San Francisco Giants: A fun, perhaps even meaningful week of baseball

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 03: Evan Longoria #10 of the San Francisco Giants hits a solo home run to break a tie game in the 11th inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 3, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Giants won 12-11 in 11 innings. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 03: Evan Longoria #10 of the San Francisco Giants hits a solo home run to break a tie game in the 11th inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 3, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Giants won 12-11 in 11 innings. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The chances are slim that San Francisco Giants fans will revere this last week of baseball. That’s what happens when the team is 15-19 and sitting in last place in the NL West standings.

Early struggles can make it hard to maintain short-term optimism if you’re a San Francisco Giants fan, or a fan of any team for that matter.

But that doesn’t take away from a 4-2 week.

All four wins portrayed the hunger of a team battling for the best record in baseball: a heroic double by Evan Longoria, a walk-off thanks to Buster Posey, an eight-run comeback that included Stephen Vogt’s game-tying home run in the ninth, and a four-run comeback packed with a Posey three-run shot and a pinch-hit two-run bomb via Brandon Crawford.

These are games that were fun to watch, not to mention inspiring.

That’s saying something. Far too often already this season, games have been tough to watch.

While the offense still almost refuses to start a game with a run, the Giants are equipped with a starting rotation that presents daily competitiveness and the potential for a possible gem, while the bullpen continues to pile up groundballs, strikeouts and scoreless innings.

Entering play on Monday, the Giants starters are sixth in the NL with a 4.03 ERA and the bullpen is first in the NL with a 3.14 ERA. If you read my previous article, I work hard to stay optimistic if the pitching staff is well-equipped.

This week of gutsy wins via the combination of small ball and clutch bombs was a pleasant reminder of the 2010 San Francisco Giants.

In Monday and Tuesday’s victories, Jeff Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner provided high-quality starts, tossing a combined 11 innings while allowing just six hits and one earned run with nine strikeouts. In those same games, the offense provided clutch small ball.

In Friday and Saturday’s victories, starters Tyler Beede and Samardzija gave up five home runs and 16 earned runs total, but the offense came through with five home runs of its own and 18 runs total.

Much like the 2010 team, the starting pitching was in control at times, while the offense found life on the rare instances when the pitchers didn’t excel.

With that, let’s get to the game-by-game details of last week:

Monday: San Francisco Giants 3, Los Angeles Dodgers 2

WP: Sam Dyson, LP: Ross Stripling, SV: Will Smith.

Samardzija went five innings on 79 pitches, allowing only two hits and one walk. The Shark was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth, not because of pitch count or trips through the order, but simply to spark a lineup that had yet to reach second base.

Tyler Austin did just that, but a Yangervis Solarte lineout and a Brandon Belt strikeout ended the threat. Tony Watson took the hill for the top of the 6th, quickly allowing four of the five hitters he faced to reach base and put two runs on the board.

Then, the Giants rallied.

Evan Longoria started the night on the bench, giving way to the hot hitting Pablo Sandoval. But, once a lefty reliever was called into the game, Sandoval gave way to Longoria, and he stole the show.  In the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded and two down, he roped a ball into the left field corner to clear the bases and put the Giants ahead.

From there, a simple Reyes Moronta experience in the eighth and a smooth Will Smith save in the ninth completed a much-needed victory.

Tuesday: Los Angeles Dodgers 10, San Francisco Giants 3

WP: Walker Buehler, LP: Drew Pomeranz

Remember when Ty Blach was known to stifle the Dodgers? When he battled Clayton Kershaw and came out on top? Well, that didn’t happen here.

Drew Pomeranz started, yielding three runs over four innings pitched before the game with a 3-1 scoreboard. Then came a scoreless inning from Trevor Gott. Then came Blach. And then came runs. Seven of them in fact.

The end result was a Giants game that was both hard to watch and painful to read about. And as you may see, even harder to write about.

Wednesday: San Francisco Giants 2, Los Angeles Dodgers 1

WP: Will Smith, LP: Julio Urias

Bumgarner tossed his best game of the season in this one.

His stat line was nice—6 IP 4 H, 1 ER, 8 K—but the fact he kept Kike Hernandez in the yard is even nicer. Sure, Hernandez scored via a Cody Bellinger infield single, but that was all.

In the bottom of the first, Brandon Belt got into a fight with Triples Alley, and the alley won while yielding a run. Frustrating indeed. Posey stepped up to the plate with a runner on third and one out, but hit a sharp ground out to short, killing the rally.

