch today.— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 10, 2021
Thank you for sharing your story and raising awareness on the importance of self-love and emotional well-being. #EndTheStigma pic.twitter.com/uhL3MnN0eJ
And Bryant (and his family) did this:
Bryant and his wife, Jessica, gave “hundreds” of cookies to stadium workers today. “It’s easy to thank your hitting coach or the guy writing your checks but the people behind the scenes are really what make this thing go.”— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 10, 2021