Gregor Blanco played an essential role on two of the Giants‘ championship teams. He was a key bench player, versatile and competent in any role manage Bruce Bochy needed him to fill. Usefulness aside, at the top of his Best Moments as a Giant list is his leaping catch in the outfield that ultimately preserved Matt Cain‘s perfect game in 2012.
Since these last few weeks will play out as teasers to the Giants’ prep for 2018, it’s time to decide what gaps can be filled.
In the second at-bat of the game, Tommy Pham launched a long ball off Madison Bumgarner headed for the center field bleachers. Hernandez Spiderman-ed up the center field wall and grabbed it before it reached a couple of Cardinals fans. Hernandez said he knew he had it once he determined how far from the wall it would land. It was cake.
The well-traveled veteran has acknowledged his poor start to the season frequently — many questioned the team’s decision not to designate him for assignment when all outfielders were struggling mightily early on. But his successful efforts at the plate (this week aside) and defensively are conscious efforts to win himself a job:
“You have to finish hard and you have to look good for next season. … I have to do what I can for a job next season.”
He made two more unlikely catches, sliding at the warning track to line his spectacular day. Later he said he’s never made three major catches, maybe two in a game back in Venezuela. Bochy marveled:
“I’m trying to add up the runs he saved us.”
No one was more excited by the home run-saving grab than Bumgarner, who wowed in disbelief from the mound and gave his teammate a nice hug in the dugout. It was a play that, like Blanco’s, that looked like it might’ve preserved something special. Bumgarner went on to pitch three perfect innings before trouble struck, he said:
“I wish I could have made it a little more meaningful, nonetheless it was a spectacular play.”
The long ball Hernandez stopped would bot keep the Cards in the park on this warm afternoon, the baseball gods decided. In fact, there would be five when things were said and done.
Bumgarner tied it up with his third home run on the year — making him the first pitcher to hit at least three homers in four consecutive seasons since Earl Wilson in 1964-68 — but the Cards wanted long-ball redemption. Harrison Bader went yard for his team’s third and the lead.
Tim Federowicz put one in the left field seats in his first at-bat back with the Giants for the game’s final homer.
Bumgarner let go of the leash more than usual, though, allowing RBI doubles to Martinez and Yadier Molina. The Giant ace allowed a season-high five runs, all on extra base hits. He lost command of his fastball, he admitted.
Opposing hitters suddenly going yard against Bumgarner might seem shocking only because the pitcher was a little late to the home run party the MLB seems to be having. He tied a career high for home runs allowed, with three, but it was in keeping with the trend (and maybe the dry heat), said Bochy:
“It’s a sign of the times. … There were balls hit I thought were routine that went out.”
Matt Moore pitched the eighth and ninth innings, allowing just one hit. It was the first time Moore was used out of the bullpen since the 2013 playoffs.
Bochy has discussed using a six-man rotation for the rest of the year given Chris Stratton‘s strong showing. The weekly off-days, Moore’s use out of the bullpen Sunday and Stratton’s skipped start Saturday indicate the six-man rotation is entirely flexible and perhaps dependent on whatever team they’re facing.
Bumgarner’s illness threw things off kilter. Moore was supposed to pitch Sunday, so he was ready. Dave Rightetti told him prior to the game that he might be used out of the bullpen so his preparation wouldn’t go to waste. Bochy said he’ll get a start in the Chicago White Sox series.
Stratton will get the start in Colorado Monday, kicking off a seven-day road trip from there to Chicago to face the White Sox.
Bochy said Brandon Belt may be shut down for the rest of the season. There’s a month left. This seems like a more than logical choice. … The Giants need to win nine of their last 23 games in order to avoid losing 100 games for the first time since 1985.