Giants 2021: Last Week In Giants 7/26
MONDAY 7/19: W 7-2 at LAD
TUESDAY 7/20: L 8-6 at LAD
WEDNESDAY 7/21: W 4-2 at LAD
THURSDAY 7/22: W 5-3 at LAD
FRIDAY 7/23: W 6-4 vs PIT
SATURDAY 7/24: L 10-2 vs PIT
SUNDAY 7/25: W 6-1 vs PIT
SEASON RECORD (thru Sunday): 62-37, 1st NLW, +3 over LAD
In what's been a season to remember for the San Francisco Giants, last week—for reasons both positive and negative—might go down as the most memorable of the year.
You had San Francisco playing four games at Dodger Stadium, a series that for all we know might end up deciding the division. And even if it doesn't, SF vs. LA is seldom dull regardless of the standings. Yeah, Madison Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig—always threats to clear the benches—are long gone from the Giants and Dodgers, and yeah, it's often the fans "fanning" the flames of the rivalry more than the actual teams.
That said, can YOU remember the last time a Giants/Dodgers series didn't grip you at all? This one certainly did. There were several timely homers from both sides, a load of excellent starting pitching from both sides, and stunning late-inning comebacks from both sides. The baseball gods smiled upon San Francisco against Los Angeles on Wednesday and especially on Thursday...as we'll discuss below.
In addition to his two HR 7/25, Giants 1B/OF LaMonte Wade (left) went yard in an otherwise dreary blowout loss to the Pirates 7/24.
Then Pittsburgh came to town Friday, and those same baseball gods farted on the Giants. How else do you explain Giants RP Dominic Leone walking three in less than an inning for only the second time in his eight-year career?
In Saturday's game, which I attended in person, the Giants simply stunk it up—no excuses—but got it together on Sunday behind (who else?) SP Alex Wood. Wood is now 8-0 following Giants losses in 2021, a stat that deserves more recognition than it usually gets.
So, with all that went down, what WAS last week's Giants pinnacle?
Was it the two-homer game by OF/1B LaMonte Wade on Sunday? Nope.
Was it the first stolen base of SP Johnny Cueto's 14-year career on Friday? Nope.
Was it San Francisco's incredible late comeback against the tough Dodgers CL Kenley Jansen on Wednesday featuring IF Wilmer Flores' 100th career homer? Nope.
Was it San Francisco's controversial late comeback against Jansen on Thursday? Nope.
Perhaps it was the back-to-back homers by C Buster Posey and IF Flores Monday? Nope.
Then it HAD to be RP Tyler Rogers' redemption save Wednesday after his ghastly meltdown Tuesday, right? Nope.
The pinnacle of Last Week In Giants, and perhaps the entire season to date, didn't even take place on the field. It took place on the airwaves, where we fans heard legendary broadcaster Duane Kuiper return to work after a near two-month absence.
As Giants fans are aware, Kuiper has been on the sidelines while battling a health condition that requires chemotherapy. While he continued to make appearances on the Giants Talk podcast and the "Kruk & Kuip On Baseball" pregame radio segment, Kuiper had not been in the booth since June 6. And there was no word when...or if...that would change.
But then, on Saturday, there he was at the ballpark ready to work, much to the surprise of his longtime pal and partner Mike Krukow (See? Not even Kruk knew Kuiper's status.) Kuiper looked about as healthy as a 71-year-old going through chemo could be expected to. Kuiper sounded as "smooth" as ever, and he and Krukow took, oh, about six seconds to revive their magic. Here's an excerpt from Sunday's game:
(While discussing how to simulate a submarine pitcher during batting practice)
KUIPER: "You gotta find an old right-hander in the stands who can't raise his arm anymore."
KRUKOW: "We got a couple of guys like that right here in the booth!"
As mentioned, I was at Saturday's game, meaning I didn't learn of Kuiper's return until arriving home. I was asked if I'd have still attended the game had I known Kuip would be calling it on TV. Before the question was finished: "HELL NO." Because I can always attend a game, but who knew when the next shot to hear "IT...IS...OUTTA HERE!!!" would be?
As far as I'm concerned, Duane Kuiper hit his second major league home run Saturday night.
Now, about Darin Ruf's "checked swing" on Thursday night:
It was a blown call, pure and simple. Ruf didn't check his swing, as the 1B umpire said he did. Jansen had him struck out. If Ruf's bat made contact with the ball, it would have gone to the outfield. The Dodgers should have been victorious.
But instead, Ruf drew the game-tying RBI walk, and Wade followed with a two-run single that held up. Jansen has had a great year and a great career, and the dense, irrational Dodgers crowd booed him off the mound for the second straight night. They don't deserve that 2020 trophy.
It just wasn't a series for closers. San Francisco seemed to have Tuesday's game in hand, leading 6-2 after five innings, but L.A. only trailed 6-5 when Rogers entered in the B9th. The usually dependable submariner threw nine of 11 pitches (often far) out of the zone before Dodgers C Will Smith drilled a pinch-hit, three-run walk-off bomb to LF.
Giants 2B Donovan Solano (right) only batted 4-for-22 in six games last week. He's still hitting .264 this year, but has just two XBH in July.
Twenty-four hours later, Rogers and skipper Gabe Kapler each showed us some guts, and I don't mean like the one I carry around. Kapler turned to Rogers to protect a 4-2 lead in the B9th, and Rogers retired the Dodgers in order. Afterward, the closer could be seen openly gifting the manager with a "thanks for believing in me" embrace. That's not a common occurrence in MLB.
Though the Giants were blown out Saturday—OF Mike Tauchman mopped up—Friday's 6-4 loss was much tougher. The team has rarely given games away this season, but that's precisely what happened in the series opener vs. Pittsburgh as Leone walked three of the first four hitters he faced in the T7th, setting up a routine grounder to Wade at 1B.
Wade—as he tends to do despite all these reports of his "great defense at 1B"—bobbled the ball, and a pair of go-ahead runs scored. Thank heavens regular 1B Brandon Belt is set to begin a rehab assignment soon.
Leave it to Cueto, the most fun Giant, to steal second base STANDING UP after drawing a 3rd-inning walk against Pirates SP Chad Kuhl on Friday. No Giants pitcher had swiped a bag since Kirk Rueter on 8/29/2003 at Arizona, and I guarantee he didn't enjoy it as much as #47 enjoyed his. (FYI: this time, Cueto's helmet flew off on its own for once.)
The big Dominican is probably gone after this season, and I, for one, will stand and applaud when he walks off the Oracle mound for the last time. Did Cueto live up to his $130M contract? After 2016, not really. But he was always entertaining.
In closing...WTH has happened to our ace Kevin Gausman? The big guy was mesmerizing before the All-Star break, but last week he racked up a 9.82 ERA with opponents batting .355 against him across two starts. You may recall Gausman missed his first scheduled second-half start because of his wife's pregnancy troubles; we can only hope—as Giants fans and as people—that those troubles have ended and Gausman is just in a regular slump.
This week, the Orange And Black enjoy an off-day Monday 7/26, followed by six home games—three vs. those pesky Dodgers and three more against old pal Dusty Baker and the Astros. Go, Giants!
Sources: MLB Network, ESPN, NBC Sports, MLB.com, several television/radio broadcasts and my own personal research