Giants 2021: Last Week In Giants 8/9
MONDAY 8/2: W 11-8 at ARI (10)
TUESDAY 8/3: L 3-1 at ARI
WEDNESDAY 8/4: W 7-1 at ARI
THURSDAY 8/5: W 5-4 at ARI (10)
FRIDAY 8/6: L 2-1 at MIL (10)
SATURDAY 8/7: W 9-6 at MIL (11)
SUNDAY 8/8: W 5-4 at MIL
SEASON RECORD (thru Sunday): 71-41, 1st NLW, +4.5 over LAD
The San Francisco Giants continue to master the "art" of winning ballgames they had no business winning. And by "no business winning", I literally mean waiting for the final out of the loss to land in the right fielder's glove.
Darin Ruf's magical check-swing-that-wasn't against the Dodgers last month was this season's best example to date, until the 9th inning against Milwaukee Saturday.
That's when Tommy LaStella's fly ball, which would have been the final out of a 2-1 Giants loss, was destined for the usually reliable mitt of Brewers RF Avisail Garcia...until at the last moment, the ghosts of Willie McCovey, Rod Beck, Peter McGowan, etc. ruffled Garcia. LaStella's fly landed on the warning track, and Kris Bryant—who'd led off with a single—raced around with the tying run all the way from 1B!
There was little other explanation besides divine intervention. Or destiny. The 2021 Giants seem to be benefitting from both as they continue to turn sure losses into miraculous victories.
Since his return from the IL 8/5, Giants 1B Brandon Belt (right) has clubbed four home runs without taking a fully balanced swing on any of them!
Which isn't to take anything away from San Francisco's play last week; they still had to take advantage of the good fortune that came their way and for the most part, they did. A whopping FOUR of their clashes went to extra innings, and while the Giants were able to win three of them, it came at the expense of their sturdy-but-busy bullpen, which had to chew up at least three innings in every game last week. Sure, manager Gabe Kapler had to enjoy Garcia's Saturday misplay on most levels, yet there had to be at least a small part of him not thrilled about extracting what ended up being two more innings from his relievers (who'd already gone all nine that day as SP Anthony DeSclafani recovers from shoulder fatigue on the IL).
On Thursday, in the team's other miracle victory of last week, San Francisco exploded for four runs in the 9th at Arizona after being shut out for eight innings by Merrill Kelly, facing the Giants for the fourth time this season. The de facto D'Backs ace had thrown "just" 102 pitches, but was relieved, and the Giants rallied to tie against Taylor Clarke and Tyler Clippard with a two-run single by Lamonte "Last At-Bat" Wade the key blow. New Giant Kris Bryant, who is proving to be as good as advertised, delivered the game-winning double in the 10th, and that was that!
The unsung MVP of the week would have to be RP Zack Littell, who wasn't even on the team as the week began. Littell, demoted to AAA late last month for roster/performance reasons, was summoned back up 8/6 to give the Giants a desperately needed fresh arm. He threw a scoreless inning Saturday, then followed that up with a two-inning save Sunday as closers Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee received needed breaks after working thrice in a row. In Littell's two appearances last week, he allowed exactly one baserunner (via BB on Sunday).
One of the Giants two losses last week: a Brewers walk-off on a lucky oppo flick by 1B Rowdy Tellez against RP Jarlin Garcia Friday (Tellez hit another ball much better that day, but OF Mike Yastrzemski is superhuman sometimes). The other was a strong seven-inning effort by old friend Madison Bumgarner of the Diamondbacks. Though Arizona returns to San Francisco this week, Bumgarner—2-2, 1.97 in five starts since returning from the IL—will not pitch. He has yet to appear in front of his former home fans since joining the D'Backs due to the pandemic, injuries, and now plain old scheduling.
Early in the week, after a bad outing by Giants RP Jay Jackson—who happens to be black—some idiot spattered his Instagram page with insulting comments centered around Jackson's race. Usually, this would obviously bother me, but these comments were so vacuous and over-the-top that I believe the perpetrator to either be 13, and/or mentally shortchanged.
Not that either of those conditions excuses their behavior, but at least for me it's hard to get too upset when someone is so obviously unstable and attention-starved.
