If you are looking for a sign for the San Francisco Giants in Tuesday’s Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Cubs, we’ve got one.
The San Francisco Giants have played eight best-of-5 playoff series, and each one has ended with one of two results.
Result No. 1 – The Giants are eliminated by losing three consecutive games.
Result No. 2 – The Giants win and advance.
Check is out.
THREE STRAIGHT LOSSES
1971 NL Championship Series
Giants win Game 1.
Pirates win Games 2, 3 and 4.
1997 NL Division Series
Marlins win Games 1, 2 and 3.
2000 NL Division Series
Giants win Game 1.
Mets win Games 2, 3 and 4.
2003 NL Division Series
Giants win Game 1.
Marlins win Games 2, 3 and 4.
GIANTS WIN AND ADVANCE
2002 NL Division Series
Giants beat the Braves in 5 games
2010 NL Division Series
Giants beat the Braves in 4 games
2012 NL Division Series
Giants beat the Reds in 5 games
2014 NL Division Series
Giants beat the Nationals in 4 games
Everyone wanted to talk about about Joe Maddon’s decision to bring Aroldis Chapman for a six-out save on Monday night.
It’s a decision that didn’t work out for the skipper as the Giants beat the Cubs 6-5 in 13 innings for the 10th consecutive elimination game win
But I want to talk about another decision Maddon made.
It’s the decision to pitch to Joe Panik in the 13th inning.
Brandon Crawford led off the bottom of the 13th by hammering a hanging curveball by Mike Montgomery into the right field corner for a leadoff double.
Then Panik came to the plate.
First base is open, and Panik’s run doesn’t mean a thing.
Walking Panik puts runners on first and second and no outs. It would set up a force play at third and second.
It would set up a possible double play.
But more importantly, it pushes the Giants deeper into their lineup.
It would have brought up Gregor Blanco, who was 0 for 4 with a sacrifice bunt.
Does Blanco bunt again with runners on first and second?
Normally, yes. But if he does that in this situation, next up is the pitcher’s spot – Ty Blach.
If Blanco’s bunt is successful, do you hit for Blach?
Again, normally, yes. But with Angel Pagan a late scratch, Giants manager Bruce Bochy presumably had no position players left to hit.
So if he hits for Blach, then it has to be one of the pitchers. And with Madison Bumgarner out of the game, that would be Jeff Samardzija. And if the move doesn’t work and the Giants don’t score, then Blach is out and George Kontos is in.
Or you let Blach hit for himself with a drawn-in infield. He did get two hits in his most recent start against the Dodgers.
If Blach doesn’t get the job done, then it falls on Denard Span to get a two-out hit.
And that’s all assuming that Blanco is bunting, and given who is coming up behind him, Blanco may have been swinging away.
But instead of setting all of that up, Maddon chose to have Montgomery pitch to Joe Panik, who was 2 for 3 and two walks coming into that last at-bat.
Panik hit the ball of the Willie Mays Wall for the game-winning hit for just the fifth walk-off postseason win in San Francisco Giants history.
POSTSEASON WALK-OFF WINS BY SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
- Game 5 of 2002 NL Championship Series, 2-1 over St. Louis Cardinals, Kenny Lofton singles home David Bell.
- Game 4 of 2010 NL Championship Series, 6-5 over Philadelphia Phillies, Juan Uribe sacrifice fly drives home Aubrey Huff
- Game 3 of 2014 NL Championship Series, 5-4 over St. Louis Cardinals in 10 innings, Gregor Blanco reaches on error, scoring Brandon Crawford
- Game 5 of 2014 NL Championship Series, 6-3 over St. Louis Cardinals, Travis Ishikawa three-run home run.
- Game 3 of 2016 NL Division Series, 6-5 over Chicago Cubs, Joe Panik doubles home Brandon Crawford
In his post-game remarks, Mets manager Terry Collins pointed out how the Mets only had three players on the field for Wednesday’s NL wild-card game who played in the World Series last year.
“We overcame a lot of things,” Collins said of the Mets’ injury problems this season. “So to get here took a lot of character. … We’re disappointed, but we’ll go get healthy and we’ll be back.”
The irony of that remark was that the player who beat them on Wednesday started the season at Triple-A and was in the lineup Wednesday because of an injury.
