Some of the rare Giants wins we’ve seen recently felt like nothing more than brief respites from the shoddy defense, meager offense and Guillermo Moscoso we’ve grown accustomed to watching. The walk-off walk game was like this. Marco Scutaro stood in the box and took four straight balls from Brayan Villarreal, the Giants lazily celebrated on the field, and the next afternoon Barry Zito pitched and the Giants lost 12-1
But some of the wins carry with them some promise of what could be better next year. Ryan Vogelsong pitched masterfully against his former team on Sunday, allowing only two hits in eight innings and earning the highest game score of his entire career. A day later, Barry Zito pitched and the Giants lost 6-1.
Tuesday happened to be one of those rare win days, a 5-3 win over the Colorado Rockies. Since it was a win, good things happened. Semi-promising things, even.
– The Giants got the best they could’ve hoped for out of Yusmeiro Petit — six innings, two earned runs, six strikeouts — except Petit has been weirdly competent for weeks. In July and August he’s pitched 47 innings, striking out 43 with a 2.30 ERA for the Grizzlies (plus 5.1 strong innings in relief of Eric Surkamp on July 23 in a loss to the Reds).
Petit looked pretty solid in his first two Spring Training outings, pitching five scoreless innings. Then he gave up eight earned in 1.2 IP against the Royals and he earned the “only use if the season is over” label. But the Giants will probably need a long reliever next year, and Petit should have plenty of chances to pitch in the Majors over the next month. If he keeps pitching well, he could convince the Giants to see if he could mess around and become the 2014 version of Chad Gaudin.
– Brandon Belt went 4-for-5 (4 singles), and his torrid August (.366/.446/.667) is now showing in his overall numbers (.279/.354/.478). He could turn his recent NL Player of the Week Award into a Player of the Month nod. As far as the 2013 Giants go, Player of the Anything plaques are next to meaningless. But for a guy whose every emotion has been parsed, analyzed, GIFfed, mocked and defended … it’s a pretty good sign that the third spot in the order doesn’t seem too big for him, no?
– Pablo Sandoval’s weight loss has translated into much better defense lately, but he needed to hit home run No. 10. Maybe it prods him to finally boost his OPS so it doesn’t remain lower than both of the Giants’ starting middle infielders, or maybe Sandoval gets hurt tomorrow. Regardless, Sandoval always knew how to hit. He didn’t know how to lose weight and keep it off. If nothing else, his contract year should be fairly productive.
– Hunter Pence did this:
Of all the home runs hit in 2013 by Major League players, that one was the longest. If you thought the one he blasted over the Marlins’ sculpture was long, some people who took more physics classes than I did in high school or college (that would be: zero) say this one went even further. 476 feet. Damn.
The dude is fit, he’s strong and he has the swing of a guy named “Rabbit” or “Ducky” back in the early 20th century. His batting practice sessions are beyond ridiculous — he puts balls over the AT&T Park bleachers with regularity. His last two home runs traveled over 900 feet combined. And when he really gets into one, “Ohhhhhhhhhhh Boy!” (Jon Miller voice)
But the towering shot to center he hit in Miami was his first homer in more than a month. He hasn’t hit one over the fence at AT&T Park since June 23. He possesses the strange combination of otherworldly power and an addition to hitting slow choppers, and the Giants are playing him every day for some reason I’m not quite sure of (there’s a chance his numbers would be better if Bruce Bochy gave him one day off a month, but it’s too late to do anything about it now). I can’t remember a sharp line drive Pence has hit off a good pitcher since joining the team, and for a 30-year-old guy with this much pop he sure seems to rely a lot on his legs.
But man, the power. And on Tuesday night he hit a ball close to 500 feet after running into a wall at full speed on Monday. That’s not a reason to give out huge dollars or, much worse, a contract spanning longer than three seasons. In fact, rewarding Pence’s lack of spacial awareness in the name of “toughness” would be yet another parallel between Pence and Aaron Poopstance. Pence is a marketing team’s dream, but he’s an imperfect right fielder.
But on a night like tonight, when a meaningless win lifts the spirits for a short while before cold Moscoso-reality sets in once again, we’re reminded exactly why the Giants will seriously consider bringing him back. The prodigious-HR potential is a nice card to carry in your back pocket. It isn’t worth a contract longer than three years, not when the card is played so rarely, but along with things like Petit being serviceable, Belt playing well all season and Sandoval being thin(ner), imagining Pence hitting more bombs next year in a Giants uniform than he did in 2013 is a nice daydream. An irrational one, perhaps … but it beats thinking about the next Zito start.