Chris Heston

Heston dominates, Giants solve Despaigne, Hector hurts Padres’ feelings

Hector Sanchez Hunter Pence Giants Padres

What good is an unbalanced schedule if you can’t make fun of some of the teams you have to face 19 times? With the Giants usually playing fairly boring, fruitless games at Petco Park, games like tonight’s 9-3 win are rare holidays that should be celebrated as such.

Before we get to Part 2 of “Giants vs. Padres: The Gum Wars,” I have to write a little about Chris Heston. Because without Heston, the 2015 Giants would be the Padres. WAR numbers would disagree with that statement, since Heston is worth 1.3 wins above replacement on Baseball-Reference and 2.3 WAR on Fangraphs, and the Giants are six games up on the Pads. But without Heston, where would the Giants be? Ryan Vogelsong would probably be their No. 2 starter, since the other four are either hurt or just recently came off DL stints. Maybe Yusmeiro Petit would’ve had to start and his season would’ve progressed differently, but Heston has been an unexpected breath of fresh air for a rotation that desperately needed a fresh arm when the season started, and ever since.

He almost had another no-hitter tonight! OK, “almost” may be a little strong, since he threw 116 pitches in 7 1/3 innings, but he only surrendered one hit and it was a broken bat bloop from Melvin Upton on a pitch that sent most of Upton’s bat into the netting behind home plate. He also came into this game with a MLB-leading nine HBP, and he plunked Matt Kemp with a pitch that drilled Kemp’s hand/wrist, then rattled around his face region until it knocked the helmet off his head.

Heston looks like a nice guy, but he’s got the requisite amount of badass to make you think his rookie season (3.18 ERA, eight starts of seven innings or more) isn’t a fluke. He’s got the stuff, too.

Giants solve current day Mark Portugal

For those who don’t remember, Portugal was someone who had the Giants’ number back in the early-1990s. He went 18-4 for the Astros in 1993. Two of those wins came against the Giants, including a September shutout (one of just three losses the Giants suffered in their last 17 games of that season). After the Giants fell short of the playoffs, they said goodbye to Will Clark and signed Portugal to a three-year, $10 million contract.

Portugal was never the same — probably because he couldn’t face the Giants anymore — and they dealt him less than two years later to the Reds for a package that included Deion Sanders.

Odrisamer Despaigne had the Giants’ number, but unlike Portugal he enjoyed very little success against anyone else. Logic said there had to be a breakthrough at some point, and it started on Tuesday night with a hanging curveball that Hunter Pence blasted 442 feet.

Pence’s homer was the first body blow Despaigne had ever absorbed against the Giants, and Brandon Crawford (whose 3-for-4 day was overshadowed by the silliness in the later innings) knocked him down with a three-run homer to right in the fourth. Despaigne lasted another inning and two-thirds, leaving after surrendering a leadoff infield single to Angel Pagan in the sixth. He was replaced by Dale Thayer, and then the fun really started.

BAT FLIP!!!

It’s been a rough season for the San Diegoans. (San Diegans?)

When you’re all caught up in your feelings over Hector Sanchez, that’s the very definition of “rock bottom.” Sanchez didn’t just hit a grand slam, he displayed the prettiest swing we’ve ever seen from him at any point in his career and sent a 429-foot home run on a gorgeous, rainbow-eque arc through the night sky. He also flipped his bat.

He didn’t throw it up in the air. It wasn’t even a Cody Ross bat flip, let alone a Yasiel Puig bat flip. But a year-plus worth of frustration came out in this bat flip. If you know Sanchez’s career path, beset by concussion after concussion, the bat flip made sense. If you’re Thayer, and you’re on a bad team and your ERA just jumped by almost a run, I guess you’re inclined to do this?

Extra BASGs

— Guess where Thayer went to school? That’s right, Chico State. No wonder he looks like a guy who probably smells like Steel Reserve and corn chips. Or Natural Light from a keg and two-day-old sweat. Your choice, really.

— So much weird gum stuff between these two teams. It started in their series back in April when Angel Pagan picked up a chewed-up chunk from the batter’s box and tossed it in the direction of catcher Derek Norris. The only people who get upset quicker and through less effort than baseball players are the sassy airline employees that work at the “customer service” counters.

Recently I had an experience where I was too late for my flight and couldn’t get on standby. I asked the lady, “What can I do?” Her response: “You can’t do anything. I’m going to have to look, and you’re going to need to wait.”

— Bruce Bochy was really into this game in the seventh inning, when the Giants were up 9-0 and the only thing he had to worry about was getting some regulars a little rest and keeping Heston’s pitch count below 120.

— The Giants are 25-22 at home and 25-22 on the road. With all the long winning and losing streaks, this has been an odd season.

— Only two guys looked like they wanted to fight, even a little bit, during the on-field discussion between these two teams after Sanchez grounded out and Shawn Kelley said a few words too many. Sanchez had to be held back (although he didn’t look all that upset and has always seemed like a happy-go-lucky kind of person whenever I’ve seen or talked to him in the clubhouse) and Hunter Strickland, who probably wanted to pop someone in the mouth.

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