If you’ve read my articles — particularly my recaps — over the last month or three, then you’ve probably gotten used to a healthy dose of pessimism. Hell, if you’ve watched the San Francisco Giants at all over the last month or three, then you’ve probably gotten used to a healthy dose of pessimism. It comes with the territory when a team wins 30 fewer games than the prior season.
So occasionally I need to be reminded that baseball is still fun, and that the Giants, while wrapping up an exceedingly disappointing campaign, can still do cool things.
Tuesday was cool and fun, and not just because their 2023 starting right fielder hit his 60th home run of the season.
No, it was cool because of things the actual Giants who are currently on the team did. Even if the coolness started in maddening fashion, when Joey Bart hit a massive double (which was originally ruled a triple, but later changed to a double and an error) that did the nearly impossible: was projected as a home run in every other ballpark in baseball.
Joey Bart vs Kyle Freeland#SFGameUp— Would it dong? (@would_it_dong) September 21, 2022
Exit velo: 102.2 mph
Launch angle: 42 deg
Proj. distance: 411 ft
This would have been a home run in 29/30 MLB ballparks.
Only Coors Field would've held this one in.
SF (0) @ COL (0)
That’s rare enough as is, but it’s now where I remind you that the Giants were playing in Coors Field. Coors Field is the home of “that wouldn’t be a home run anywhere else.” That would be a home run anywhere else is wholly antithetical to the entire being of Coors.
Is it time to start adding “Coors’d” to our lexicon?
Yet while it hurt Bart’s stat line, the shoulda-been-four-not-two didn’t hurt the Giants, as Mike Yastrzemski singled him home to give that team you choose to root for a 1-0 lead.
It took the Giants a while to add to that lead, but remarkably, the pitchers didn’t need it. John Brebbia pitched an excellent first inning. Tyler Rogers was fantastic for the next two. And then Sean Hjelle took over, and pitched four strong innings.
Time for a brief interlude. Hunter Pence has been in the broadcast booth for this series, and at one point pointed out that every time he saw Hjelle, he thought of Beyonce, before half-singing “I don’t think they’re ready for this Hjelle.” It was a lovely moment, and I want to take a second to give Pence a whole lot of credit.
Hunter will always be entertaining, but there were concerns when he entered his post-playing career that his enthusiasm — which can only be described as “that feeling when you order your fifth double espresso of the day and the barista mishears you and gives you a cocaine-laced Four Loko instead” — would be a little bit too much. And at first it kind of was. I enjoyed it in small doses, but Pence, be it in programing, broadcasting, or podcasting mode, was a bit much.
He’s dialed it back a little. Not so much that we’ve lost sight of just why we all adore him, but enough that his enthusiasm, optimism, and passion for life and baseball are highlighted, rather than run into the ground.
So great job, Hunter. Neither your swing nor your broadcasting approach are conventional, but you’ve clearly worked hard to be great at both.
Anyway, while Hjelle was having a nice outing, the Giants had a delightful sequence that Pence and Dave Flemming termed the “triple-double,” in which three consecutive batters — Austin Slater, Thairo Estrada, and Evan Longoria — all hit opposite-field doubles. Big ones, too! It reminded you of what it looks like when the Giants hitting approach works, and it was an absolute joy. A joy which gave the Giants a 3-0 lead.
They gave back one of those runs in the form of a big kid home run from C.J. Cron, and then promptly got it back in the form of a big kid home run from David Villar.
Villar sure shook off his awful start to Monday’s game, didn’t he? I’m not convinced the Giants are ready to go into 2023 with him as an everyday player, but I’m pretty sure they’re ready to commit to him being on the Opening Day roster at the very least.
The Giants then gave Hjelle a chance to pitch the eighth — what would have been his fifth inning — but he was pulled after a leadoff single. It led to a nice moment. Gabe Kapler stood on the mound for a few seconds talking to Hjelle, despite having already made the call to the bullpen. It seemed that he was giving Hjelle some public praise, choosing to do it in a place where his catcher and infielders would hear it rather than in the corner of the dugout.
Hjelle gave six runs in just an inning in his last appearance. He gave up two in four in this one, despite pitching in a place where pitchers see their careers flash before their eyes.
It was pretty clear what Kapler’s message was.
The Giants flirted with giving up what had become a 5-1 lead. Thomas Szapucki replaced Hjelle, because the Giants are not chasing wins right now, and nearly gave up a three-run home run that Lewis Brinson thought he had robbed. Turns out he had only knocked it down, but he recovered to make an amazing throw, which led to an amazing relay, which led to an amazing tag, which ... well it led to a safe runner, but it was cool nonetheless.
The Giants tacked on a third insurance run in the ninth, and Yunior Marte let the tying run reach base in the bottom half of the inning before Jarlín García — and more specifically, Slater — closed the door, giving the Giants a 6-3 win.
What a play to secure the W pic.twitter.com/qp4UMdzmph— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 21, 2022
It’s a two-game winning streak! That doesn’t mean much, unless you have an investment in baseball being fun. Then it means a whole heck of a lot.