Conor Gillaspie signed a minor-league deal with the Giants in the offseason. He opened the season in Sacramento and got the call-up on April 22.
In July and early August, when the Giants were having players coming off the DL and being acquired by trade, some Giants fans wondered if Gillaspie might be a candidate to be designated for assignment.
But the Giants knew his value.
Gillaspie has not been spectacular, but he’s been solid. And that’s what you want for a bench guy.
He had 6 home runs and 25 RBI in 205 plate appearances, hitting .262 with .307 OBP. Project that out over a full season with 600 PAs, that’s 18 HR and 75 RBI.
Gillaspie followed in the paths of Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro and Travis Ishikawa, as unlikely postseason hero when he delivered a three-run home run off Jeurys Familia.
Gillaspie was in the lineup because Eduardo Nunez was left of the roster for the wild-card game with a lingering hamstring injury. It is unclear if Nunez will be on the roster for the next round.
So Conor Gillaspie was one CG for the Giants.
The other belonged to Madison Bumgarner. CG as in complete game.
Bumgarner tossed his third postseason shutout to go with the 2014 wild-card win over the Pirates and Game 5 of the 2014 World Series vs. the Royals.
Combined with his five innings of relief in Game 7 of the World Series, Bumgarner has thrown 23 consecutive shutout innings in the postseason.
On the road in the postseason, Bumgarner has been historic.
His 0.50 ERA is the most in baseball history for a pitcher with 20 or more innings thrown. Next on the list?
Oh, just Bob Gibson (0.97), Mariano Rivera (1.02) and Sandy Freakin Koufax (1.04).
With a 3-0 lead and Sergio Romo in the bullpen, Bumgarner made quick work of the Mets in the ninth, retiring the side in order on 12 pitches.
And if not for one CG, we might have not seen the other CG.
If Gillaspie doesn’t come through in the ninth, it looked like Bruce Bochy was planning on hitting for Bumgarner with two on and two out.
Instead, we got CG and CG.
I watched the Giants clinch their fourth postseason berth in seven years on Sunday. But when I did, I was not watching the CSN Bay Area feed with Kruk and Kuip.
I watched the Dodgers feed to see Vin Scully’s final call.
Growing up a Giants fan in Dodger Country, I always appreciated Scully as a broadcaster. He was never a “homer” broadcaster. He remained fair to the game. If a big play was made by the opposition, he called it as a big play.
So I wanted to watch as he made his final sign-off.
Scully has made several goodbyes over his almost 70 years as a broadcaster. And when I thought about it, some of the most significant goodbyes — whether he knew it was a goodbye at the time or not — came in San Francisco with good results for the home team.
In addition to his 67 seasons as a Dodgers broadcaster, Scully has also had long stints calling games for a national TV audience.
From 1975 to 1982, he called golf and NFL games for CBS. The final NFL game he called was on Jan. 10, 1982 in San Francisco.
The 49ers beat the Cowboys and went on to win Super Bowl XVI, their first Super Bowl championship.
But after that game, Scully decided to move to NBC to call baseball games. He would call All-Star Games in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989, the World Series in 1984, 1986 and 1988 and the National League Championship Series in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989.
The final national TV broadcast of his career came on Oct. 9, 1989 in San Francisco.
The Giants would go on to beat the Cubs 3-2 to advance to the World Series for the first time in my lifetime.
After 1989, Scully returned largely to broadcasting just Dodgers games on TV.
And that long career came to an end on Oct. 2, 2016 in San Francisco, once again.
The Giants clinched the wild-card spot.
So thank you, Vin, for all you gave over the years.
And thanks for being part of some big moments in San Francisco sports history.
The San Francisco Giants proved once again that they have a lot “left” in October.
Rookie left-hander Ty Blach kept the Giants in the lead for the final NL wild-card berth with a masterful performance against the Dodgers.
Blach pitched eight innings, giving up no runs on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts as the Giants beat the Dodgers 3-0 to remain one game ahead of St. Louis with one game to play.
While a rookie out dueling Clayton Kershaw would come as a surprise to many, the very fact the Giants had a lefty on the mound in October should have made Giants fans very confident.
