Set the Table, Please
And Put Away Those Batters
And Put Away Those Batters
The Giants salvaged the final game of their series against the Houston Astros on Sunday, and took a step forward to salvaging their season. This was a contest that epitomizes the concept of winning not being the most important part of the game. Playing baseball the way it was designed to be played, with passion and fanatical determination, is the most important part of baseball, and we saw a series of excellent baby steps in returning the Giants to last year’s successful form.
In a game filled with unusual circumstances, and statistical oddities, the two areas that emerge as most significant are the bull pen, and the leadoff hitter of each inning. Each demonstrated the tenacity that we came to expect so routinely last season. I realize that “last season” pops up in the conversation, but how is it possible to ignore it?
Many Giants fans have adopted the attitude that “This season has taught me a lot about loyalty...last year they won the big enchilada, and this year, they don’t got to win nothing.” They accept the Giants and their record just as it is.
I belong firmly in this school of thought. By the time the bottom of the ninth was over, I was convinced this was a tremendously entertaining game, regardless of the outcome. Though Mike Krukow was enthusiastic about Dan Runzler’s major league debut as a starter, because of how poorly things had been going, he thought a guy making his first major league start would amp up the team.
We’ll never know if he was right, because Runzler didn’t make it out of the second inning. If he were throwing strikes, and they were just clobbering the ball, that would have been one thing. However, he walked three batters in that inning, the third one being Henry Sosa. Sosa was the ‘Stros‘ starting pitcher, the Giants’ farm prospect, who was traded for Jeff Keppinger.
Bruce Bochy sent Righetti out to talk to Runzler, stalling for time, while he went to the telephone himself to make the call to the bullpen. Bochy did not try to conceal his annoyance at the walks. When Duane mentioned that there was smoke coming out of the manager’s ears, Kruk deadpanned that the top of Bochy’s head had actually exploded. The Giants’ manager, himself a former catcher, is not a fan of the free pass.
The key element to focus on, is the fact that the bull pen proceeded to pitch nine and a third innings of scoreless ball, without the services of either Sergio Romo, their set-up man, or their closer, Brian Wilson. Bochy used the entire bull pen, except for Javier Lopez, and every single fireman performed like a champ.
For drama, take Affeldt’s ninth inning, when he faced J.D. Rodriguez with runners on every bag and one out. He made three consecutive, ridiculously nasty pitches, and J. D. grabbed some pine. The red hot Carlos Lee then ended it with an infield ground ball. Affeldt went on to pitch a clean tenth.
How about lead-off batters getting on base in seven consecutive innings, and nine of the eleven innings altogether? The Giants recently set and extended the record for consecutive solo home runs; they did this because of low productivity from the top slot(s). Having seven consecutive lead-off base runners is a huge development in this area. Whether they ended up scoring or not, is secondary; they were getting on base, and in the most innovative of manners.
Mixed in with a couple of outfield singles were a hit batsman, a walk, two swinging bunts, and a third strike/wild pitch. Because of the exemplary performance of the bullpen, the Giants only had to capitalize on one of the seven lead-off base runners. Pablo’s home run in the top of the eleventh, after his two-strike out/hit into a double-play day, made up for earlier transgressions. It was the sort of ending that we encountered frequently from Pat the Bat, or U-rib-e.
This year, it seems as though we wind up losing one to nothing, or worse yet, six to nothing. It all has to do with getting the table set, so that the timely big fly, delivers some Belt-power. When was the last time this season, that the Giants hit a three-run home run?
Today represented only one game. The Giants were lucky to have gained a full game on the Snakes, and are only one and a half games behind. If ever there was motivation to get back on track, it should be the fact that they are still within capable grasp of top slot.
Just as those seven lead-off batters got on base, or just as the bullpen pitched nine and a third shut-out innings, the Giants have to find a way to git ‘er done. They showed us today they haven’t forgotten how; the time has come and the time is now.