Small Ball San Francisco Giants: Seventh Inning Rally Showed Giants’ New Mentality
By Daniel Sperry
The San Francisco Giants have been doing their damage with the home-run in recent weeks. Something that hasn’t been common place with this team in over a decade. But tonight, the small ball got the job done when they needed to summon a comeback, and showed a mentality that was absent of this team in 2017.
Since shifting in baseball became the crack cocaine of every bench coach in the league, San Francisco Giants fans had been pining for Brandon Belt to lay one down the third base line when teams put on the lefty-pull shift. Well, he came around on it tonight.
Belt slapped one down the line in a 3-1 count in the bottom of the seventh inning, when the Giants were down to the Dodgers by the score of 4-2. Derek Holland‘s bad fourth inning put the Giants in a hole against the Dodgers’ Ace this season, Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu’s double made it 4-2 and the Dodgers looked like they were going to roll to a win. But Belt’s bunt changed the course of that momentum.
Belt then advanced to second on a wild pitch, only to be caught advancing from second to third on a ball up the middle. On first base though was Austin Jackson. Brandon Crawford drew a walk, and the Giants got a great base-hit from Gorkys Hernandez to make it 4-3. Kelby Tomlinson followed with a pinch hit double to make it 4-4. Then the weirdness ensued.
With runners on second and third, and Joe Panik at the plate, the Dodgers opted for Pedro Baez to come in against Panik. He fell off the mound during a pitch and was called for a balk. Panik followed with a sac-fly to make the score 6-4.
The 2017 Giants wouldn’t have done what they did tonight. The mental fortitude wouldn’t have been there. Belt likely wouldn’t have laid that bunt down, and the patience to grind out at-bats wouldn’t have been their either. Frankly, they would’ve thrown in the proverbial towel either the moment Ryu doubled, or when Belt was caught advancing to third.
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Bad base-running on Belt’s part? Traditionally yes, you shouldn’t try and go from second to third on a ball hit to the left side of the infield when you aren’t forced to try and advance. But the ball was hit up the middle, behind Belt’s leadoff and fielded rather quickly. That makes that situation difficult, and forces Belt to third, as now he’d be out trying to get back to second anyways.
But that moment right there, the next two at-bats, just don’t happen without the team being in a better mental state this season than they were in 2017.
The comebacks have happened plenty of times in 2018. Mistakes are still being made, sure. But the team has shown some gall to come out of some potentially damning situations. That’s incredibly promising. Especially considering the injury issues they’re faced with to start the 2018 season.
Overall, this is a big win for the Giants though. On a night that their starter wasn’t good enough for them to win, they still found a way to get the win in spite of that. When this Giants team talked about a better mentality coming out of the Spring, this was the type of game you’d expect to see.
With not everyone hitting well at the moment, against the Dodgers’ ace, with a bad outing from Derek Holland, it probably wasn’t going to turn out right tonight. But somehow, this team was able to claw itself back into the game by bunting, grinding at-bats, and scratching runs across however they could. It was an effort worthy of the win, regardless of how “impressive” it was, or how “powerful” it wasn’t. They got the runs across and didn’t give in.
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That’s not something we would’ve seen from last year’s squad. It’s like the Giants are actually taking “New Year, New Me” to heart, and it’s starting to come to fruition, better than my own New Years Resolutions. If this team really is as mentally strong as they showed tonight, then the rest of the league should watch out for when this team gets going.