BY RYAN LEONG
Baseball is an unpredictable game, perhaps more than any other sport. How else can you explain how a team like the Giants, who already have a Major League worst 51 losses, can manage to sweep a quality team like the Colorado Rockies who arrived on Monday 20 games up on San Francisco in the standings ?
Momentum is one explanation and the Giants have built up on that over the past few days. It began after a miserable three-game sweep against the Mets who themselves are having a disappointing season. Following Sunday’s loss, Fox Sports baseball writer Ken Rosenthal authored a mini-expose on the problems of the Giants in 2017.
Although some of the reasoning has been dismissed, namely that newly acquired closer Mark Melancon rubbed his teammates the wrong way by changing the routine in the clubhouse, he was accused of ending an early pre-game stretch amongst the relievers. Giants manager Bruce Bochy was asked about that particular issue before Monday’s game which he called “pole vaulting over mouse turds.” Or to classify it another way, it was making something out of nothing.
Others were called out for their lack of leadership in a clubhouse that might best be described as a library or a morgue depending on your outlook. Veterans like Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt are all batting below their career averages. The one constant has been catcher Buster Posey but at least with the media, he’s one of the most soft spoken players on the team.
The Giants ended up getting a steller pitching performance from Jeff Samardzija on Monday and many clutch hits which have seemingly been missing for most of the season. They won in a rout, 9-2. Tuesday was a much more difficult game to score runs but they still managed to get a timely pinch hit from Kelby Tomlinson and then outlast the Rockies in 14 innings thanks to a game-winning RBI single by Denard Span.
Wednesday’s finale saw the return of Ty Blach to the win column after some rough starts. Blach who is a Colorado native, pitched 6 1/3 innings giving up seven hits and only one earned run, striking out six for the win. But the star of the game was rookie Jae-Gyun Hwang, the first South Korean to ever play for the Giants. Hwang is 29 years old and already had been passed by many times this season as the likes of Christian Arroyo, Austin Slater, and Ryder Jones were called up from the minors prior to him.
Having already plated a run with an RBI groundout in the 4th inning, Hwang stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 6th and connected with a no doubter to left field off Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland. He was greeted in the dugout by his teammates eager to congratulate him. He also made Giants history by becoming only the 14th player in franchise history since 1919 to hit a home run for his first hit in his Major League debut. Some of the other names on that list include Brandon Crawford, Will Clark, Bobby Bonds, and Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda.
“These are moments that you love and you have your tough times in this game but when something like this happens it’s a special occasion and you try to savor them,” Bochy said.
Catcher Nick Hundley was more than pleased by the outcome of the three-games vs. Colorado.
“That was a good series for us,” Hundley said. “We’ve got a long way to go and a lot of season left. We did a really good job collectively picking each other up. That was the most intensely we’ve played all year and we need to continue that on the road.”
The Giants head back out on the road for a six-game seven day road trip beginning with a weekend series in Pittsburgh on Friday night. Johnny Cueto (5-7, 4.20 ERA) will be opposed by the Pirates Gerrit Cole (6-6, 4.11 ERA) in the opener.
Ryan Leong is a San Francisco native and covers all Bay Area sports teams as a correspondent for ESPN radio and wire services. He is a former sports anchor for KCBS and has reported on over 3,600 live games since 1998.