It’s probably safe to say the 2014 San Francisco Giants are good at this whole baseball thing. They have the best record in the majors at 32-18, which puts them on pace for 103.7 wins. It’s impossible to know whether the Giants are THAT good, but this much is clear — they’re significantly better than the Minnesota Twins.
The Giants finished their second interleague sweep of the season with a 8-1 victory that was downright relaxing to watch from a Giants fan’s perspective. Madison Bumgarner (who gave up eight earned runs in a third of an inning the last time he faced the Twins) was in control throughout, they scored plenty of runs off Ricky Nolasco (who no longer “owns” the Giants), and Michael Morse collected three doubles and two standing ovations.
Maybe I was a little off with my “Morse needs a day off” stuff from the last couple days, because he was ridiculous today. He picked up a sacrifice “fly” on a line drive that was scorched to left field and almost knocked Eduardo Nunez on his can. Morse drove a ball just as hard the other way in his second at bat — that one went for a double. The softest ball he hit all afternoon came an inning later, when he pulled a grounder down the left field line with the bases loaded that plated all three runners and left Morse standing on second.
That’s when one of the most memorable moments of this young season occurred. While the Twins were replacing Nolasco, the Giants played “Take On Me” as the crowd rose as one and cheered loudly for quite a while. Morse, 32, was as giddy as a 10-year-old on his birthday. The fans roared, and a closeup of his grinning face was shown on the scoreboard. I half-expected the team to announce that they’d signed Morse to a multiyear extension before the inning ended.
“It’s awesome. The fans here are the best fans in baseball,” Morse said.
“Moments like that, it just makes you feel so humble and happy that I’m here. I can’t thank them enough. They make me feel so welcome and so good.”
Morse wasn’t done, as he slammed an absolute rope down the left field line in the eighth. The Twins outfielders looked overmatched throughout the afternoon — partly because today’s centerfielder is a converted shortstop, but Morse’s rockets challenged the corner guys. Morse got another ovation, but this time he kept the smiling to a minimum. He probably didn’t want to get razzed too much in the clubhouse for being a big ol’ softy.
A new lefty strikeout king?
He’s come close over the last few years, but Bumgarner has never struck out one batter per inning over the course of a full season. This year, his 10.28 K/9 has him tied for fifth in the majors. Bumgarner is the first left-hander on that list, just ahead of Jon Lester (10.21).
Bumgarner was in no mood to crow about his strikeout numbers, probably because today marked his first home start of the season that lasted longer than six innings.
“If you get a guy 0-2, you might go for it with one pitch,” said Bumgarner. “Obviously in situations where it calls for it, you’re going to try and go for a punchout. I’ve probably been in a lot of those situations early this year. Trying to go deep into games however you can do it (is the goal).”
— “I sure didn’t forget about that. That’s something that’s tough to forget,” said Bumgarner of his disastrous 2011 start against Minnesota. “It doesn’t matter who’s there and who’s not there now. Same team. It sticks with you.”
— Morse has a .250 average in eight career at-bats against Bumgarner. But Morse took Bumgarner deep on the Fourth of July in 2012, something he enjoys bringing up occasionally. OK, he brings it up all the time.
“I took him deep. Me and him talk about that every day,” said Morse, who was kind enough to describe why other hitters might have a rough time against Bumgarner.
“He’s real funky, he kind of throws across his body, he pinpoints the ball, He’s in and out of the zone. He makes for a long day being a visiting hitter. He attacks.”
— Bumgarner remembers the game where he gave up that home run to Morse very well, and not just because Morse never lets him forget. It was a game that started at a really weird time, especially for teams hailing from the West Coast: 10 am in Washington D.C.
“I’ve got all kinds of excuses for it. He struck out a couple times, too. But I guess if a hitter puts you in the book, he wins. According to him, anyway,” said Bumgarner, who claimed to have an ulterior motive when he served up that gopher ball.
“I had an idea he was going to end up here, so I wanted to get a good friendship going.”
— Bumgarner mentioned how the Giants are better than they might appear on paper, in part because “we don’t have anybody that’s selfish on this team.” Good chemistry follows wins of course, but it helps to have someone like Morse to keep things loose.
“He’s awesome. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve had. He’s excited to help out however he can do it. He’s been a lot of fun to be around this year,” said Bumgarner.
“I don’t think anybody here really knew him when we signed him, so I was anxious to see what kind of guy he was and he couldn’t be any better. He’s been great.”
— Interesting note from Alex Pavlovic: George Kontos, who allowed one hit and no runs over the last two innings, “maxed out at 94.3 MPH per PITCHf/x, a full MPH above previous big league best.”
— Pavlovic was also the first person I saw who posted this photo of Pablo Sandoval wearing cowboy boots that were a gift from Bumgarner:
— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) May 25, 2014
“Whatever works,” Bumgarner said. “I brought another pair in for him just to leave down in the dugout forever, as long as it keeps working.”
— Bumgarner also told us that Morse and Hunter Pence (who hit his sixth home run of the year today) ordered 10 more gladiator-type helmets. Scooters and helmets … this team is getting to be delightfully weird.
— Morse is on pace for 107 RBIs. Hunter Pence came awfully close last year with 99, but the Giants have only had one 100-RBI season since Barry Bonds did it in 2004: Buster Posey had 103 in 2012.
— Posey is clearly slumping, but if you think it’ll last forever then you haven’t watched Ryan Vogelsong, Hunter Pence or Pablo Sandoval this season, or Brandon Belt in 2013. He might need a day off or three to rest his sore back, though.
— I’m going to go out on a limb with the following statement: we’ll never see a Romobomb quite like this.
— At least a once a year, sports anchor Vern “Mr. Involvement” Glenn asks a question that gets an amazing reaction. Today was one of those wonderful days.
Bruce Bochy told us yesterday that Morse might get a day off soon, perhaps even today. However, Bochy said this afternoon that resting Morse wasn’t even a consideration when he filled out his lineup card this morning. That didn’t stop Glenn from letting Morse know that he almost had the day off. (Morse’s reaction is great, but Henry Schulman’s might be even better.)