Hello everyone. I’d like to introduce you to my third draft of this recap, in which I attempt to explain what happened between the San Francisco Giants and Miami Marlins on Friday in the first game of the season.
In my first draft I focused on the Giants 25-year old Opening Day battery of Logan Webb and Joey Bart. Specifically on how one entered the season with sky-high expectations and the other as an unknown entity, yet both starred in Game No. 1.
More on that in a bit.
In my second draft I focused on how the Giants were hell bent on replicating their 2021 season, in which they set a franchise record with 107 wins and won the NL West by beating out a stacked Los Angeles Dodgers team. You remember those Giants — they started the season by blowing a five-run lead in the late innings against an aquatically-themed opponent. It ended up working out well for the 2021 Giants, so it made sense that the the 2022 Giants would follow the blueprint.
More on that in a bit.
My third and hopefully final draft focuses on the fact that the Giants did everything in this game, good and bad.
A good baseball season will make you feel joy, heartbreak, anger, jubilation, confusion, humor, sadness, peace, and excitement. The Giants managed to make you feel all of those things in one game. Thankfully they ended on the happier notes, with a walk-off that we’ll be talking about for years to come, as Darin “SuperDuty” Ruf tapped into all of his available torque to score from first on a double down the left field line by Austin Slater.
It stopped your heart. It entertained you. And it reminded you as to how damn good Duane Kuiper is at his job.
The “repeat the same thing over and over” move is a bold choice for a broadcaster, and only a select few know how to pull it off. Kuip is emphatically one of those select few.
I do hope that Ruf was wearing his Apple watch so he can at least get rewarded for that rather extreme workout. The man really gave it his all.
So how did we get here from there? How did we get to extra innings, to Oscar-worthy drama, and to Ruf lumbering home from first in an inning where you’re gifted a free runner at second?
Let’s rewind, unpack, and cover all of the drama. It’s Opening Day, after all.
So, about that battery. The Giants deviating from their script and deciding to add some day one flair may have ruined my first draft, but it didn’t alter how special the game was for their young Opening Day tandem.
Logan Webb took the mound with expectations that would have blown you away this time last year, when he was only considered depth for an injury-prone rotation. Now he’s the ace of one of baseball’s best staff. Now he’s expected to be an All-Star. Now he’s a person you can predict to win Cy Young in your office prop bet pool without looking like a homer.
He looked the part on Friday. He was calm and collected. He was nasty. He was fiery. He even understood the dramatic assignment and took an awkward fall after rolling his ankle, which brought out the trainers and had me penning an article titled, It could still all go terribly wrong for the Giants, here’s how.
But he stayed in the game and kept mowing down batters, allowing just six baserunners in as many innings. He only had three strikeouts, but he had nice swing-and-miss stuff all day, and allowed very little hard contact.
With the Giants nursing a 3-0 lead, Gabe Kapler let Webb start the seventh, but he was pulled after a leadoff walk (his only freebie of the day), and after Jacob Stallings tattooed a Dominic Leone fastball, Webb was left with a run of damage on an otherwise exceptional scorecard.
That was expected. But Joey Bart having himself a game was a little bit less expected.
Bart entered the game with 117 MLB plate appearances, during which time he had drawn three walks and hit no home runs.
In his first plate appearance he drew a walk, and scored the team’s first run by showing off the one skill that we know he can do better than his predecessor: run.
And in his second plate appearance he did this:
Congratulations, Joey B. You’re now tied with Duane Kuiper on MLB’s all-time home run list.
The strikeouts — he had two of them — will continue to be worth monitoring, but when you hit a mammoth dinger and play excellent defense behind the dish, they become a story for another day.
Let’s talk about how Bart scored after his walk, which was the first run of the game for the Giants.
It came when Brandon Belt, who had been hitless in his ultra-abbreviated Spring Training, got the team’s first hit of the season on a bunt which, thanks to a bad throw, resulted in Bart scoring all the way from first base.
RUN, JOEY, RUN!— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 8, 2022
The Giants score their first run of the season pic.twitter.com/bLrxNYpBmI
Remarkably, that was only the third-coolest thing that Belt did.
