The San Francisco Giants game against the St. Louis Cardinals got off to a funny start. The cliché is to call these things “ominous starts,” but when the Giants go on to win — as they did 8-2 — that doesn’t really seem like an apt descriptor.
Anyway, the normally punctual baseball powers that be (read: umps) delayed the start of the game when Cards’ starter Jordan Hicks came to the mound and they determined him to have an illegally-colored mitt. And then, only after Hicks had procured a new, properly-colored mitt, did the umpires decide that the initial mitt was, in fact, properly colored.
Hicks stuck with the secondary mitt. Why not.
Cardinals CF Harrison Bader is shrugging his arms at second-base ump Greg Gibson, who shrugged back at him. Nobody knows what that was about, apparently!— Evan Webeck (@EvanWebeck) May 14, 2022
But we're now under way in St. Louis. Hicks using the second glove but after examination was given choice of either.
Some more weirdness immediately ensued.
In the bottom of the first Logan Webb and the Giants gifted St. Louis a run. After getting ahead of Tommy Edman 0-2, Webb walked the leadoff runner, allowed him to steal second, gave up third on a wild pitch, and gave up home on a ground out. Webb didn’t have his best stuff, but still took a no-hitter into the fifth inning ... despite having allowed a run just two batters into his outing.
And then the Cardinals returned the favor in the top of the second, when Hicks hit Mike Yastrzemski with a pitch with one out. Yaz took second on a fielder’s choice, and when Brandon Crawford struck out swinging, it was safe to assume the inning was over.
But the ball skipped away from catcher Andrew Knizner, who stared for about three seconds at the place he thought the ball should be, like a glitched video game character, instead of actually looking in a new place for it. Crawford jaunted to first to keep the inning alive, and one Luis González single later, the game was tied.
It wouldn’t stay that way for long.
It was only an inning later when Yastrzemski, who is quietly heating up, ripped an opposite field fly ball just past the tip of the glove of last year’s center field Gold Glove winner, scoring two and giving the Giants a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
They puttered about with that 3-1 lead while Webb did ... something.
I’m not sure what to make of his performance. He didn’t have his Stuff™, but still managed to make it through six innings with only a single run allowed against a team with an above-average offense.
He gave up only seven baserunners — three hits, three walks, and a hit batter — but struck out just one Cardinal. He threw first pitch strikes to 15 out of 23 batters, and went ahead 0-2 to eight batters, but also worked a swinging strike on just five out of his 93 pitches.
It was a game that perfectly mirrored his season. Good? Yes. Valuable? Also yes. A little confusing and a touch worrying? Still yes.
But what a luxury to be worried and complaining about six one-run innings against a playoff-caliber team.
The Giants bats, meanwhile, went as quiet as 3AM in the desert until the eighth inning, at which point I made the very wise decision to get up and get ice cream. You’re all waiting with bated breath to know what happened next, so I’ll tell you: it was Straus dutch chocolate topped with rasperries and mini marshmallows. I regret nothing.
When I came back to the TV the 3-1 lead had ballooned to 8-1.
If you think I’m a bad sportswriter for leaving in the middle of the action, well ... guilty. But I was also covering the Warriors game, and I got impatient trying to wait for overlapping commercial breaks.
The Giants had another small ball rally, putting a pair of runners on base, and scoring an insurance run on a Brandon Crawford single.
And then came the first of two very notable and exciting hits. Evan Longoria, who went 0-5 in his season debut on Wednesday, after a rather unproductive rehab stint, pinch-hit for González and smashed the second pitch he saw into the gap for a two-run double. Just like that, the game was broken open.
But they weren’t done. Some more narratives needed work, and Curt Casali took it upon himself to fulfill them, crushing the first pitch he saw 402 feet and, crucially, over the fence.
It was an important game for Casali. The Giants have taken a rather formulaic approach to catcher playing time. Last year, in a standard three-game series, Buster Posey would play the first two games, and Casali would play the third. Barring a scheduling quirk, they did this each time.
This year they’ve done the same, but with Joey Bart playing the Posey role. Games 1 and 2 for Bart, Game 3 for Casali.
Except Bart has been struggling. And Bart has been swinging and missing more than an over-confident man on Tinder. And the Giants have been rather public about the fact that Bart is not hitting the baseball, which is the job of a hitter.
So Casali got the Game 1 start, which means that, for this series at least, he’s the starting catcher. The strong offensive day — he also drew a walk — raised his OPS to .705 and his wRC+ to 109, numbers a bit above Bart’s.
Will he be the starting catcher for this series only? For a the next few weeks? For the rest of the season?
Those are questions for another day. The only question for today is, “Did the Giants win?”
Yes they did. Yes they did.