I only mention the first inning flop because in the bottom of the ninth, Posey triumphed.

With runners on first and second and two out, Pedro Baez was brought in to face Posey and he delivered, hooking a line drive to left and plating the speedster also known as Steven Duggar.

This game was pure fun. Anytime the Giants beat the Dodgers is fun. But a win that includes a MadBum gem and a Buster walk off? Yeah, that is especially fun.

Oh, and also, Bruce Bochy got tossed for arguing balls and strikes in the seventh.

Friday: San Francisco Giants 12, Cincinnati Reds 11 (11 innings)

WP: Reyes Moronta, LP: Jared Hughes, SV: Will Smith

I am not going to lie, after Derek Dietrich hit his second three-run home run off Tyler Beede, I turned the TV off and got to work on the garden with KNBR on the headphones. Then friends came over, I turned off KNBR and kept an eye to the Gameday app. While we played corn hole, ate some burgers and talked about my newborn son, I received notification after notification hinting at a comeback. Soon enough, the TV was back on the energy was tingling.

Comeback victories are fun. Comeback victories from eight runs down are more fun, and very rare.

Thus, let’s soak this in with a couple of highlights:

  • Joe Panik goes 1-for-6, but that one hit was a home run that turned this into a three-run ball game. It was the hit that turned my television back on.
  • Evan Longoria goes 3-for-5 with two RBI. The first RBI brought the Giants within a run, the second RBI put the Giants ahead by a run.
  • Stephen Vogt goes 3-for-3 with two RBI’s. The first RBI was a double off the top of the wall, a double that preceded Panik’s HR. The second came with two outs in the top of the 9th. The second brought a tear to any baseball fan’s eyes and a tie to the ballgame. Just watch the home run and the interview, this guy is awesome.
  • Kevin Pillar produced a web gem in center field, Tony Watson escaped a scary 9th inning jam, and Steven Duggar produced three hits and three RBI.

Above all, this win displayed a team that looks fierce and capable.

Saturday: Cincinnati Reds 9, San Francisco Giants 2

WP: Tanner Roark, LP: Dereck Rodriguez

Saturday sort of mirrored Tuesday. On Tuesday, the Giants gave up three home runs. On Saturday, they gave up five.

Derek Rodriguez had a very rough outing, his second poor outing in a row. He is in his sophomore season and the learning curve in this league is steep, so steep that back-to-back outings such as these can help prove the true potential ahead. His next start is in Colorado against the Rockies, a team he has a 1.76 ERA against over 15.1 career innings.

The offense was flat Saturday, perhaps hungover from the night before. Except for Duggar, who was 2-for-2 with two RBI and a walk. In fact, Duggar seemed to be wide awake all week, posting a .526 average alongside five RBI and five runs in six games. This guy is fun to watch play baseball, so long as you like the small ball way.

Also, Kevin Pillar made a play that just needs to be watched daily for the rest of the season.

Sunday: San Francisco Giants 6, Cincinnati Reds 5

WP: Tony Watson, LP: Raisel Iglesias, SV: Will Smith

In the first inning, it took three pitches to produce three Reds home runs in a row. No joke. So, before I’d even turned the game on, the Giants were down four. But hey, an eight-run comeback the night before and a bullpen that leads the league in ERA? Why not stick around and watch a little longer?

Oh yeah, that Luis Castillo kid was on the bump. Do you remember him? He was part of the 2015 trade to acquire Casey McGhee from the Marlins.

Watching him string together five hitless innings was pretty rough after reading the great piece from Grant Brisbee of The Athletic about the April Pitcher of the Month and his 1.54 ERA.

Reading complaint tweet after complaint tweet was almost as rough, until the sixth inning when the bats awoke. The combination of an RBI single from Panik and a three-run yahtzee from Posey tied up the game and tossed the possible no-no out of the Twitter feed.  Heck, they even inflated Castillo’s ERA all the way to 1.97.

Just like that, the tweets switched focus from Castillo to Posey. Until the 9th, when after a Posey double, Crawford threw Twitter into a frenzy with a pinch-hit two-run homer.

With that, the Giants won Sunday and they won the week. Here’s hoping this continues. Here’s hoping it just may be a sign.

Either way, let’s soak it in.

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Fun Stat of the Week: The Giants were outscored 36-28 on the week, but nonetheless finished with a 4-2 record. Small ball defined.