The second-coolest was when he added an insurance run in the form of a home run off of a lefty, reminding you all that preseason is for wimps.
I’m going to take every moment that I can to remind you that Belt had 29 homers in 97 games last year, and has been the third-best hitter in the Majors over the last two seasons.
But that was only the second-coolest thing that Belt did on Friday.
The first-coolest was when he broke back out his captain’s C, rode a boat into the stadium, and managed to be the first active player I can ever remember throwing out a ceremonial first pitch.
Stay tuned for next week’s column, Has anyone ever seen Brandon Belt and Klay Thompson in the same room?
I will forever grumpily claim that Belt has not gotten the flowers he deserves from the Giants fanbase. Sure, no one expects him to be as beloved as a homegrown MVP like Buster Posey, or a local kid-turned-All-Star like Brandon Crawford, but a homegrown All-Star who has spent well over a decade with the team and won multiple championships deserves all the adoration, and all the flowers.
He’s been getting them a little more over the last two years, and I’m so, so happy he had this moment.
Captain Belt forever.
This would have been a convenient place for the recap to end, but the Giants are in the entertainment industry, not just the wins industry. And so entertain they had to.
Which brings us to the ninth inning.
Someone — maybe Farhan Zaidi, maybe Scott Harris, maybe Gabe Kapler, maybe all three — decided that Camilo Doval should remain the closer entering the season.
I’m fine with this, as I’m sure you are, but it felt noteworthy when Jake McGee took the mound for the eighth inning, revealing who would be there for the ninth.
It was noteworthy because, despite the amazing things Doval does, it still feels like he’s a bit of an unknown entity. For all his brilliance down the stretch last year, he’s still a guy whose history of MLB success is a very small sample, and who walked seven batters per nine innings in the Minors as recently as ... uhh ... last year. In a larger sample than he had at the Major League level.
None of this is to extinguish the flame that is Doval’s speedy pitches and gorgeous movement, just to, umm ... maybe look at the flame a little bit more. Perhaps examine it from a few alternate angles. I was mildly surprised that the Giants felt last year’s hot streak was indicative of who Doval is going forward, and while I hope (and trust) that they’re right, it didn’t look great on Friday when he gave up three runs in the ninth, including a go-ahead two-run home run that took all of the air out of an open-air stadium, which sounds pretty dangerous.
But what is a blown lead if not an opportunity for theatrics? And so we introduce the very aptly-named Thairo Estrada, who led off the bottom of the ninth after having had a defensive foible that helped lead to the aforementioned Marlins homer.
The rumors of Estrada being a vital part of this team were, apparently, true.
The tenth inning was funny.
The Giants turned to John Brebbia, one of the last pitchers to make the roster. A ghost runner, a walk, and a productive flyout later, and the Marlins had runners at the corners.
That’s when Brebbia induced a ground ball to third, and Wilmer Flores smartly turned away from the risky double play, opting instead for the most deliciously-named of baseball plays, the pickle. They got the lead runner, replaced Brebbia with José Álvarez, and got out of the tenth inning unscathed, ghost runner be damned.
“Ghost runner be damned,” was, unfortunately, the attitude that Mauricio Dubón took when he jogged out to second to assume the position in the bottom half of the inning. After Belt flew out to right field Dubón wandered off of second, bluffed to third, and tried to get back to second about 15 minutes after they closed.
His foibles on the basepaths are frustrating to every fan and member of the team, but they’re also comforting. Who amongst us can’t relate to that feeling of trying to balance two things and instead ensuring that you’ll fail at both of them?
Anyway, congrats to Slater on his very fancy steak dinner that Dubón will be paying for tonight. And congrats to the Giants and Marlins for eschewing Rob Manfred’s pathetic rule, and managing to end an extra-innings game without scoring a single ghost runner.
While we all sat there trying to digest what had just happened at second base, Ruf quietly drew his second walk of the game, which expertly set up the finale.
RUF IS ON THE MOVE!