Over the last 10 starts in October by a left-handed pitchers, those pitchers are 8-1 with an 0.83 ERA and 65 strikeouts over 76 innings.
While the bulk of those starts have come from Madison Bumgarner, that list now includes Blach and Barry Zito.
Here is how the previous nine starts break down:
Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 26, 2014
Game 5 World Series vs. Royals
9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K, WIN
Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 21, 2014
Game 1 World Series vs. Royals
7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, WIN
Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 16, 2014
Game 5 NLCS vs. Cardinals
8 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, ND
Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 11, 2014
Game 1 NLCS vs. Cardinals
7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K, WIN
Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 6, 2014
Game 4 NLDS vs. Nationals
7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, LOSS
Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 1, 2014
NL Wild Card Game vs. Pirates
9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K, WIN
Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 25, 2012
Game 2 World Series vs. Tigers
7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K, WIN
Barry Zito, Oct. 24, 2012
Game 1 World Series vs. Tigers
5.2 IP, 6 H 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, WIN
Barry Zito, Oct. 19, 2012
Game 5 NLDS vs. Cardinals
7.2 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K, WIN
On Sunday, the starting pitcher for the Giants will be Matt Moore, a left-hander.
And if the Giants win that game, their next game will be Wednesday in New York against the Mets. The starter that day? Bumgarner.
Brandon Crawford had a history-setting night on Monday in Miami.
But more importantly, the Giants won.
Crawford became the sixth player in major league history to collect seven hits in a game when he went 7 for 8 with a double, triple and five singles in an 8-7 win over the Marlins.
Crawford’s seventh hit of the game proved to be the game-winner. He singled home Brandon Belt from second with two out in the top of the 14th. George Kontos made the lead stand up.
Other major leaguers to get seven hits in a single game include:
- Johnny Burnett of the Cleveland Indians went 9 for 11 with two doubles and seven singles in an 18-inning game on July 10, 1932
- Wilbert Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles (NL-version) went 7 for 7 with a double and six singles in a nine-inning game on June 10, 1892
- Rennie Stennett of the Pittsburgh Pirates went 7 for 7 with a two doubles, a triple and four singles in a nine-inning game on Sept. 16, 1975
- Rocky Colavito of the Detroit Tigers went 7 for 10 with a triple and six singles in a 22-inning game on June 24, 1962
- Cesar Gutierrez of the Detroit Tigers went 7 for 7 with a double and six singles in a 12-inning game on June 21, 1970.
To put Crawford’s night into perspective, consider …
- Crawford had more hits by himself Monday than six teams managed.
- The Giants have played 35 games this season in which they failed to get seven hits as a team.
- Crawford started the game hitting .265 for the season. He finished the game hitting .278.
- For his career, Crawford raised his average for .249 to .251.
After driving in the go-ahead run in the 14th, Crawford alertly got thrown out trying to take second to save Hunter Pence from a five-strikeout game.
And because of that, Brandon Crawford — and the Giants — should send Marlins manager Don Mattingly a thank-you card.
In the top of the 14th inning, Angel Pagan hit into a hard-luck double play. Then Brandon Belt walked on four pitches by Dustin McGowan. Buster Posey followed by falling behind 0-2 then working a walk off a tiring McGowan.
That brought up Crawford with two on and two out. And Mattingly brought in Andrew Cashner.
The numbers say Cashner should have pitched around Crawford.
Brandon Crawford was 8 for 19 in his career against Cashner.
Left-handed hitters were batting .278 against Cashner this season, while righties are hitting .257.
Hunter Pence, the next batter, was 3 for 20 for his career off Cashner.
But more importantly was what happened Monday.
Crawford was 6 for 7 when he came to bat in the 14th. Pence was 1 for 7 with four strikeouts, and looked bad when doing it.
So Mattingly decided to have his right-handed pitcher pitch to a left-handed batter who was 6 for 7 and was hitting .421 for his career off that pitcher instead of pitching to a right-handed hitter who was 1 for 7 and hitting .150 for his career off that pitcher.
And Mattingly had seen Pence’s struggles an inning before.
In the 13th inning, Crawford hit a one-out triple. Pence came up, swung wildly and missed two pitches before making contact and grounding out to a pulled-in infield, forcing Crawford to stay at third. Mattingly then intentionally walked the next two batters to pitch to Madison Bumgarner, who came in as a pinch-hitter. Bumgarner struck out.
