It’s been almost two years since the Giants played a ‘meaningless’ game.
In the wake of their rivals’ raucous clincher, the Giants took the field Wednesday night and eased to a clean 5-0 win over the Dodgers, who are now 8-1 at AT&T Park this season.
Mike Leake pitched a complete game, his first of the season and first shutout of his career; a two-hit gem. Perhaps the Dodgers were still in celebration mode, but Leake was as sharp as we’ve seen him, said Bruce Bochy:
“It was the Mike Leake show. What a job he did, pound the strike zone, quality strikes down, good movement on the sinker, breaking ball, he induced a lot of ground balls. Pitched very efficiently, short innings.”
Leake worked the complete game easily; it almost seemed effortless. He knocked the Dodgers down quickly and efficiently, yet the deed somehow fell a little flat. It came just one day short amid a relatively even-tempered matchup post-Kershaw, post-clinch:
“I had it in my mind that I’d like to do to them what they did to us last night. It semi came true, but they won the division last night. But it’s nice that we came back after that and played a really good game.”
Though essentially meaningless, the complete game might have pumped Leake up on a nice little pedestal as the season winds down; he’ll be a free agent in 2016. And since the Giants will no doubt be looking to remold their rotation this offseason, Leake’s late season performance could give him an edge when the big conversations begin.
Leake fell to a left hamstring strain right after the Giants traded for him at the deadline and struggled there after, posting a 4.86 ERA in his eight starts with the Giants. Not exactly the boost the front office was looking for, nor a proud stretch for Leake:
“Obviously a little disappointed that I didn’t come in here and do what either they expected me to do or what I expected to do for them, so it’s a little frustrating as far as that. But It’s tough to make the playoffs, especially when you have injuries.”
Bochy has indicated that he’d like to see Leake back next year for a real run:
“He’s young, yet he’s a veteran pitcher. He’s durable. He had the hamstring, that was kind of a freak deal there. He knows what he’s doing out there.”
“Obviously we like Mike a lot. We traded for him…He’ll have some choices, options, but we think a lot of him that’s why we aquired him.”
Leake said it was a “strong possibility that he’d like to stay,” spewing noncommittal statement typical of free agents to-be, but he’s anxious:
“I’d rather not wait. I’d like to pick a team and get ready to go with that team instead of delaying the process.”
Pressure alleviated, Marlon Byrd and Buster Posey took the day off — Byrd’s day off holds him at 535 plate appearances; he needs 550 to activate the $8 million vesting option or that option falls into the Giants’ hands — and five rookies took on the NL West champions and Mike Bolsinger.
Nick Noonan (not a rookie) powered his first career home run, a solo shot, that was inches from splashing. Another bittersweet moment, as he didn’t get the ball back, but:
“I was lucky it went over the fence this time. Saw the first pitch good and saw the second pitch even better… Nice not having that goose egg up there anymore.”
Aside from that, Wednesday was all-rookie.
The few remaining games will be a platform for these position player rookies to show big-league composure before offseason decisions are made. Let’s look at some of the plays that stand out on their resumés.
Tomlinson’s contract was purchased on August 3 after Joe Panik fell to injury, and it took a few weeks for him to fall into place. He showed off a compact swing, Duffy-like approach at the plate, and speedy legs in this base-clearing triple against the Washington Nationals on August 15. Kelby-mania was ignited.
Locked in a 4-4 tie against the Cardinals, bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth just a few days later, Tomlinson sent a first-pitch single up the middle for his first walk-off and coolest, unintentionally gnarly bat flip.
His bat looked solid, but Tomlinson needed work at second. Brandon Crawford looked hesitant to toss it to an inexperienced kid on potential double plays, sometimes botching bit outs, and he struggled a bit with his glove. Ron Wotus‘ work whipped him right into shape; his double play turn is sharp and his leaping instincts peaked Monday night after he robbed Dodgers’ Corey Seager of a sharp rally-starter.
Wednesday night, he recovered Gold Glove candidate Crawford’s blunder on a wonky ground ball to second from Joc Pederson. We’ve come full circle.
Before the 2015 season began, in the wake of Pablo Sandoval’s departure, a big question emerged: Who would fill his power hitter’s shoes? Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey tag-teamed that job, collecting a combined 39 homers and 175 RBI, so far.
But, at-bat for at-bat, Parker’s been a power hitting wonder this September. Case in point: His three-home run day in Oakland on Zito-Hudson night. He hit a solo shot in the second, a two-run shot in the seventh, and a game-winning grand slam in the eighth. He has five homers and an .886 slugging percentage in 39 total at bats.
He he’s not a whole lot to talk about defensively, but the Giants could always use a cheap lefty who can crank one off the bench. He got a start Wednesday night in right field.
The Giants’ outfield stands in stark contrast to its infield; homegrown talent has been noticeably absent. Parker, and maybe Williamson, could cushion nicely a 2016 squad featuring a healthy Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and, maybe, a Nori Aoki or Marlon Byrd.
Williamson has only been in San Francisco since September 16, so he’s just getting warmed up.
He’s got five hits in six games, but his biggest highlight came Tuesday night when he robbed Clayton Kershaw of a hit with this diving catch. The game was already out of the Giants’ hands, but rob ‘em anyway, Mac.
Brown’s only played in 10 games, but already looks like he belongs. The Giants have injured Andrew Susac and Hector Sanchez healing in the wings in preparation for 2016; Sanchez is arbitration eligible after this season. It’ll be difficult for Brown to inch his way into a crowded depth at catcher.
But he recorded an RBI against probable NL Cy Young winner Zack Grienke on Monday night, and the rest of baseball knows that’s no easy feat.
Sometimes we forget that Matt Duffy is a rookie — he’s been like the old, wise veteran passing on his wisdom to the new guys — but he just hit his 12th homer of the year and now has 76 RBI. He’d be a clear frontrunner in the Rookie of the Year race if not for playoff-bound Cub Kris Bryant, who has 99 RBI and 26 homers. Duffy does lead him in batting average, though, .294 to .279.