Before the start of the seventh inning of the San Francisco Giants 5-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves, the gates to the bullpen swung open, and Cole Waites, with his hair trying to decide whether it wants to be like Brandon Crawford or Jesus, came jogging out.
It was a memorable moment at the ballpark, an unforgettable moment for Waites, and a quietly monumental moment for the Giants.
It might have been lost on the fans who spend their days yelling at Farhan Zaidi for not yet having developed a young, star core for the Giants, but when Waites threw a 96-mph fastball that was incorrectly called a ball, the star of a new era began.
Waites, an 18th-round pick in 2019, is now the first player drafted in the Zaidi era to appear in a game for the Giants.
I’m not saying that Kyle Harrison and Casey Schmitt will make the All-Star Game next year, but Waites appearance has opened the door. The next era is starting to show up.
Waites started the year in High-A, earned a quick promotion to AA, and was promoted to AAA Sacramento recently. With the Giants season over (in the practical, playoff-chasing sense) and Waites needing to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, a September call up was inevitable for someone who has quickly cemented himself as a bullpen arm to watch.
It started out rough. After his first pitch was inaccurately called ball one, Waites proceeded to pump three straight fastballs that were accurately called balls, ceding a four-pitch walk to his first MLB hitter, former Giant Ehire Adrianza.
He was then given a crash course in the difference between AAA hitters and MLB hitters when he had the distinct pleasure of facing Ronald Acuña Jr., who promptly roped an opposite field double. Three straight missed sliders to Dansby Swanson later, and Waites was a pitch away from loading the bases with no outs in his inaugural inning.
But he didn’t. He fought back and got Swanson to ground out to short, keeping Adrianza at third. He got Austin Riley to hit the ball on the ground, with a nice defensive play by David Villar resulting in at out at home. And then, after an eight-pitch battle in which he topped out at 98, Waites got Matt Olson to fly out.
It wasn’t the smoothest route towards a scoreless inning, and it certainly wasn’t the most conventional. But it was gutsy. And it was fun. And it was special.
A debut is always cool, but this night was extra special for Cole Waites. He grew up a Braves fan in Lawrenceville, Georgia. His family all went to Chicago, then came here to see him debut against hometown team. "I think this is the way it was supposed to happen," he said. https://t.co/SDPX8RnZok— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 14, 2022
Waites will never forget this game, but I’d sure like to forget the other parts of it. They were held in check by Kyle Wright and Atlanta’s bullpen for nearly the entire game, finishing with just four hits. A first-inning double by Mike Yastrzemski and an RBI single by Joc Pederson give the Giants an early lead, and represented the only good things they would do on offense all night.
Jakob Junis was not on his best behavior, Luis Ortiz allowed a run, and Luis González missed a line drive hit directly at him.
You can’t win them all. And in the Giants case, you can’t even win most of them.