So thank you, Don Mattingly.
Are trades that brought Eduardo Nunez, Matt Moore and Will Smith good deals for San Francisco Giants?
The San Francisco Giants made some big moves in the past few days, adding the likes of Eduardo Nunez, Will Smith and Matt Moore.
So are they deals good for the Giants?
Well, it depends on who you ask, and it also depends on how you rate trades.
If you look at the deals from the perspective of “Did the Giants make their 2016 roster better for the stretch run?” the consensus is these deals are good for the Giants.
Peter Gammons on MLB Network said the moves were “very good” for the Giants.
“Under the radar, I thought they were really good moves,” Gammons said. “First of all, I think Matt Moore (has been) throwing better and better as the season has gone on, coming off Tommy John surgery. … Pitching in that ballpark (AT&T Park), which is really important, having Buster Posey behind the plate, who builds relationships with pitchers as well as anybody in the game, and it’s a great park to give up fly balls in. So it should be great for him. After (Madison) Bumgarner and (Johnny) Cueto, their starting pitchers had an ERA of almost 5.00, so getting this extra starter, particularly one who can match up, is important.”
Gammons pointed out that Will Smith has not been great this season against left-handed hitters, but added that he’s “battle-worn.”
“I think what’s really important is he just gives Bruce Bochy another way to go in the sixth to the ninth inning,” Gammons said.
Critics also called the addition of Nunez a perfect fit for the Giants, adding some needed pop and speed.
So the players the Giants added make them better.
But if you look at the deals from the standpoint of what they gave up, then the analysis is not so favorable.
Guys who rate prospects didn’t think the Giants did so well.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline said for the Brewers to get Phil Bickford for Will Smith was a good trade for the Brewers. But to get Andrew Susac on top was a bonus.
Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline said the Brewers getting Bickford for Smith “boggles my mind.”
But anytime a team makes a trade, the team not only considers the value of the players they are giving up, but also whether the voids left by those players in the system can be filled.
Now if you looked at a consensus of a variety of prospect rankings, Bickford rated as the No. 2 propsect in the Giants’ system. But right with him, tied at No. 2, is Tyler Beede, and Beede is further along than Bickford, pitching in Double-A as opposed to just making the move to High-A ball. Infielder Lucius Fox was the No. 4 prospect. But their top prospect is also an infielder in Christian Arroyo.
Last week, Giants executive vice president Brian Sabean went to Richmond to look presumably at Arroyo and Beede, and many thought it was to decide if the Giants would deal those players.
Instead, it was to decide how close to ready Arroyo and Beede were, so the team could decide to deal other prospects.
With Joe Panik at second, Brandon Crawford at short and Nunez at third through 2017 – then Arroyo in the system to move in at 3B – the Giants felt they were covered well enough to deal Matt Duffy and Fox to Tampa for Moore.
With Beede in the system, as well as others, the Giants felt they could part with Bickford.
And here’s one thing to keep in mind. None of the trades the Giants made this past week will be able to be rated in the ways that the Carlos Beltran/Zack Wheeler deal was or the Mike Leake/Adam Duvall trade.
In both of those deals, the players the Giants got were two-month rentals and eligible for free agency at the end of the season in which they were acquired.
Nunez is under club control through 2017. Moore and Smith are both under club control through 2019.
So these deals not only were made for the stretch run of 2016, but into the future as well.
And that’s why the price for these players were as high as they were.
I went into Monday thinking that if the Giants didn’t make a deal at the trade deadline, that wouldn’t be the most terrible thing in the world.
But then things took a turn to the left.
The Giants made the biggest splash on trade deadline day perhaps ever, acquiring two left-handed pitchers – starter Matt Moore from the Rays and reliever Will Smith from the Brewers.
And the price for both was steep. Heading to the Rays is third baseman Matt Duffy, infield prospect Lucious Fox and minor-league pitcher Michael Santos.
Going to Milwaukee is pitcher Phil Bickford, the Giants’ top prospect, and Triple-A catcher Andrew Susac.
So let’s break down these deals.
Who the Giants got?
