The San Francisco Giants received a fair amount of criticism for remaining stagnant at the trade deadline, opting against trading a top prospect for a short-term boost, or a quality basket of prospects for a marginal upgrade.
Farhan Zaidi, when addressing this criticism, shrugged, said that bullpen games aren’t the team’s desired mode, but that damn, they sure are good at them.
The bullpen, as if to provide evidence to support their president, did, as the kids say, the damn thing.
And that’s how the Giants beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 1-0 on Thursday afternoon, taking a four-game series from their free-falling division rival, winning their seventh game in nine attempts, competing in their sixth one-run game in the last week, and staying atop the Wild Card standings, and within reach of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Pretty good day.
Six pitchers combining for a shutout isn’t exactly how you draw it up, but if the Giants have proved anything this year, it’s that there are many, many, many different ways to win a baseball game.
I mean, there’s only one: score more runs than your opponent. But much like a build your own burger at McDonald’s, the combinations to get to that end result are virtually unlimited.
And so we started with Scott Alexander, the third-string opener thrust into duty thanks to John Brebbia’s injury and Ryan Walker throwing 33 pitches on Tuesday night. Aided by a deliciously-turned double play from an infield defense that clearly denies any allegations of being related to 2022’s defense, Alexander needed just seven pitches to face the minimum in the first.
He gave way to Tristan Beck, who just might be the Logan Webb of non-glamorous pitching roles. Beck gave up just two baserunners (one of which was a 63.3-mph single) in four innings, erasing one of them with a double play he helped turn. Against a team that ranks in the top 10 in runs per game, Beck needed just 14, 12, 14, and 8 pitches to get through his innings. The Diamondbacks did not look even remotely comfortable against him. And that infield defense I mentioned? Here it is again.
Beck brings us to an important point: are we sure the Giants can’t win with these hybrid starter-relievers? The traditionalists keep hammering away about how an increased rotation is necessary in the playoffs but ... is it? The only tangible difference between the regular season and the postseason is more rest between games, which would seem to make bullpen games even more feasible.
Or, put another way, would you rather have 5-6 innings of Jack Flaherty or Michael Lorenzen, or 1-2 innings of a rested Walker or Alexander, followed by 3-4 innings of Beck?
While Beck was mowing down batters and you were chewing on that question, LaMonte Wade Jr. gave the Giants the only offense they would need, with one of just two hits for the team.
By the way, here’s Beck’s line over his last 6 outings: 15.1 innings, 8 hits, 3 walks, 1 run, 11 strikeouts.
Dreaming of an expanded role? Don’t.
Kap is content keeping Tristan Beck in his current role rather than upping his innings pic.twitter.com/o1PXZCnblJ— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 3, 2023
Sean Manaea pitched two-thirds of an inning. I have no clue what his role is or what it should be, but there’s no denying that he’s pitching well right now, and he seems fluid enough to slide into any spot.
Luke Jackson was up next, facing five batters: one walked, one flew out, and three struck out. Injuries have limited Jackson to 13 innings, but his talent has limited his opponents to 12 baserunners and 18 strikeouts in those innings.
Taylor Rogers flirted with trouble but pitched a scoreless setup inning, which featured having the wherewithal and toughness to complete a play after getting smoked by a 101.5-mph liner.
Your favorite could never. Well, maybe they could. But I sure as hell couldn’t.
And then it was Camilo Doval time. Aided by a lovely play from defensive replacement A.J. Pollock, who held Christian Walker to a 362-foot single, Doval closed the door for the Giants’ 17th one-run victory.
It may not be conventional, but it damn sure works.
This was the 15th time since the turn of the century that the Giants homered in a game that they won 1-0. Because we all enjoy looking back at fun times, here are the other 14.
- July 9, 2023 vs. the Rockies: Less than a month ago! J.D. Davis homered, and Logan Webb pitched a complete game shutout.
- June 11, 2021 at the Nationals: Buster Posey (our hero) homered, and Anthony DeSclafani pitched a complete game shutout.
- July 7, 2019 vs. the Cardinals: Evan Longoria homered, and Jeff Samardzija pitched 7 innings, with a relief appearance from Sam Dyson, and a save by Will Smith.
- April 11, 2019 vs. the Rockies: Kevin Pillar homered, and, just as he would three months later, Jeff Samardzija pitched 7 innings, with a relief appearance from Tony Watson, and a save by Will Smith.
- June 27, 2018 vs. the Rockies: Brandon Crawford hit a walk-off home run after 7 innings from Madison Bumgarner, and relief appearances from Will Smith and Reyes Moronta.
- March 30, 2018 at the Dodgers: In the second game of the season, Joe Panik had a 9th-inning homer off of Kenley Jansen. Johnny Cueto pitched 7 innings, Tony Watson pitched in relief, and Hunter Strickland earned the save.
- March 29, 2018 at the Dodgers: In the first game of the season, Joe Panik homered off of Clayton Kershaw. Opening Day starter Ty Blach pitched 5 innings, with relief appearances from Josh Osich, Cory Gearrin, and Tony Watson, and a save by Hunter Strickland.
- August 10, 2016 at the Marlins: Brandon Crawford homered, Jeff Samardzija pitched 5.2 innings, Will Smith, Hunter Strickland, and Derek Law came out of the bullpen, and Santiago Casilla earned the save.
- September 21, 2010 at the Cubs: After a gap of nearly 6 years we wind up with Buster Posey homering, Matt Cain dishing 6 innings, Ramón Ramírez and Sergio Romo pitching in relief, and Brian Wilson earning the save.
- April 24, 2008 at the Padres: Rich Aurilia homered, Tim Lincecum pitched 6.1 innings, Jack Taschner and Vinnie Chulk pitched in relief, and Brian Wilson got the save. Sometimes I forget that Aurilia and Lincecum overlapped. Very different eras in my head.
- April 21, 2007 vs. the Diamondbacks: Barry Bonds homered! Barry Zito pitched 7.1 innings! Barrys! Brad Hennessey also pitched, and Armando Benitez got the save.
- August 12, 2005 at the Marlins: Randy Winn hit the home run in this one, Noah Lowry pitched 7.1 innings (and doubled!), Jeremy Accardo came out of the bullpen, and Tyler Walker picked up the save.
- July 20, 2001 vs. the Diamondbacks: Ramon Martinez homered, Liván Hernández dealt 7 innings, Felix Rodriguez and Aaron Fultz tag-teamed the 8th, and Robb Nen shut the door.
- June 13, 2001 vs. the Angels: Shawon Dunston provided the big fly, while Russ Ortiz pitched 8 innings, with Robb Nen grabbing the save. Try not to think about the year and opponent too much.