The San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 6-3 on Wednesday night. I could talk about the game a bit, and in a roundabout way, I will. I could talk about how the Giants have now won eight of their last nine games, but I don’t know how many more words I can say on that. Doesn’t really need expanding.
Here’s what I actually want to talk about: 2023. Because, despite technically having a case of the Still In This Things, the Giants are playing for 2023. They’re playing to figure some things out.
One of those things to figure out is the bullpen, which struggled for much of this season. But a funny thing happened to the bullpen: as the Giants shuffled through things, DFA’ing disappointing players like Jake McGee and José Álvarez, and optioning subpar performers like Sam Long and Zack Littell, they started to find the buttons that worked.
Entering Wednesday’s game, the Giants bullpen was 5th in the Majors in fWAR in September, 5th in FIP, and 6th in ERA. They’ve started to find new pieces. New pieces who, Mays willing, might be able to hold some leads in 2023.
Pieces like Shelby Miller. You didn’t think much when the Giants signed Miller to a Minor League contract. But he did well in AAA Sacramento, and he became part of the September brigade, and against the Rockies, in his second game with the Giants, he pitched two perfect innings and struck out five batters.
That came after striking out seven batters in 2.2 scoreless innings in his first outing, with four hits allowed.
Which means, if you’re keeping score at home, Miller has faced 18 batters and struck out 12 of them. Or, to put it in more “Wait, the Giants are making history??” terms, I’ll leave you with this:
Shelby Miller of the @SFGiants is the only MLB pitcher in the modern era to have back-to-back outings with 5+ strikeouts in less than 3.0 innings with no walks or runs allowed.— OptaSTATS (@OptaSTATS) September 29, 2022
Yep. Definitely had that on my bingo card.
John Brebbia was terrific as the opener. Sean Hjelle was strong as the bullpen-game long man. Tyler Rogers did his thing. Yunior Marte tried really hard to blow the lead in the ninth, but bit down on his mouthpiece and got through it, so we’ll ignore that.
Perhaps I’m riding the high of a meaningless good stretch of baseball, but I’m feeling fairly optimistic that the Giants can cobble together a good bullpen next year around some combination of Miller, Brebbia, Hjelle, Rogers, Camilo Doval, Scott Alexander, Cole Waites, Alex Young, Thomas Szapucki, R.J. Dabovich, Gregory Santos, and Chris Wright. And that’s before getting to the patented Farhan Zaidi bullpen dumpster dives.
There were other signs of life that you can cling to if you’re looking at next season. David Villar had a two-hit day. Brandon Crawford continues to put together excellent at-bats, hitting a single and getting Oracle’d on a deep opposite-field fly ball. Mike Yastrzemski is looking more comfortable these days. Aaron Judge hit his 61st homer of the year.
There was also the beauty of baseball being weird. For that we turn to Joc Pederson. Prior to this series starting, Pederson had hit exactly 10 triples in his career, in 1,011 games.
And on Wednesday, for the second day in a row, Pederson hit a triple that allowed the great American muscle car that is Joey “HEMI” Bart to score from first base.
Joc Pederson Joey Bart— SFGiants (@SFGiants) September 29, 2022
Speed demons pic.twitter.com/rLqrqRcqoT
Catchers scoring from first is a top five event in baseball. I will not be taking questions on this at this time.
But while we were treated to an optimistic glimpse into the 2023 glass ball, we were also reminded that this was a late September game between two teams who will be watching the playoffs from their offseason homes.
The Giants scored their first runs on a hilarious sequence of events. They had three straight singles to open the first inning, which should have scored just one run. But the throw from the outfield went a little wide of the cutoff man, and the multiple Rockies players who should have been backing up the play decided to play Candy Crush instead, allowing the ball to float, untended to, into the Giants dugout. A second run was told to come home and, after a review, the runner at first was sent to third, where he would later score.
In the next half inning, the Giants gave back one of those three runs with a quartet of freebies. Hjelle walked a batter. Then he threw a wild pitch. Then he fielded a comebacker and tried to get the lead runner at third — the right play — but Villar, when left with the multiple-choice question of “Should I catch this ball that’s thrown directly at me?” circled “No.” On the very next pitch, Hjelle fielded another comebacker, turned to second, saw both Crawford and Ford Proctor, got confused, panicked, and threw the ball to Yastrzemski instead.
Those are things that happen, especially this time of year. But the bigger picture is that, before we dive into the depressing offseason obituaries and grand tales about how the Giants almost signed Judge and almost re-signed Carlos Rodón, we got to feel optimistic about the future of Giants baseball.
Perhaps I’m hanging perilously from a thread with this, but I don’t care. It’s a random night in late September, and this time next week Giants baseball will be ripped away from me in heartless fashion.
I’ll take what I can get.
New enjoy Hjelle celebrating the first win of his MLB career.
Sean Hjelle got showered with just about everything in the clubhouse after his first big league win pic.twitter.com/u64y9LYP2K— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 29, 2022
I’d like to drink a beer with that guy.