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Who needs dingers in Denver?

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants 5-4 comeback win over the Colorado Rockies culminated in a dramatic, bold, gorgeous, purple-mountain-majestic bunt from platoon catcher Patrick Bailey.

Bailey, who took over for Blake Sabol behind the plate in the 7th, hadn’t stepped into the batter’s box all evening. After ripping two doubles and a triple in his Coors Field premiere, the rookie catcher dealt the fatal blow not with a blast but a delicate dink: a 1-out safety squeeze called from the bench against Colorado reliever Justin Lawrence.

In a 2-1 count, Bailey squared at the last possible moment, laying the bat head over the plate as Lawrence slung a sinker toward the bottom of the zone, and dragged the ball up the first base line. Bouncing off third, Mitch Haniger sprinted towards the plate at the moment of contact as Lawrence attacked the ball off the mound. The reliever made things close, hurriedly dishing to catcher Austin Wynns from his knees, but Haniger had too good of a jump, too perfect of a read and slide to dodge the tag, and secured the winning run of the game.

Bailey now has as many successful safety squeezes as home runs in his career. Manager Gabe Kapler has commented that on a team leading the MLB in bunt hits (by a lot), the rookie catcher might be the best buntartist in the dugout.

Though we didn’t know at the time, the call came from the bench. It’s an interesting one. Why bunt with Bailey’s swing on display yesterday? Why bunt in COORS FIELD? Yes, the ball didn’t seem to be as jumpy or as lively as on typical mile-high nights…still, with less than two outs, and a runner at the corners in a tie ballgame—why not go for the knock-out?

Why, Steven, question a call that ultimately worked and helped seal one of the more exciting “team” wins for these Giants in 2023?

To be clear—I love the decision. As fans, how many home runs do we see in a season? How many squeeze plays do we see? How many do we see that are decisive? Maybe Bailey didn’t look comfortable against Lawrence’s side-arm release point. Maybe with a strike to give and the fear of a double-play ball or strikeout, the chance didn’t feel as chancy as it appeared.

The safety squeeze call is a great example of how Kapler and the coaching staff, for how disciplined they are with “the match-ups” and “numbers” and governed by “the book”, still have the ability to read the in-game situations and gamble.

They’re certainly not dare-devils—they didn’t call a suicide squeeze because that would’ve been, well…—but the typically reserved Kapler did something a little wacky, a little out-there, a little unexpected, and our lives are richer for it.

Let’s watch it again.

Another thing that wasn’t expected was the Giants to win Wednesday’s game.

Well, actually, on paper, a hot and healthy offense, who just scored 10 runs on 14 hits, with 8 doubles and 11 walks while earning 20 ABs with runners in scoring position, facing off against a middling, 5.40 ERA right-handed pitcher with barely 60 innings pitched in the big leagues to his name—that name being Connor Seabold—with their own ace, Logan Webb, on the mound would seem to add up to a breezy win.

Not so—the human variable strikes again! The unchartered waters of the Giants batting order proved manageable for Seabold, authoring a no-hitter into the 6th while striking out 4 in the longest outing of his career.

The Giants bats weren’t completely dominated by Seabold, but any loud contact or flyball hit to the warning track weirdly didn’t float through the thin air over the fence like they’re supposed to in Denver and found a glove instead.

While Webb pitched, Seabold painted. He mixed pitches well, worked the corners, and took advantage of a live-edge zone from home plate ump Mark Rippeger. Generous, or deserved? Pitchers should be given the benefit of the doubt if they’ve located well over innings—Seabold did that through 6+ innings.

Webb didn’t. With his sinker dulled and slider nullified in the elevation, Logan Webb looked winged, two-thirds of the pitcher he has been at sea-level. He relied more on his change-up than usual to make up for the mountain environs that typically flattens out sliders, while his sinker lacked some of its horizontal drift. Nor did it help that he had little finesse with his location. A softened sinker poorly-placed is a match made in heaven for a hitter.

Webb was lucky the bottom of the Rockies order didn’t do more with the offerings when hitting 3 consecutive singles before Charlie Blackmon capped the rally with a 2-run double and a 3-run 2nd inning. He’s also lucky he’s got 7 guys behind him. Though we didn’t know it at the time, Michael Conforto saved the game in the 2nd with a tuck-and-roll snare on a sinking liner in right that kept 2 runs off the board. Brandon Crawford also leant a hand up the middle in the 5th with a lunging grab that kept another run off the board in the 5th.

