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Rookies back vets to explosive 14-4 win over Pirates

Patrick Bailey blasts a home run and goes 2-for-4 on his birthday as the Giants’ offense really rolls.

Pittsburgh Pirates v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants are now 13-7 in the Casey Schmitt Era or 8-3 in the Patrick Bailey Era, depending on how you want to see this new and exciting team that’s come of age here in May. The Giants trounced, bounced, blew out and/or scuttled the Pirates, 14-4 today thanks in part to this burgeoning young core.

To me, youth on a baseball squad is an ingredient but it’s not the whole meal. A diversity of skill set and experience has proven to be a really strong measure of how good a team’s going to be now and in the future and for a very long time now, we’ve watched the Giants’ core grow older and older without much youthful energy surrounding them.

Today, they were the key ingredient to spark today’s offensive explosion. Patrick Bailey put a flat-footed Wilmer Flores swing on a Rich Hill curveball, smacking it to right field and giving the Giants an early 2-0 lead. And then it was the vets’ turn, with Brandon Crawford getting his first of his three hits on the day with an RBI single on a Rich Hill slurve.

Crawford’s overall line heading into today’s game since returning from the IL has been a dismal .200/.310/.280 (29 PA) with Gabe Kapler dancing between raindrops to avoid answering questions about him being outright benched or otherwise platooned. That said, since last week, he’s played in four games and hit .500/.833/.750 (16 PA). I’d say that’s pretty good, and mixed in with the youthful ingredients, even better.

On a day when the Giants faced off against Bryan Reynolds, the prospect they gave away for a little bit of Andrew McCutchen, they were finally able to show that they’ve managed to develop prospects to supplement the hole his departure left.

Last Giant to homer on his birthday? Brandon Belt, last season (4/20/2022) at Citi Field. Last Giant to have 4+ RBI on his birthday? Marlon Byrd on 8/28/2016.

Do you remember what you were doing at 24? I do. I was an Audience Page at CBS Television Center, watching successful people be successful. And on my 24th birthday... well... I had enough fun that I don’t actually remember it. There goes Patrick Bailey stepping into a major league role and providing major league contributions to the extent that he has caught Buster Posey’s attention:

The best way I could describe it is just easy, confident control. That’s kind of what it looks like to me. That’s something that’s hard to teach. It’s just kind of a natural gift that he has. It’s one of those things that, as a catcher, I really don’t think you can overstate the importance of how you carry yourself and how it can affect, obviously, your pitching staff [...]

(This is also remarkable because today is the anniversary of the Giants calling up Posey for good back in 2010.)

Here’s a key example of Bailey’s poise: in the top of the 6th inning, Pirates’ leadoff hitter Tucupita Marcano led off the inning with a single, but the at bat started with a weird pitch clock violation called on Anthony DeSclafani that gave Marcano a 1-0 advantaged. Then he smashed a single to right field. DeSclafani was understandably miffed. Bailey called time out and talked to him and three pitches later, he got Reynolds to hit into a double play to clean up the mess.

DeSclafani’s luck this afternoon started in the 1st inning when he got three outs on three pitches despite giving up a leadoff double to Marcano. He’d wind up giving up 8 hits across 7 innings and striking out just 2, but he didn’t walk anybody despite getting just 4 swings and misses.

In this morning’s series preview, I noted that the Pirates are one of the toughest teams to get to chase pitches outside of the strike zone, but that they weren’t particularly better at making contact within the strike zone. Today, they made sure to swing early and that’s how they were able to create some traffic, but the Giants’ ability for getting groundballs proved to be a little bit better than the Pirates’ ability to stay out of them (7th lowest in the NL).

He, Bailey, and Casey Schmitt were the game’s top Win Probability Added (WPA) leaders according to Statcast, and a quick recounting of the game had me thinking, “Yeah, that makes sense.” Schmitt’s double in the bottom of the 2nd that setup Bailey’s hit was the 2nd-most impactful play by WPA.

Rich Hill was 8-2 in his career against the Giants (though just 2-1 in 9 starts at Oracle Park) coming into today’s game and the Giants, for all their machinations, were still a below average lineup against left-handed pitching. Schmitt, Bailey, and Austin Slater, their biggest weapon against left-handed pitching, if we’re being honest, were all in fine form.

Slater’s home run off Rich Hill that went to right centerfield was just his first home run this season, but in a year that’s so far been clipped by injuries, his line against LHP has still managed to fly. He was 7-for-12 with a 1.282 OPS heading into today’s game and went 4-for-6 to raise his total season line to .400/.464/1.064.

The Giants were 15-11 at home before today’s game and had a a negative run differential of 104-114 and on the season overall (home & away) a -2. They’re back to even at home — even though the gap could’ve been more if Jack Suwinski hadn’t hit two Cove shots —

Y-y-you know what? I need to take a small detour here to talk about Jack Suwinksi. Put him in the Hairston Bucket. Grishamize him. Jack Suwinski has hit 30 home runs in his MLB career (542 PA) and five (5) of those have come against Giants pitching. Oh sure, his second cove shot of the day was against Brett Wisely — both teams ended with position players pitching — but it’s borderline embarrassing that a guy who hasn’t even played a full season in his career has hit five home runs against a team that isn’t even in his division!

He’s now hit Splash Hits numbers 55 and 56 by an opponent. Coincidentally, the Giants had the same player hit Splash Hits 55 & 56 on the home side: Pablo Sandoval, but they came nearly nine months apart. Anyway, I’d hate to think the Giants are helping to build the foundation of Suwinski’s career, BUT... it looks that way.

Speaking of Splash Hits! The Giants are sitting on 99 Splash Hits, Michael Conforto is sitting on 7 home runs for the month of May. No Giant has hit 8+ home runs in a month since Barry Bonds back in 2004. I’m just putting this out into the universe: Splash Hit 100 on Conforto’s 8th home run of the month. I was disappointed to see him benched today against Rich Hill, because he’d been 2-for-9 against him with both of those hits being home runs.

But that’s just getting greedy. The Giants’ plan to fold in youth with veterans to create an exciting team is working. They hadn’t scored at least 14 runs at Oracle Park since July 2015! I’d venture to say the roster is firing on all cylinders, but there are still a few injuries (Joc Pederson, Thairo Estrada) that’s holding them back from being at the mythical “full strength.” Birthdays usually indicate we’re getting older, but when you’re as young as Patrick Bailey, they’re just a marker for that youthful energy. He’s got his whole life ahead of him still. The Giants have so much more to look forward to with these rookies.

The kids are here to be the energy, and this afternoon, the Giants were supercharged.