Giants Salvage Finale Vs. St. Louis
(originally written 6/2/13)
Yes, the San Francisco Giants defeated the searing-hot Cardinals. Yes, Chad Gaudin threw amazingly well in six innings of work. Yes, Buster Posey's four hits couldn't have come at a better time. But don't expect any of that to dominate the highlight shows tonight.
Was Yadier Molina's eruption just a case of a player so egotistical, he wears equipment emblazoned with his own nickname? Or was it a Milton Bradley/Mike Winters redux?
In the third inning, St. Louis made its first scoring threat against Gaudin, putting men on first and second bases with two down. Molina grounded one to the hole between shortstop and third base that looked to all the world (including yours truly) to be an RBI single.
Giants SS Brandon Crawford had other ideas, diving far to his right and cutting the ball off.
Seeing he had no play at third or second, however, Crawford glanced at first base and fired there. Because Molina—a slow-footed catcher to begin with—was convinced of his hit and didn't charge out of the box, he was thrown out by a half-step. It was close, but replays proved he was out.
That's when all hell broke loose.
In frustration, the perennial Gold Glover punished the ground with a two-handed slam of his helmet; first base umpire Clint Fagan promptly ejected him.
Initially cool, calm and collected, Molina meandered over to Fagan, who was walking away with his back turned—clearly not wishing to instigate. In a snap, however, Molina went absolutely berserk. His brother and coach Bengie Molina plus manager Mike Matheny (both ex-Giant catchers) attempted to calm him down and block his path to Fagan. But the younger Molina was having none of it.
It wasn't a pretty scene at all watching Yadier attempting to shove and grapple his way to Fagan, who remained stoic as Matheny (also ejected) went nose-to-nose with him. In the end it took Bengie, Matheny, coach Jose Oquendo and two other umpires to contain Yadier.
When I say this I don't use hyperbole—while not at a 1983 George Brett level of rage, Molina was very, very close; it appeared he didn't want to argue with Fagan so much as break him in two.
Which made me wonder—did Fagan pull a Winters and insult Molina?
Six years ago, the Padres' Milton Bradley, he of the infamous hot temper and brittle (but talented) body, had a "disagreement" with first base umpire Winters after reaching base against the Rockies.
Initially calm as he and Winters bickered, something was said that upped Bradley's blood pressure, oh, about 550 percent. He went after Winters as manger Bud Black attempted to intervene and ended up with a blown-out knee.
Later, MLB's investigation backed Bradley's claim that Winters used a very nasty word on the outfielder, nasty enough to earn him a suspension. Except for the blown-out knee, Molina's reaction almost mirrored Bradley's—even happening in the same spot on the field!
To my knowledge, it was never revealed with certainty what exactly Winters said to Bradley—the witnesses involved exercised their right to remain silent on the matter.
But if Fagan did somehow verbally abuse Molina, does it excuse the team "leader," as FOX broadcasters repeatedly described him the day before, shoving his manager and coaches and undoubtedly earning a suspension from the league?
Not to me, it doesn't. And I'd say the same if Posey were the one in question, without pause.
Now, as for the game...
Brandon Belt may be the most valuable .250 hitter the Giants have ever had. He's repeatedly come through in the clutch this year with late big hits:
April 12 at Chicago: Belt ties the game with a two-run ninth-inning double (though SF loses).
April 22 vs. Arizona: Belt strokes a pinch-hit, walk-off RBI single.
April 23 vs. Arizona: Belt rips a pinch-hit, game-tying two-run HR in the 9th (though SF loses).
April 29 at Arizona: Belt's two-run single puts the Giants up in the 8th; they go on to win.
May 1 at Arizona: Belt puts the Giants up with a three-run 8th-inning HR; they go on to win.
Now you can add his seventh-inning pinch two-run double to the list of 2013 Belt heroics. What the talented first baseman currently lacks in consistency, he certainly makes up for in fortitude—the Giraffe is not afraid in that batter's box.
Gaudin pitched as well as any starter for the Giants has in recent weeks, which is both encouraging and troubling all at once considering he's a long reliever. He moved his fastball in and out, commanded his slider well, kept the ball down and kept his velocity up through six strong innings. The right-hander's only "blemish" was a two-run jack to the lukewarm David Freese, but that was not a mistake pitch.
Gaudin did not look like a man making his first start in four years.
For the record, the well-traveled Gaudin has enjoyed relative MLB success as a full-time starter, making 34 starts for the '07 Athletics and 25 more for the '09 Padres/Yankees. He was my personal first choice to replace injured Ryan Vogelsong from the beginning. Hopefully his performance against a tough Cardinal lineup—albeit one lacking a resting Carlos Beltran—will steer manager Bruce Bochy in that direction.
FINAL GAME NOTES:
As mentioned, Posey was 4-for-4, but he also got himself erased on a Hunter Pence grounder hit to the left side—a baseball no-no that the Giants commit far too often.
Slumping Gregor Blanco at least brought a run in with a double-play grounder in the second inning; Pence came within 18 inches of a two-run homer in the third but settled for a long RBI double, accounting for the first two Giant runs.
Jeremy Affeldt pitched a spotless seventh inning and got two outs in the eighth before giving way to CL Sergio Romo. As St. Louis threatened in that eighth, Molina's absence was felt when Romo struck out backup C Tony Cruz. Molina could have just as easily whiffed as well—we'll never know—but would you want the .210 backup or the .350 star up to bat?
On a weird final play of the game, Freese cued an 0-1 tapper up the first base line as both Romo and first baseman Brett Pill gave pursuit. Pill fielded the ball, collided with Romo who lost his balance and fell hard, before ultimately tagging Freese.