Giants glovesmen left Minnesota after yesterday’s game with their tails between their legs and their mitts stuffed unceremoniously into the bottom of their duffel bags.
Both Brandon Crawford and Brett Wisely committed 2 errors each with some less-than-tight play from other suspects. Blatant misplays will always raise eyebrows. An ugly team loss will get those internet nay-sayers down-right horsey.
News from Lake Michigan is that concerns may have been overblown. Defensive doubts were quickly waylaid in the 1st inning, and the San Francisco Giants bullpen pieced together a shutout performance in their 5-0 win to open their 4-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Mike Yastrzemski chased down a loud drive from Darin Ruf (!), snaring it at the high yellow fence line in rightish-center. Good-natured smiles all around as Yaz relayed the ball back in, laughing with his old teammate as Ruf veered back to the dugout.
J.D. Davis then made a barehanded play on a bounder off the bat of Willy Adames, gunning it down to first to get the speedy infielder bang-bang.
Darrin Ruf couldn't help but smile after Yaz robbed him at the wall pic.twitter.com/9XnyotkH82— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 26, 2023
Admittedly the infield defense Gabe Kapler rolled out in the opening game in Milwaukee had a significantly different look than it did on Wednesday.
Davis took over the hot corner as Casey Schmitt replaced Crawford at short. Patrick Bailey took over for Blake Sabol behind the dish, while Thairo Estrada booted Wisely from second with LaMonte Wade Jr. remaining at first.
Schmitt’s natural position is third, and Bailey’s talent has been evident, but over a small sample size—but, around the horn, it’s a good-looking defense. It didn’t get a ton of action over the 9 innings, but going forward its an compelling alignment that could work well while still keeping needed bats in the lineup.
It just feels odd to even think, let alone publish on the internet, that the best infield for San Francisco right now could be one without Brandon Crawford.
If that is true, it doesn’t mean Crawford is a defensive liability. His glove got him to the Majors in 2011, and it certainly won’t turn on him now. His soft hands, oily locks, and casual flow (not to mention the heaps of goodwill he’s built up over his career) will buy him some time after his bat has bit the dust.
With nagging injuries and poor AB’s piling up for Crawford, that time just might be now. But that doesn’t mean his days of usefulness are done. Far from it.
The emergence of Schmitt and Davis as a defensive asset, who are ostensibly jostling for the same innings on the left side of the infield, could benefit Crawford in the long run. Positional coverage would allow the elder veteran to get more off days (the 2-on, 1-off Buster Posey treatment) helping his body recuperate from general wear-and-tear while relieving some of the pressure to be the everyday player he has had to be in his career.
A healthy Crawford in this new role as platoon and depth piece gives San Francisco one of the more versatile infields in baseball, and could translate to more sustained success for their shortstop in the field and the batter’s box.
But enough about defense—who needs it? Defense is so boring when you have Michael Conforto on your team.
With a 4 for 4 night, Conforto reached base 5 times and launched his team-leading 11th home run in the 8th inning, doubling San Francisco’s slim 1-0 lead while instigating their late-inning, game-clinching rally.
The surging outfielder has hit 3 homers in his last 4 games with 6 runs batted in.
Conforto absolutely destroyed this baseball pic.twitter.com/jhlljsM62M— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 26, 2023
Casey Schmitt blew the game open with a 2-out, 2-RBI double that split the gap in left-center and rolled all the way to the wall, bringing Yaz home easily and allowing Blake Sabol to score from first. Patrick Bailey ended the Giants night offensively with a follow-up RBI double.
The extra base hit was San Francisco’s 4th 2-out RBI on the night after LaMonte Wade Jr. rolled a single up the middle against newly-minted Brewer and veteran Atlanta Brave ace, Julio Teheran to score Schmitt in the 5th.
Teheran pitched well in his Milwaukee debut and return to the Majors since his last appearance in April of 2021. He allowed 1 run on 4 hits (all of them singles) while striking out 5 with the help of an his infamous change-up.
The San Francisco bullpen continues to be the key to the Giants recent success. Counting the opener, relievers Scott Alexander, Taylor Rogers, Jakob Junis, Sean Manaea, Tyler Rogers, and John Brebbia threw 9 shutout innings, limiting Milwaukee hitters to 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 13.
Brewers’ threatened twice against Junis but to no avail. Trouble caused by two-out double by Adames and walk to Christian Yelich in the 4th was squashed by a successful pick-off move to get the Adames in a rundown.
In the 5th, and again with two outs, the Brewers worked two runners on base against Junis. As Gabe Kapler went to LHP Sean Manaea, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell pinch-hit Tyrone Taylor for lefty-swinging Brice Turang. After falling down 2-0 in the count, Manaea pumped consecutive fastballs into the zone before getting Taylor to swing through an perfectly located 96 MPH fastball on the outside corner. The southpaw would collect two more K’s in the 6th.
What a performance from the bullpen pic.twitter.com/JBo0XosrKn— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 26, 2023
Giants back to .500.