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Walk N’ Joc

The Giants’ win streak reaches 9 games thanks to Joc Pederson and the rookies.

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Oh, Joc. You sweet, simple Swing Daddy. You’re just there to mash and have fun, aren’t you? Tonight, Duane Kuiper asked you to hit a home run and you did your Babe Ruth impression. In the 9th inning against Josh Hader, with two outs, a full count, and the bases loaded, you did your Barry Bonds.

In that you drew a walk. My goodness, a walk-off grand slam off of Josh Hader three and a half weeks shy of the last time he gave up a walk-off grand slam to the Giants would’ve been staggering and funny, but what happened to end tonight’s game still qualified as high comedy. The Giants are incredible right now, and all you can really do is laugh.

Each win in this now 9-game streak continues to increase in degree of difficulty. Tonight, the San Francisco Giants faced off against Juan Soto and his Padres without their own version of Juan Soto in LaMonte Wade Jr. and started the May-June version of Anthony DeSclafani — a player who’s a far cry from the reliable and dominant April he put together.

These circumstances both mattered and didn’t matter, because, as the team has shown time and again over the past 50 days, THEY HAVE DEPTH. David Villar didn’t have a great or even good night, but he did have a hit, he didn’t totally fall down playing first base, but in both situations, he needed to be picked up by his teammates — who were already going to need to pick up the slack of Wade’s absence — and it’s a credit to that depth that the team managed to pull it off.

Brandon Crawford joined Joc Pederson in the veteran presence department driving in a run despite “committing” an error, J.D. Davis teamed up with Patrick Bailey (more on him in a second) to thwart a safety squeeze, and Tyler Rogers pitched confidently in what was a bend but don’t break top of the 9th inning to preserve a tie.

But now let’s take a look at the rest of the key players from tonight’s game:

Patrick Bailey
Luis Matos
Casey Schmitt
Tristan Beck

The Giants don’t win this game without these four rookies. If it’s starting to feel like McCovey Chronicles keeps repeating the same idea — good! The Giants have infused their roster with young talent. That talent is helping them win. I’m going to spotlight this every chance I get. Not just because the plan has come together, but because this is youth the team hasn’t had in a decade.

Patrick Bailey? He was able to slow the game down for himself and Anthony DeSclafani. The Padres got 8 hits in the disco and yet only scored three runs off the Giants’ starter. He walked only one — he was shaky and was missing about a half mph off his fastball velo and spin off his slider. Didn’t matter to Bailey. He stole strikes for the guy

— and as mentioned before, nailed Ha-Seong Kim at third base in the top of the 4th on a botched safety squeeze play.

His one hit was a single in the bottom of the 9th with one out and a runner on. In the bottom of the 7th, he grounded into a double play that was the second most consequential play by Win Probability (a 31.4% swing from Giants to Padres) — only 2.8% less impactful than Pederson’s walk-off walk — but he managed to avoid the same fate in a high pressure situation. He’s just been so good.

And what’s not to love about Luis Matos? He’s 6-0 in his major league career. He finally struck out, but he added a walk, a hit, and he scored two runs. That walk in the bottom of the 9th against Tim Hill was the fifth-most important play of the game (14.2% Win Probability Added).

Casey Schmitt replaced Brandon Crawford late in the game because that’s how much the Giants trust his defense. He also appears to have learned a new trick or two over the past few days, as he drew a walk for the second time this week and now has three on the season.

Bailey, Matos, and Schmitt were all on base in the bottom of the 9th when Joc Pederson coaxed a walk out of Josh Hader.

It’s a snapshot of a completed goal in motion. The Giants have worked so hard to get their organization to this situation, where they could draft and develop a young core to supplement with savvy signings and trades. Who knows what will happen over the next few months. What we know right now is that this is special. Win streak or no, the Giants are doing what they’ve been striving to do — what we’ve been hoping they could do.

And I didn’t even mention Tristan Beck, one of those trades that has worked out great. Most fans, I think, keep expecting the team to stick him in the rotation, but it looks like we’re seeing the Giants really double down on the bulk reliever strategy. Depending on how you choose to round, he averaged 95 (94.75 mph) with his fastball and the 7 times he threw his sweeper, it was basically as good as Shohei Ohtani’s (84 mph with 2500+ rpm).

It was Beck’s ninth scoreless appearance of the season and fourth where he pitched at least three innings. There’s no guarantee that this bulk strategy will continue to work, but in this specific case, it was less about using that strategy and more about backing up DeSclafani, whose surprisingly great start to this season (2.70 ERA in five April starts) has given way to mediocrity: since May 1st, he has a 5.32 ERA in 54.1 IP with a 1.39 WHIP and 39-15 K-BB.

So, this bulk strategy is working. There’s no need to mess with the formula. Whether or not the starter has been sharp, the bullpen holds the line and gives the bats multiple chances to shoot ahead. The Giants haven’t allowed more than 5 runs during this streak, and only once in June have they allowed more than 5 (8 against the Orioles on June 4th). If you stretch it all the way back to May 15th (33 games), the Giants have allowed more than 5 runs just four times. They’ve allowed exactly 5 runs just three times. That’s a 3.07 ERA.

The Padres’ talent was evident all over the field tonight, from Manny Machado’s glove to Fernando Tatis’ power, to their really tough pitching start to finish. And yet, Tristan Beck allowed just two baserunners against a team with the best walk rate in MLB (10.9%); meanwhile, Bailey, Matos, and Schmitt were able to handle arms from what was the second-best bullpen in Baseball (since May 15th) heading into this series. The Giants have a clear plan and right now it’s generating the expected result. Baseball isn’t supposed to follow such an obvious script — the Baseball Gods love to improvise.

This is the 11th time in San Francisco history that the Giants have had a winning streak of at least 9 games, and if you look at all of those, it puts what’s happening to the roster and the success of the organization’s scheme into proper context. To wit:

Seasons with winning streaks of at least 9 games (SF Giants):

1969 (August)
1969 (April)

First, those were all winning seasons. Second, the seven most recent seasons have all been heartbreak seasons of a kind (I’ll say 1990 is only because it’s coming off of 1989). Still, I think we’d all like to see another Wilmer Flores check swing first round bounce than whatever the hell last season was. Or a September with the worst record in franchise history.

Second, none of the historical comparisons really matter, do they? Just enjoy what you’re saying. The Giants came into the year with modest expectations. Most of us were pissed off about the direction of the team, either because of how the offseason went down or because of how the player development situation unfolded last season or both. It was easy to project doom and even disappointment. We’ve gotten the exact opposite of that.

Joc Pederson is the veteran goofball who’s just there to make funny faces and hit dingers. Casey Schmitt drew a walk! Last night, Mike Yastrzemski took time out of what could’ve been a pure victory lap for his ego to point out that Schmitt’s walk. They’re gonna start expecting more from the kid, but in a tongue and cheek way. They’re living it up. They’re enjoying themselves. We’re enjoying ourselves while watching them!

We’re not even halfway through the season, but this is a better Giants team than we expected and a lot more fun than we dared to imagine.