Unlike many Giants fans, I’ve never bashed Hector Sanchez. He’s a backup catcher. His bat isn’t all that great, but every once in a while he gets a hold of one, like that grand slam in San Diego. That’s what Bruce Bochy probably hoped for when he sent Sanchez to the plate in the ninth inning, with the Giants down 2-0.
The Giants needed to win today’s game. Well, *needed* is a bit strong. It’s not like there’s only a week left in the season and the Dodgers and Cubs are six games ahead of the Giants. But after a road trip filled with perspiration, heartbreaking losses, injuries, and three straight losses to an ascending team that calls the North Side of Chicago home, the Giants needed a bolt of positive energy.
After Ehire Adrianza got hit with a pitch to load the bases with no outs in the ninth, Sanchez came to the plate against Hector Rondon. The Cubs closer was in trouble, yet he had no intention of throwing Sanchez a strike. What followed may have been one of the worst pinch-hit at-bats in recent Giants history.
Three sliders in the dirt, three swings, three misses. The Cubs had a good scouting report on Sanchez — don’t throw a strike unless it becomes necessary to do so to keep from walking in a run.
Angel Pagan put up a strong battle before striking out on a similar pitch, but at least in Pagan’s case it was the eighth pitch he faced (and I was expecting him to ground into a double play, since he could barely get down the line on a weak grounder to the right side in his previous at-bat). Gregor Blanco struck out looking on a full-count slider on the outside corner — a different kind of baseball sin than Sanchez’s decision to swing at every pitch he saw, but a decision that perfectly encapsulated the road trip and this series as a whole.
Miguel Montero called it strike three before Jim Reynolds even flinched pic.twitter.com/q4UdDu6QgT
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) August 9, 2015
The pitch to Blanco probably wasn’t a strike. Still, the count was 3-and-2 with the bases loaded and two outs, and the pitch was close. What a painfully perfect way to end an awful series.
Jake Peavy threw roughly 214 pitches in the first four innings, so getting through five innings (a rarity for Giants starters these days) while only allowing two runs was admirable. The bullpen came through, as Hunter Strickland pitched a clean inning and Jeremy Affeldt followed with two more. Affeldt’s resurgence is a rare bright spot for this team, as the roster keeps losing players on a near-daily basis.
The series began on a terrible note, as Mike Leake was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury suffered during a conditioning drill. Today’s injury was more nauseating, as Jake Arrieta sent Nori Aoki to the clubhouse in the third inning with a 92 mph slider that bounced off the front of Aoki’s helmet.
The Giants are already without Leake, Joe Panik and Andrew Susac. Their starting staff lacks the stamina required to allow the team to carry more than four bench players at any given time, and Pagan was supposed to rest today (and at least one game per week for the foreseeable future, according to Bochy) for obvious reasons. Losing Aoki, just two weeks after getting him back once his fractured leg (another injury caused by getting hit by a pitch) healed, would be another rough blow for this tattered team.
The Giants announced that Aoki seemed to be doing OK (John Shea reported that he felt nauseous at first, then had a “little headache” after the game), but Brandon Belt started the same day Marco Scutaro’s throw hit him in the head last year in Miami, only to feel symptoms and miss the next several weeks.
The next series between these two teams (Aug. 25-27 at AT&T) should be interesting, and not just due to the Wild Card standings. Hunter Pence was knocked out of action for the first month and a half of the season when Cubs minor leaguer Corey Black hit him with a pitch in Spring Training. Chris Heston hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch on Thursday, pushing Heston’s MLB lead in HBP to 11. Matt Cain hit two Cubs yesterday.
Like Heston and Cain, Arrieta seemed to be suffering from faulty command rather than a vengeful heart, as evidenced by another pitch that went up and in against Pence when Arrieta was in the stretch. Plus, Aoki gets hit by pitches pretty frequently (36 times in four seasons, about once for every 60 plate appearances).
The Giants don’t follow the Tony La Russa handbook when it comes to retaliation, and it’s highly doubtful that Arrieta was trying to plunk guys with runners on base today. But after years in which the only interesting thing that happened between these two teams centered on the incompetence of the Cubs’ grounds crew, there should be some good tension when the Cubbies visit.
— Balls didn’t seem to be carrying well to right-center in this series, and it sure looked like Pence crushed that fly ball that Dexter Fowler caught on the warning track with two outs in the eighth … with Matt Duffy and Buster Posey on base.
— This is one hell of a streaky team, and things looked bleak after that six-game trip to Miami and D.C., and the team looked comatose in their first game back against the Mets. So there’s no guarantee that they’ll win on Tuesday, but (bright side alert) at least this time the getaway game started in the early afternoon and — against all odds — there were no rain delays.
— The 2015 Giants have four losing streaks of at least five games, and no streaks that ended after exactly four consecutive losses. Maybe they’ll change that on Tuesday against the Astros.
— They’d better win one of those two games against Houston, and I’m saying that for completely selfish reasons.
I’m looking forward to attending Wednesday’s event benefiting SF Homeless Prenatal at both San Francisco Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria restaurants, but even though Mr. Bochy will put on his happy face and mingle with fans, I’m guessing he’d be in a much better mood if his squad isn’t riding a six-game losing skid.
Seriously though, you should come whether they win or not. 100% of the proceeds from 3-10 pm at the King Street and Lombard Street Amici’s locations go to SF HPP, and after the Wednesday afternoon game Bochy will head to Amici’s on King and mingle with fans before making the drive over to Amici’s on Lombard. I’m told there may be “special guests,” and I know for a fact that they’ll be raffling off a ton of prizes.
- You can check out the raffle prizes (Giants and NL All-Star autographed balls and bats, giant bottles of wine, and much more) here.
- You can buy raffle tickets at both Amici’s locations on Wednesday, but you can also purchase as many as you like here.
I’ll be there, and so will our nine-month old baby. She just started eating pizza not that long ago, so she’ll be in heaven. I’m hoping to see a lot of you there, and hopefully the Giants will have started a brand new winning streak at home by that time (they have five winning streaks of at least five games, too).