The San Francisco Giants took a series win over the Washington Nationals today, defeating them in game two of this series 5-2.
And they did it all with the small ball.
It started off early today, with Mike Yastrzemski leading off the game with a single that was quickly wiped out by Brandon Belt hitting into a double play (not a great day for Belt at the plate, tbh, but more on that later). But Darin Ruf got a walk and Joc Pederson singled, advancing Ruf to third, before Brandon Crawford entered and hit a single up the third base line, past the glove of Maikel Franco, scoring Ruf to get the Giants on the board with a one-run lead.
They paused the offensive attack for a few innings, then picked back up where they left off in the fifth. Wilmer Flores hit a leadoff double to right, and Thairo Estrada followed that up with a single that shot off the foot of Aaron Sanchez and squirted away, allowing Flores to reach third. Luis Gonzalez got his first major league RBI with a sac fly that scored Flores. And then Estrada stole second base and I could sense a disturbance in the unwritten rules folks.
Curt Casali followed that up with a line drive to center field for a single, scoring Estrada (unwritten rules outrage intensifies) and that chased Sanchez out of the game, bringing in Sam Clay. Unfortunately that didn’t stop the small ball assault from the Giants. Austin Slater entered as a replacement for Mike Yastrzemski (nothing to read into that, Kapler just liked the match-up and wanted Slater to get the at-bat) and it paid off, with Slater getting a ground ball single to right field, advancing Casali. Belt was kind of hit by a pitch to load the bases for Ruf (as in it looked more like it grazed his jersey, but after the HBP that wasn’t called for Joey Bart the other day, I’ll take it).
Things got a bit scary here, Ruf grounded into a force out and the odd man out was Belt, who got a late jump on his slide into second and took a good long time to get back up (with a bit of assistance to César Hernández of the Nationals, hat tip) and my heart was in my throat the whole time. He eventually managed to trot back to the dugout and played the rest of the game, but I wish he wouldn’t scare us like that. Anyway, Casali scored on the play and Pederson followed that up with another single, scoring Slater.
The bottom of the fifth is when the Nationals threatened. Alex Wood had been great the rest of the game and started the fifth much the same, getting two quick outs, bringing up Riley Adams. Wood had Adams down in the count, and threw a great pitch down and in, but Adams took a golf swing and knocked it out of the park to give the Nationals their first run of the game.
This was followed by a full-count battle with Victor Robles that ended with a double, and a quick single from Lane Thomas. Wood managed to strike out Juan Soto to end the inning and his day on a high note. He went five innings with five strikeouts, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk.
The Giants threatened again in the sixth, and here’s where all the pearl-clutching about the unwritten rules starts to get really arbitrary.
Flores singled to lead off the inning, and with one out, Gonzalez executed an absolutely beautiful bunt for his first hit with the Giants, allowing both he and Flores to reach safely. And the thing is, it was absolutely the right decision (even if it hadn’t worked, but even more so because it did). But every time the Giants steal a base or try to bunt with a lead lately, it’s always followed by folks complaining about how actually trying when you have a lead is the wrong way to play...competitive sports? So where’s the line? Should they not try with a three-run lead? Does it need to be five runs? And who decides what bridge is too far? It’s all nonsense and I’m glad the Giants aren’t buying into it.
Anyway, after Gonzalez’ bunt, with two outs, Slater got a walk to load the bases for Brandon Belt and, well, you all know me. Huge fan of Brandon Belt hitting grand slams. And while I knew it was statistically incredibly unlikely that he would, I live for that feeling of anticipation and hopefulness between pitches where anything is still possible. Belt, of course, struck out. But that doesn’t make those moments any less thrilling.
Huge props to the bullpen today. Dominic Leone threw a scoreless sixth inning, thanks in large part to a great play by Belt and Leone to get the speedy former Giants prospect Lucius Fox out at first, and also Slater, who made yet another amazing diving catch to rob the Nationals of runs, after Leone had allowed two singles with two outs.
John Brebbia pitched a clean seventh inning with one strikeout, followed by Tyler Rogers, who did the same in the eighth with two strikeouts. Camilo Doval made it a bit interesting in the ninth, allowing a single to César Hernández with one out, but that was all for the Nationals.