The Giants are trying to rehash some old history. Some big time history against Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer.
It’s been a few years since 2012, but the Scherzer took the AT&T Park crowd and their team through an unexpected time warp on Friday night.
The bit of nostalgia started off simple enough: the former Tigers ace and current Washington complete-game king faced comeback kid Matt Cain (ND, 2-3, 6.05 ERA) for the first time since the Game 4 series-sweeper, and things went down a little differently.
Three years ago the Giants could barely touch Scherzer, gathering just three runs on seven hits off him in six innings that Game 4.
Friday night the Giants got another shot at Scherzer (L, 11-9, 2.73 ERA) and really showed him up.
They tallied as many hits and double the earned runs in just three innings, securing a 8-5 win over the Nats in game two of this four-game series.
Scherzer was plucked from the mound following the third inning, marking his shortest start since September 2012 — he went two innings in a game against the A’s. An easy decision for Matt Williams once something became clear.
The Giants had Scherzer all figured out.
Those who had seen Scherzer in 2012 could even take a backseat to the action, and of course, Matt Duffy formed the first punch when he launched an inside fastball deep to left field, tying the game 1-1 in the first.
Duffy kind of knew what he was looking for from Scherzer, and the team followed suit:
“I wasn’t going up there looking to ambush a fastball or anything. Same approach as usual…When guys are on the corners and mixing it up with whatever pitches, it’s gonna be a long night. We got a couple pitches up the middle and capitalized.”
Brandon Crawford led off the second with a double off the left field wall and Just Maxwell sent him home with a sharp double off the right field chalk.
Gregor Blanco sent the same chalk flying with a base-clearing double — Ehire Adrianza walked and Matt Cain had advanced runners to scoring position. Duffy notched the inning’s fourth double to score Blanco and give the Giants a 5-1 lead.
Friday night was really all about Blanco, who went 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI.
Those numbers, as impressive as they look, don’t really tell the White Shark’s tale. He ate up the field stealing bases, clocking sac bunts and making diving catches that softened the blow of Angel Pagan and Nori Aoki‘s DL departures.
He’s an underrated leadoff hitter who continues to prove his worth, said Bruce Bochy:
“He’s a smart player. A smart base runner. Stole third there. He played with a lot of fire tonight. He can do all the little things you need. Get a bunt down, steal a base for ya…that’s why we signed this guy. He’s been such a huge part of our success. You look at the postseason and he’s out there every day.”
Why anyone is surprised to see how Blanco’s fire has translated into success is beyond me. He’s always been pretty clutch; he’s holding a .450 OBP and over 1.04 OPS as a leadoff hitter this season. Said Blanco of his contributions:
“We’re missing Angel, missing Aoki. To be able to help the team and help them win games is amazing…I always knew that I had that. I played at that level before. Not here, back in my country in Winter ball. And I was just waiting for the moment to come. I was just working on being able to use the whole field.”
Scherzer’s departure opened another 2012 chapter when Doug Fister took over the mound–the same guy who pitched, and lost, Game 2 for the Tigers in the World Series.
He faired a bit better Friday night, blanking the hot Giants bats and allowing just two hits in two innings.
The portal to 2012 gave us a little peak at the old Matt Cain, who showed up briefly in his 4-2/3 innings, but couldn’t solidify a win. He’s not completely back, said Bochy, but getting there:
“He’s been really good and then had his off innings and that’s what’s gotten him. He was cruising and then he gets out of sync. I don’t know if he’s still trying to build that strength and stamina, it’s a little different arm for him. He’s had surgery and his stuff is good. Very encouraged of where he’s at with his stuff. He’s just off at times with his command and that’s what’s cost him with the long ball. But we really think he’s going to get better with work.”
Cain held it together through the first four innings, but fell apart in the fifth when Danny Espinosa hit a leadoff home run, cutting the score to 6-2.
Bochy kept him in, giving him a shot at the win, but the Nats got two men on base and Bryce Harper turned a fastball down the pipe over the Levi’s Landing wall, cutting the Giants’ lead to one.
Cain said his stuff was better than it seemed:
“Results wise it doesn’t show what it was like out there. That’s frustrating. I know I’m feeling good and throwing a lot of quality pitches, a lot of good pitches. Its just about getting past that little hump of making that one pitch when I need it.”
Bochy didn’t seemed too stressed over Cain’s third consecutive ‘bad start’:
“When you look at him at moments, he’s the old Matt Cain.”
Matty shouldn’t be leaving the rotation anytime soon, though Ryan Vogelsong out-pitched him last night. The bullpen, too, has been saving face this homestand. They pitched 4-1/3 innings of shutout ball tonight. Josh Osich allowed the only hit.
Sergio Romo’s slider is back to attack and looks good enough to eat. Though that would be pretty painful.
If you haven’t seen it yet here’s the Full Clubhouse promo for Full House tribute night on Sept. 30. Obviously the big connection between the Giants and Full House is San Francisco itself…but it seems like this all started with the Brandon Crawford/Uncle Jesse/John Stamos comparisons. Bochy said before today’s game:
“What’s amazing is Crawford, he looks just like (Uncle Jesse)”
There’s also a pretty funny Jeremy Affeldt/ Bruce Bochy moment. The whole thing is funny, I even caught Bochy chuckling at it.