MATT MOORE: Moore is a 27-year-old left-hander who is 39-28 with 3.88 ERA in six big league seasons. He was an All-Star in 2013 when he went 17-4 with 3.29 ERA. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014 and came back to make 12 starts in 2015, going 3-4 with 5.43 ERA.
This season, he is 7-7 with 4.08 ERA. But in his last six starts since June 29, Moore is 4-2 with a 1.99 ERA.
He has a very friendly contract. He is making $5 million this season and the Giants hold team options of $7 million in 2017, $9 million in 2018 and $10 million in 2019.
WILL SMITH: Smith is also a 27-year-old lefty who has a 3.94 ERA in five big-league seasons. He began his career in 2012 as a starter with the Royals, going 6-9 with 5.32 ERA. After moving the bullpen in 2013, he was traded to the Brewers for the 2014 season. That year, he led the league in appearances with 78. Last year, he went 7-2 with 2.70 ERA.
He had a very Jeremy Affeldt-like start to the 2016 season. During spring training, he was heading to the shower when he stood on one foot to remove his cleat. But the shoe didn’t come off easily – loosen the laces, Will? – and he twisted his knee. That led to arthroscopic surgery, and he didn’t make his 2016 debut until June. He’s been pitching with a knee brace since the surgery.
He is 1-2 with 3.68 ERA and 12 holds this season. But on June 23, he had a 1.93 ERA, then he had an ugly outing, giving up five runs, four earned, without recording an out against the Cubs. With just 22 innings worked this season, that outing caused his ERA to balloon.
But I took a closer looking at that outing, something that sabermetricians often do not do.
In that outing, Smith came into the game with one out and no one on base. He gave up a solid single to right by Miguel Montero. Then Matt Szczur hit a ball sharply to third, which was booted by the third baseman. So instead of an inning-ending double play, there are now runners on first and second. Tommy La Stella followed by hitting a ball – not especially hard – over the first baseman’s head for a double, and one scored. Kris Bryant was walked intentionally, then Anthony Rizzo followed with the double to the right-center field wall, clearing the bases. Again, Rizzo’s ball was not scorched. It went about 270-300 feet, then rolled the rest of the way to the wall, perfectly placed. Smith was pulled, and Rizzo eventually scored the fifth run of the inning.
So if the third baseman turns the double play – as he should have – Smith’s ERA right now would be 1.99.
Over his career, Smith has been able to get lefties out as well as righties, much like Affeldt. But this season, things have been kind of backward. Lefties are hitting .316 against Smith, while righties are .143. However, the OBP split is .333/.288 lefty-righty.
Smith is make $1.475 million this season and is arbitration eligible 2017-2019.
Where do the new guys fit on the roster?
MOORE: He goes into the rotation. Moore last pitched last Wednesday vs. the Dodgers. It would not be a surprise to see Bruce Bochy drop Moore into the rotation right after Johnny Cueto, which would make his Giants debut on Thursday against the Phillies.
Jake Peavy or Matt Cain go to the bullpen as the long reliever/swing man. It’s a role neither has played. Peavy has only made one relief appearance in his career (in 2011). Cain has only made three relief appearances, and two came last season when he was coming back from injury. I would bet it’s Peavy who gets bumped for the rotation. He is a free agent after this season, while Cain is under contract for three more seasons. Maybe Peavy could be moved in a waiver trade.
Look for Albert Suarez to head to Sacramento to make room for Moore on the 25-man roster. No need to clear spot on 40-man as Moore replaces Duffy.
SMITH: He goes into the pen. With Josh Osich on the DL, Smith will fill the role as left-handed set-up man, pitching in the seventh or eighth inning. Matt Reynolds will return to Sacramento. No need to clear spot on 40-man roster, as Smith replaces Susac.
Who did the Giants give up?
MATT DUFFY: Duffy became a more movable piece after the Giants picked up Eduardo Nunez last week. Nunez will be the Giants’ third baseman for the rest of the season. Duffy was runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year in 2014. He was hitting .253 with 4 HR and 21 RBI in 70 games before going on the DL with a strained Achilles in mid-June. Duffy had been hitting well early in his rehab stint in Sacramento. He is not arbitration eligible until after the 2017 season. Nunez is under contract for 2017, then the Giants could possibly turn to Christian Arroyo, their new No. 1 prospect, at 3B.