A 483 foot solo shot in the 6th off the bat of Nolan Jones finished off Webb’s night. Not a great start, not technically “quality” but ”gutsy” or “serviceable” might be better descriptors considering the field environment as well as the quality of stuff Webb was working with. Not pretty, but ultimately successful.

Webb didn’t deserve much with how he pitched, but he’ll sleep better knowing that San Francisco bagged the win.

Seabold, on the other hand, might be up late after this one.

Things went awry for the young righty in the 7th.

After a lead-off walk to Michael Conforto and two poorly located 0-2 pitches to Haniger—the second one he singled past the shortstop for the Giants’ second hit of the game—Bud Black had seen enough. With a string of lefty swingers waiting in the wings, the veteran manager decided to bring in southpaw Brent Suter, ending Seabold’s night with high-fives and congratulations from his teammates on the mound.

What is the opposite of a flame-thrower? An ice-roller? An egg-lobber? Tyler Rogers? Whatever it is, Suter is it. He’s in the lowest percentile in fastball velocity and in the 100th percentile in weak contact. Opponent’s Statcast flair is nonexistent. Over 35 innings pitched, he’s effectively turned hitters’ bats into pool noodles while earning a 1.77 ERA.

With Black’s move made and Mike Yastrzemski coming up, Gabe Kapler had a decision to make. Two-runners on and nobody out, but still down 4 runs with 9 more offensive outs in the game against an arm that’s tough on both righties and lefties (while lefties actually hitting better in terms of average against).

Sometimes I think as fans the move to pinch-hit is obvious. (Just look at the stats!) Given Yaz’s struggles against lefties and Slater’s hot-hand the swap was close to a no-brainer, but I feel like it’s warranted to mention every decision comes with ramifications. The coaching staff are paid to travel down the tributaries of consequences once they remove a player from the game.

If Kapler keeps Yaz in that means he can save the hard-hitting Slater for someone like lefty closer Brad Hand with more typical splits in what could potentially be a 1-run or tie game scenario in the 9th. (Hand did end up facing Joc Pederson in the 9th with two men on base—imagine if the Giants were still down, but Slater’s services were already implemented?) Remember San Francisco was still down 4-runs, Slater at the plate didn’t even represent the tying run. Not a typical high-leverage, pinch hit situation.

Every choice is a risk, a gamble, and its implications must be weighed. You’re guaranteed 27 outs as an offense, but you aren’t guaranteed rallies. Baseball is ultimately played in the present, and somebody has to press a button. In the 7th, Kapler decided with 2-on, nobody out and down 4-runs with a near-healthy roster of position players at his disposal to blow the factory whistle—shift’s over! —and roll out that lefty-to-righty platoon switch.

It was like a hockey game substitution, players flipping over the dugout railings, ducking in and coming off of the bench, and the players made the manager look good.

Austin Slater pinch hit for Mike Yastrzemski and rolled an RBI single through the 5.5 hole to score the Giants’ first run. Blood in the water, Kapler fully committed. Wilmer Flores replaced Blake Sabol and lined a changeup over the shortstop to set-up bases loaded for Casey Schmitt, who in a 2-strike count, yanked an inside sinker past the shortstop for a 2-run single, slimming the deficit to one run.

The rally reconfigured the game but it still ultimately came up short. Lefty Brent Suter surrendered 3 consecutive singles and 3 runs without recording an out before Black toggled to righty Justin Lawrence.

Lawrence turned out to be the right button to press, retiring Davis, Wade and Estrada stranding the potential tying run at second and the leading run at first. Unfortunately for the Rockies, Lawrence came out for his second inning of work seemingly spent.

He walked Pederson to lead off the inning, hit Haniger to put the tying run in scoring position, and Slater again came up with the big knock, singling an outside sweeper to score Pederson from second and advance Haniger to third to set-up the already-legendary Bailey squeeeeeeeze.

Denver-area native Taylor Rogers worked around a 1-out double and an intentional walk in the 7th to freeze Mike Moustakas and the score on a 3-2 fastball, Tyler Rogers duplicated his twin with a scoreless 8th, before a well-rested Camilo Doval mowed down pinch hitter Elias Diaz and elicited groundouts from Blackmon and Jurickson Profar to seal the 5-4 win.

Just your typical come-from-behind, small ball win in Colorado.