It's like the time that woman yelled (N-word) at me at the laundromat five years ago; how could I lose my temper at somebody who probably didn't even know what day of the week it was?
Lastly, the return of 1B Brandon Belt and LaStella to the roster came at the expense of INF Thairo Estrada and OF Steven Duggar (each demoted to AAA Sacramento).
Sanchez was designated for assignment to make way for the return of RP John Brebbia 8/8; no word if he'd accept an assignment to Sacramento or even if the Giants even want him there. (Late update: Brebbia was optioned back to Sac in favor of RP Camilo Doval.)
OF Mike Tauchman, DFA'd last week, was outrighted to AAA as expected 8/2. 3B Evan Longoria began his rehab assignment, and DeSclafani is expected back sooner rather than later, meaning at least two more (difficult) roster moves are imminent.
After a rough end to July, Giants ace SP Kevin Gausman turned in six strong innings at Arizona 8/4. His next win will tie his career high (11).
MLB PITCH (PREDICTIONS, INFO, TRANSACTIONS, COMMENTARY, HIGHLIGHTS)
It was a terrific week for red-hot Philadelphia, who ran its win streak to eight games while knocking the Mets out of first place in the NL East, where they'd resided since 5/8. Former Phillies ace Roy Halladay had his #34 posthumously retired to close the week, as current SP Zack Wheeler threw the week's only CG on 8/7 against the Mets that same afternoon.
23-year-old Yankee SP Luis Gil threw a combined 11 shutout innings in his first two MLB starts, winning the first against Baltimore.
Several notable names found themselves ineligible due to COVID or contact tracing last week, including but not limited to: Yankees 1B Anthony Rizzo and C Gary Sanchez, Rays OF Randy Arozarena and Red Sox DH/OF J.D. Martinez.
More conventional conditions sent the likes of Yankees IF Gleyber Torres (thumb) Mets IF Javier Baez (hip) and Braves 1B Freddie Freeman (non-COVID illness) to the sidelines, but none are expected to be out longer than Torres' 10-20 days. Additionally, it was announced 8/4 that star Angels 3B Anthony Rendon will undergo season-ending hip surgery. Rendon finishes up 2021 at .240, 6, 34 in 58 games.
The two-year wait for Red Sox SP Chris Sale's return from UCL surgery is set to end on 8/14 vs. the Orioles. Expect emotion, people.
You just gotta see this 8/4 catch from longtime Pirates RF Gregory Polanco. You just GOTTA.
Legendary Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera moved within two homers of 500 with his solo shot against Boston 8/3. Cabrera needs 22 RBI to become the 22nd, coincidentally, with 1,800 career. But he's very unlikely to rip the 54 more hits needed to reach 3,000 until 2022.
On 8/3-4, the Astros returned to a full Dodger Stadium for the first time since their cheating scandal broke. They split the tense, rowdy two-game series and finished the week just 2-4, but still in first place in the AL West.
Some good news: Padres superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. may return soon from his shoulder injury...but in the outfield, where he's been taking practice, rather than the more demanding shortstop position. We'll keep you posted.
MLB LEADERS THRU 8/8
AT-BATS: Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Rangers (445)
RUNS: Bo Bichette/Vlad Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays (86)
HITS: Adam Frazier, Pirates/Padres (136)
HOME RUNS: Shohei Ohtani, Angels (37)
RUNS BATTED IN: Vlad Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays (87)
STEALS: Whit Merrifield, Royals (30)
BATTING AVERAGE: Michael Brantley, Astros (.329)
GAMES PITCHED: Yusmeiro Petit, Athletics (55)
INNINGS: Zack Wheeler, Phillies (156)
WINS: Kyle Hendricks, Cubs/Julio Urias, Dodgers (13)
STRIKEOUTS: Zack Wheeler, Phillies (181)
SAVES: Mark Melancon, Padres (33)
WALKS/HITS PER INNING: Brandon Woodruff, Brewers (0.888)
EARNED RUN AVERAGE: Lance Lynn, White Sox (2.04)
Juan Soto (Nats) leads MLB with a .427 OBP.
Sources: MLB Network, ESPN, NBC Sports, MLB.com, several television/radio broadcasts and my own personal research