LUCIUS FOX: A shortstop, Fox signed a $6 million international contract last summer after graduating high school in Florida and moving back to his native Bahamas. At 19, he was hitting .207 with 25 steals in 75 games for low-A Augusta. He was rated as the Giants’ No. 4 prospect by MLB.com before Monday’s trades. But was not rated a top-100 prospect by MLB.com or Baseball America.
MICHAEL SANTOS: The 21-year-old right-hander was rated as the Giants’ No. 24 prospect at the trade. He was 4-2 with 2.91 ERA in 10 starts to low-A Augusta. He missed some time this season after being hit in the head by a line drive.
PHIL BICKFORD: The 21-year-old righthander was the Giants’ No. 1 prospect. He was rated No. 65 prospect overall by MLB.com after not being in the top 100 at the start of the season. The No. 18 overall pick in the 2015 draft, he can 98 mph with his fastball. He was 3-4 with 2.70 ERA with low-A Augusta this season before being promoted to high-A San Jose, where he was 2-2 with 2.73 ERA. He has 105 strikeouts in 93 innings at both levels this season.
ANDREW SUSAC: Drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft after an injury-filled season at Oregon State, Susac made it to the majors in 2014, when he hit .273 with 3 HR and 19 RBI in 35 games. Injuries limited his time in the bigs in 2015, when he hit .218 with 3 HR and 14 RBI in 52 games. Injuries again played a role in Susac falling behind Trevor Brown on the Giants’ depth chart. He was hitting .273 with 8 HR and 36 RBI in 58 games in Triple-A Sacramento. With Buster Posey a fixture at catcher and Trevor Brown playing well as his backup, there was not much room for Susac. Plus Aramis Garcia, currently at high-A San Jose, is now the Giants’ No. 6 prospect.
It’s been a bleak couple of weeks for San Francisco Giants fans.
The Giants are 2-11 since the All-Star break.
In eight of their 13 games since the break, the Giants have failed to score more than two runs.
The depression hit a new low Friday when the Giants had the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth and hit into a triple play.
But help arrives today. Hunter Pence was activated Saturday after almost two months on the disabled list.
So I thought I would share a little perspective with disheartened Giants fans.
Since the last game that Hunter Pence appeared in (on June 2), the Giants have gone 25-22 and are still in first place in the NL West.
If we had told you that back on June 3, would you have taken it?
Pence is back in the lineup. So is Eduardo Nunez, the infielder acquired in a trade with the Twins on Thursday.
Joe Panik came back on Thursday. The Giants’ lineup is almost whole again. Matt Duffy begins his rehab assignment today.
To make room for Pence on the 25-man roster, Ramiro Pena was designated for assignment.
Giants fans were excited to see what the lineup might look like on Saturday, with Pence and Nunez in it.
Instead, they got another lesson in the value of depth.
Brandon Crawford got a day off to rest a sore hand. Denard Span got the day off with a sore quad.
The lineup will go:
SS Eduardo Nunez
LF Angel Pagan
3B Conor Gillaspie
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
2B Joe Panik
CF Gregor Blanco
P Jake Peavy
Gillaspie in the No. 3 hole is a good indication that when Ehire Adrianza comes off the DL on Tuesday, Mac Williamson will head back to Sacramento. Also, Cory Gearrin started his rehab stint.
So wipe the slate clean. The stretch run to the postseason starts today.
I was on vacation on July 24, 2012, camping with my family in Lassen National Park.
As my family went to bed, I stayed up late to listen to the San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres 3-2 in walk-off fashion.
The next afternoon, I heard the news. The Dodgers had acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins.
I remember thinking “OK, Giants, you’re move.”
That move came two days later. The Giants had acquired Marco Scutaro.
The Giants had been starting the likes of Gregor Blanco, Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff as the third outfielder. And the Giants counter move to the Dodgers picking up Hanley was to get a veteran infielder seemingly for bench depth?!?
At the time, Pablo Sandoval was on the DL with a hamstring strain, so Scutaro figured to fill in at 3B until the Panda returned. After that, he’d split time at 2B with Ryan Theriot.
