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Pick them off to walk them off

Patrick Bailey accentuated a gritty win.

Patrick Bailey in the high-five line Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants started their day with disappointment. The trade deadline neared, inched closer, and then swept by like a funny street sign you didn’t have time to read, and then it was gone. The Giants sat on their hands. A deadline eve deal for A.J. Pollock, one of the worst players in baseball this year, represented their only movement.

I understood why the Giants did what they did. Hell, I even agreed with what the Giants did. I can honestly say there wasn’t a single trade that happened at the deadline that, if you had offered me the Giants equivalent of it, I would have pulled the trigger on. And yes, that includes the Pollock deal.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t disappointing. You asked for a slugger and you got someone who was one in a past life. You asked for a middle infielder and you got Isan Díaz up for a second chance at collecting his first hit with the Giants. You asked for a starting pitcher and you got Farhan Zaidi sitting in front of reporters and essentially saying, “Look, we don’t want to use openers but golly, they sure seem to be working don’t they?”

There would be no team dramatically overvaluing a Giants player and undervaluing their own, as the New York Mets did when they sent J.D. Davis and a trio of prospects for Darin Ruf. There would be no intriguing prospect who was clearly not in the team’s plans being flipped for an All-Star slugger, as was the case when they turned Alexander Canario into a few months of Kris Bryant. In the absence of these opportunities, the Giants did the sensible, but incredibly boring thing: they didn’t force the issue.

It was smart. It was defensible. I believe it was the right move. But even saying that, I recognize the disappointment.

And then, to make matters worse, the Giants opened the door for their new guest, Pollock, and told him that he’d be sleeping in Marco Luciano’s room. Pack your bags and head to college in Sacramento, Marco.

But a wise person and many dumb people and countless social media accounts and inspirational mugs once said that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. So while the day may have began with disappointment, it ended with excitement of the purest and most positive fashion. With a taxed staff after three-straight bullpen games — the last two of which went 11 innings — the Giants turned to Sean Manaea for a two-out save.

Manaea took the mound with the decently-speedy Geraldo Perdomo representing the tying run at first base, and MVP candidate Corbin Carroll in the batter’s box. Four pitches later, Carroll was retired on a fly ball to right field.

Up came Christian Walker, who has been spectacular against southpaws this season. The first pitch was a fastball a little high. The second pitch was a fastball down broadway that Walker swung right through.

And the third pitch was what seemed like an inconspicuous fastball high and away, that Patrick Bailey asked to dance and turned into a walk-off pickoff.

Is that one of the coolest plays of the year? Unquestionably.

Is that one of the coolest plays I’ve ever seen? Also unquestionably.

Should we watch another angle of it? You know the answer.

We’re all familiar with the concept of a defensive replacement. It’s nothing new in baseball. But usually a defensive replacement just means swapping someone out for someone who will give you a marginally better chance of maintaining your lead.

You know the drill: Joc Pederson may be better than Bryce Johnson, but when you’re up three with an inning left you can afford to punt the things the former does well because of what the latter does well. A small but obvious advantage to gain.

Bailey is taking the concept to a new level. He’s more the equivalent of bringing in your edge rusher on third down and dialing up a blitz. A defensive replacement is supposed to be a safer option, but Bailey is anything but that.

He’s a weapon.

The youngster — who just might win a Gold Glove despite starting the season having never played a game above A-ball — entered the game in the eighth inning to help protect a 4-3 lead that fellow rookie Blake Sabol had helped the Giants build. During that time, the Diamondbacks put the tying run on base twice.

Bailey threw them out each time. The first time was just a flex, honestly. From his knees, falling over sideways, and he easily got a runner who had stolen 34 bases in 37 attempts over the last four seasons.

Bailey was tasked with helping the Giants get six outs. He got two of them all on his own. I’ll just quote Brandon Crawford here, when he was asked if teams will keep running on Bailey: “They shouldn’t, but I hope they do.”

The brilliance by Bailey is a perfect segue into a funny trend for the Giants and Diamondbacks this game, which brings us to one of the funnier words in baseball: baserunner.

A baserunner can mean two things in baseball. It can mean a player who successfully reached base, or it can mean a player who is on base.

To wit: the Diamondbacks had seven baserunners, but they also only had four baserunners. As in, seven times a player reached base safely, but because three of those times occurred on home runs, only four times was a player actively on base.

All four players were retired on the bases. We just saw two of them, but Sabol had a gorgeous thievery of his own, critically nabbing Perdomo (rough day for him) in the fourth inning.

And all that came after Alex Cobb induced a double play in the second inning. What an odd day for the Diamondbacks.

Cobb’s overall line wasn’t the prettiest thing, but it’s worth celebrating. Sure, he gave up a run at home for the first time since May 16, and yeah, he gave up three homers in a game for the first time since the 2020 season.

But he also entered the game very sick, toughed his way through it, and gave the Giants six innings of competitive baseball when much of their bullpen was unavailable. Three of the four hits he allowed left the park, but that’s the only bad thing you can say about him.

Yet it still didn’t seem like it would be enough for a Giants offense that made a permanent home in the freezer for July. It was more of the same to begin Tuesday’s game, with the team hitting just well enough to get into intriguing situations that they would do nothing with. They stranded a pair of runners in the second and third innings. Pollock’s first at-bat with his new team sounded like a homer, but died just short of the wall. Pederson repeatedly hit the baseball hard enough to make me question just how baseballs are made (and, unfortunately, to injure Austin Adams), but barely had anything to show for it. They were coming up empty with runners in scoring position again.

The frustration peaked in the sixth inning, with the Giants trailing 3-0. J.D. Davis sent the first pitch that Zac Gallen threw in the inning into left field for a leadoff single. Pederson hit the second pitch that Gallen threw at 103.9 mph with an expected batting average of .570.

It resulted in a double play.

The rally was over before it started, or so it seemed. But Sabol singled, and Luis Matos gapped a run-scoring double to get the Giants on the board. This is why we love rookies!

And then, with the ice broken, our beloved and eternal shortstop entered the frame, then exited stage center.

And this is why we love veterans.

The Giants had all the momentum, which only increased when Ryan Walker took the mound for the ninth and mowed through three batters on nine pitches. And then, a few minutes later, LaMonte Wade Jr. regained his Late Night moniker with a line drive into the arcade.

Suddenly it was the Giants game to win, and Walker, Manaea, and Bailey did exactly that.

Which brings us to one final point. Asked on Monday about how the Giants were unlikely to add a starting pitcher at the trade deadline, Zaidi made a pointed remark about how the positive attitude of the platooned hitters has had a trickle-down effect on the pitchers. Outside of Cobb and Logan Webb, none of the large-inning pitchers have been given the role that they hoped to have this year. They all want to pitch more. They all want to start more. That’s just their competitive nature.

Yet they’re all embracing their roles, and doing what’s needed to help the team win. That was certainly evident with Manaea, a starter his whole career, who has been working exclusively out of the bullpen for almost three months now, and who recorded his first career save on Tuesday.

Just look at the joy.

The Giants didn’t spend their Tuesday upgrading their talent. They spent it reminding you why they might not need to.