The San Francisco Giants needed a win in the series finale against the Kansas City Royals. It was a statistical necessity, but a spiritual one on this day of resurrection and feast after a demoralizing loss on Saturday.
Demoralizing, frustrating, angry—appropriate words for a “defeat snatched from the jaws of victory” in the moment. Yes, I agree that every game is worth the same from late March to early October, but losses in April like yesterday’s can be teachable moments for players and coaches. If the team has any chutzpah, yesterday was yesterday, it shouldn’t derail a season, and might even, build character.
No one went to Oracle Park on Opening Day weekend to build character. They wanted the bats to deliver blows, to crush and annihilate and embarrass and destroy opposing arms—fans wanted to cheer on blood-shed (in a classy way). It didn’t happen for San Francisco on Friday, it definitely did not happen on Saturday, and as long as Royals starter Kris Bubic was on the mound on Sunday, it didn’t happen then either.
But it did happen eventually. Not quite the bludgeoning Giants are capable of but it’s nice to shake things up once and awhile (especially a day removed from the anniversary of RUF IS ON THE MOVE) with a mad dash scramble for the plate.
Bryce Johnson scored from first on a 2-out double by Wilmer Flores. Johnson was running on the play and slid headfirst into second before leaping to his cleats when he realized where the ball ended up in left. The young outfielder’s speed coupled with the overall offensive desperation of the weekend, base coach Mark Hallberg waved Johnson to score the tying run. Michael Conforto then launched a 3-1 wiffle ball from lefty Ryan Yarbrough into deep right center.
MICHAEL CONFORT— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 9, 2023
GIANTS LEAD pic.twitter.com/rlnxn0zqgj
I guess we can be thankful that Yarbrough was in the game because there was a moment of whiplash in the 7th when things got confusing.
As far as I can discern, this is what went down:
The reliever, Yarbrough, was called in after RHP Carlos Hernádez appeared injured after a Brandon Crawford pop-up. Hernádez then started to walk off the mound as Yarbrough left the bullpen to face righty Austin Wynns. But then half-way across the outfield, Yarbrough turned and headed back to the bullpen with Hernádez returning to the rubber, prompting lefty Blake Sabol to head into the game (without Kapler’s official signal), which prompted the Royals to call Yarbrough back to the mound. After 7-minutes of getting jerked around and general confusion from everyone involved, the umpires let Yarbrough pitch forcing Sabol to hit against a tough southpaw with a baserunner on and two outs in a 1-run game.
Savvy/manipulative coaching from the Royals? A flaw in the rules? Poor officiating from the umpiring crew? A rookie player not abreast of the bureaucratic nuance of MLB substitutions? Probably all of the above. The Giants bats got the last laugh so all is forgiven. Happy Easter.
Gabe Kapler addresses the confusing matchup situation in the seventh inning pic.twitter.com/fQENSRnSO4— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 9, 2023
Kris Bubic, a native of Cupertino, is the first left-handed starter the Giants have faced this year.
Accordingly, Gabe Kapler ran out the right-hand hitting platoon: outfielder Bryce Johnson got the start in center instead of Mike Yastrzemski, Heliot Ramos, recently called up to lend his right handed swing to the cause, started in left, Austyn Winns, recently called up after Roberto Perez’s injury, matched up with DeSclafani behind the dish, Wilmer Flores covered first base for LaMonte Wade Jr., and J.D. Davis took over Joc Pederson’s role.
With RH outfielders Austin Slater and Mitch Haniger still on the injured list, the right-handed side of the lineup is the Bruce Banner to the lefty’s Hulk—Bubic handled them easily, delivering 6 strikeouts his first time through the line-up. (5 of them swing-and-miss). Giants hitters swung through big curve balls, swung over change-ups, and chased elevated fastballs. Bubic attacked the zone, kept any contact mostly on the ground, cruised through 6 innings of work with 9 K’s, 2 hits and 0 runs in front of friends and family. San Francisco’s first hit came from a seeing-eye single off the bat off David Villar to lead off the 5th. Bloodshed!
Thankfully, Anthony DeSclafani on the other side of the hill was nearly as good.
In his second start of the season, Disco continued his strong start with 6.1 IP, allowing 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 7 and walking none. Over 2 games and 12 ⅓ IP: 0.73 ERA, 6 H, 1 R, 11 K, 0 BB.
The 1 run blemish happened fast. The first base runner for the Royals and first hit of the game came with 2-outs in the 4th off the bat of Vinny Pasquantino (who battled for 11 pitches in the first before striking out, and doubled to lead-off yesterday’s 9th, scoring in-absentia the winning run on Doval’s wild pitch). Pasquantino’s double was promptly singled in by Salvador Perez.
Perez, it seems, is trying to make up for 2014. The single was his 5 RBI in the series. I don’t know how many RBIs or game-tying home runs golfed into the bleachers it would take to equal a single with 2-outs in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7. The damage he inflicted this weekend is pretty dang annoying—like a pimple inside your nostril or a mosquito bite on a knuckle—but it’s not close to redeeming the foul out in 2014.
Does this help us feel better about what happened to us this on Friday and Saturday?
[insert shrug emoji]
In a non-tandem start, the incredibly well-rested San Francisco bullpen pieced together two innings of shutout baseball. Scott Alexander took over for DeSclafani with one on and one out in the 7th. The Royals threatened with a single from Matt Duffy and both runners moving into scoring position on a soft ground-out to the infield’s right side. Alexander snuffed out the smoldering flame with a sinker below the zone that Franmil Reyes couldn’t hold up on.
Taylor Rogers came in in the 8th trying to manage the Royals’ 1-0 lead and gave up a lead-off double to Nicky Lopez. The new Rogers has not had a great start to his Giants career but after the double, he fanned Jackie Bradley Jr. and got MJ Melendez to fly out to center field. John Brebbia came in to strike out Bobby Witt Jr. to end the inning and set-up the 3-run burst from the offense.
With Doval pitching two days in a row, Tyler Rogers took over the 9th for the save and trouble comically descended on a catcher’s interference call on Sabol, that put the lead-off man on 1st and the tying run to the plate. The tying run represented by—who else?—Salvador Perez. History repeats itself.
Much has been written about Perez’s game-tying 3-run homer off a Ross Stripling change-up. Who’s to day whether that pitch—practically bouncing on the plate—had any business being hit that far, whether Stripling and Sabol should’ve elevated something to a low-ball hitter, whether Kapler should’ve pulled Stripling for a high-leverage reliever like Brebbia or Tyler Rogers. Everyone has an opinion about it. No one has a problem making hay and more hay about it—but certainly one of Saturday’s alternate timelines could have been the submariner and his naturally rising frisbees against the 9-iron wielding Royals catcher. We saw what might have been on Sunday’s 9th—Perez popping up to shallow left on one pitch. Matt Duffy then grounded into an easy 4-6-3 double play to end the game.
A much needed Phillies win.
On to a potentially not-fun 3-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Matchups for the Dodgers series: Webb vs. Urias, Wood vs. May, Cobb vs. Kershaw— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 9, 2023