Instead, Scutaro became the most valuable Giant in the final two months of the season, hitting .362 in 61 games and their starting second baseman during their run to the 2012 world championship.
That thought came to me Thursday when I heard the Giants had acquired infielder Eduardo Nunez.
To be honest, I was not familiar with Nunez. I’m an NL guy, so I don’t know many AL players, particularly those on the Twins.
When I heard the Giants had sent Adalberto Mejia to the Twins for Eduardo Nunez, I wondered if Nunez was a relief pitcher.
When I found out he was an infielder, I was surprised. So were many Giants fans, who began to wonder if perhaps Matt Duffy’s injury were worse than the Giants were saying.
But Duffy is slated to start a rehab assign on Saturday. So why then get Nunez?
Giants GM Bobby Evans said: “As we look at the rest of the season, we just want to have the protection of (Nunez’s) experience — given the time these guys (Joe Panik, Duffy, Hunter Pence) have missed and how much time they may need to have off down the stretch.”
So here is what can expect of Nunez for now.
Yes, Duffy begins a rehab assignment on Saturday. But the Giants have taken a conservative approach with Duffy, so we can expect that rehab stint to last at least a week, maybe more.
Nunez will be the Giants’ starting third baseman for the next week or so. And so long, Conor Gillaspie, who seems the most likely candidate to be DFA’d to make room for Nunez.
After Duffy returns, look for Bruce Bochy to get Nunez into the lineup as often as possible, at as many different spots as possible. He could give Duffy a rest at third. He could give Brandon Crawford an occasional break at short. He could start for Panik at second, particularly against lefties. Nunez is hitting .311 vs. lefties this season and five of his 12 home runs have come against lefties even though he’s had a third as many plate appearances against lefties as righties.
Nunez is hitting .296 with 12 home runs, 47 RBI and 27 stolen bases. He was the Twins’ representative at the All-Star Game. His home run total matches the Giants’ team leader (Buster Posey). His stolen base total is more than the top three Giants combined (Angel Pagan, Denard Span and Duffy).
Nunez has played 51 games at shortstop this season, 33 at third base and five at second. In his career, he’s played 29 games in the outfield. He is also under team control through 2017.
The Giants may have picked up their super utility player they have lacked for many years.
To get Nunez, the Giants gave up Mejia,who was rated by MLB.com as the Giants’ No. 5 overall prospect and No. 3 pitching prospect. The 23-year-old is 7-3 with 2.81 ERA in 29 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. He was 4-1 with a 4.20 ERA with Sacramento. Mejia was rated the 91st best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America’s midseason rankings.
The Brewers were said to have been interested in Mejia, which may tell us about the price the Brewers were looking for in exchange for relievers Will Smith or Jeremy Jeffress. So then we can assume the Brewers were looking for Mejia AND someone else to give up Smith or Jeffress.
The Nunez trade could be an indicator of the steep price teams are asking right now for pitching, at least right now. The trade deadline is still a couple of days away. If the Giants make a deal for relief help, it likely won’t happen until right up against the deadline.
Nunez is slated to arrive today. Gillaspie will be gone. Hunter Pence is supposed to be activated Saturday. Jarrett Parker will head to Sacramento. Ehire Adrianza will be activated Tuesday. Ramiro Pena will be DFAd.
The Giants will hope at least two of the four DFA candidates (Tejada, Green, Gillaspie, Pena) will clear waivers and accept an assignment to Sacramento. And they still have Kelby Tomlinson at Triple-A.
I’m not entirely sure who leaves the 25-man roster when Duffy gets activated. Provided no one else goes on the DL before then, Mac Williamson could go back to Triple-A for a couple weeks before returning when rosters expand.
Eduardo Nunez’s acquisition surprised many Giants fans. But he may just be the 2016 Marco Scutaro. And with the return of Panik, Pence, Adrianza and Duffy, may help provide the offensive spark the Giants have been so badly missing since the All-Star break.
People say pitching wins championships. Maybe so. But depth also wins championships.
And each of the Giants’ three title runs including key contributions from unexpected sources — Cody Ross, the 2010 NLCS MVP; Scutaro, the 2012 NLCS MVP; Travis Ishikawa, clinching home run in the 2014 NLCS.
We can only hope Nunez is that surprise hero of 2016.