The Marlins and the Giants, two National League teams, faced off with a designated hitter batting for the pitcher in San Francisco today for the first time. That will be how it is now as the “Universal DH” has finally arrived.
The Giants started the season at home against Miami with Logan Webb getting his first Opening Day start and they picked up right where they left off. Webb’s command was great, the slider was in tune. It was like we were just playing the next game after his last outing of last year. Consistent.
He did make a defensive mistake early, trying to stab at a comebacker that would have been routine for Thairo Estrada at second or Brandon Crawford coming in behind him.
I noticed Webb did that last year and in 2020 once or twice. He is very tall and I understand he gets eager for those. But he needs to trust the defense on some that are just out of his long 6’5″ reach – just a tweak, but an important one for a team playing like we do.
The Giants were again patient at the plate as prescribed by Gabe Kapler and they earned their first runs from getting on base with walks and bunting.
Catcher Joey Bart drew a walk in the third. The young kid got his first Opening Day start, and despite all his power, was patient at the plate and earned the walk. Betcha Darin Ruf helps teach him that.
Then Kapler had Mike Yasztremski attempt a bunt on consecutive pitches – one trickled foul, one bounced foul at the plate. He had Yaz pull back and swing away, but he popped up.
Yaz had a frustrating day at the plate. He still doesn’t look quite right, not like ’20. But that’s what made Belt’s bunt immediately after his shallow fly out so ideal. Nobody expected Belt to bunt.
He bunt-hit a slow, deep roller into empty grass, allowing him to take first, and advance Bart. But the Marlins’ Joey Wendle, charging it, overthrew first, allowing Belt to take second and Bart to score. Darin Ruf singled to right to drive in Belt. Giants 2, Marlins 0.
So getting Bart across the plate was exciting and felt precise: the young man held his bat and walked to get on, was moved over on the bunt and then raced in to score. But the beauty is, he crossed the plate again his next at-bat, when he got to exhibit the power. Bart drilled a 414-foot homer to deep left off Sandy Alcantara in the bottom of the fifth. Giants 3, Marlins 0
Webb held the Marlins scoreless, allowing runners to advance to second and third with two outs in the 6th, but got out of the jam before leaving the game – 85 pitches, third time through, quality start.
I agree with Kap turning the ball over to the ‘pen in the 7th, I think any knowledgeable Giants fan would. But then Dominic Leone was sent out and he completely imploded: walk, fly-out, walk, two-run homer to former Pirate Jacob Stallings in his Marlins debut. Leone gave up another walk and Kap had seen enough.
Hey, it’s opening day. There are jitters and hopped-up guys looking to get their first homer in a Marlins uniform to face. Kapler’s leash was just short enough. He brought in Tyler Rogers who struck out the Marlins top of the order, Jorge Soler and Garrett Cooper, with his beautiful submariner that, this early in the season, they can’t even see. Precise. Giants 3, Marlins 2.
It was just like the game plan last year when we were at our best.
We had a few bobbles in the field, which is normal for opening day. Webb swatted that one out of reach, and Wilmer Flores, filling in for Evan Longoria at third, struggled with a grounder that let a runner on. But Flores was otherwise just fine at the hot corner.
Early on, Thairo Estrada looked better at second than even Tommy La Stella, for whom he is subbing. He was in the shift and hustled to make a great play on a ball that quite rightly should have been hit through it.
The cherry on top of a sweet Opening Day was The Captain taking it yard for insurance.
Brandon Belt muscled an 88mph sinker by Marlins reliever Richard Bleier just over the wall at the front of Levi’s Landing for his first home run of the year. It was close, so no sexy bat drop, but it was sweet to see him trot. Giants 4, Marlins 2.
We led the League with 241 home runs last year, but the first two of this year, solo shots by Joey Bart and Brandon Belt, were good because they happened with a lead, and provided distance and insurance against a comeback.
The word closer can be retired under our current system. There isn’t one. Maybe there’re two or three, but a shifting mentality about relief is an active element of current staff strategy that emphasizes sabermetrics. Perhaps we can say ‘closers.’
Camilo Doval, one of our closers, was exciting last year, as a 23-year-old rookie, but he got raked in the Division Series by the Bums. He got the ball in the bottom ninth to close this one.
Kap stated when asked a few days ago that he’d consider Jake McGee the closer but then used Doval. I assume it was both match-up and clubhouse related. With a two-run lead, it was an opportunity to test the young man. I’d like to think it could also be with extra innings in mind – saving McGee, for the possibility of an extended contest.
Personally, I was happy Kapler didn’t go with McGee. I like Doval. I want him to do well. He looked good, hurling sliders, but then he threw a 98mph cutter to Wendle, and misread the chopper coming back, allowing it to drop behind him and die for a single.
Next, on what should have been a routine double-play, Brandon Crawford turned it to Estrada for the out at second but Thairo unfortunately made his first error of the day, an overthrow to Belt at first to put Miguel Rojas on.
Doval gave up a single to the new Marlin Jacob Stallings, allowing Rojas to score. Stallings had a day for Miami on debut that they can be excited about. Giants 4, Marlins 3.
Doval was in a battle. The Marlins pinch-ran Jon Berti for Stallings, but it didn’t matter, because Doval missed on a slider to Jazz Chisholm and he made him pay.
Chisholm oppo-homered to left, scoring Berti. Doval got out of the inning without further incident, but the damage had been done. Marlins 5, Giants 4. whew. Sorry, Camilo, that’s a blown save.
Bottom of the ninth, Giants down one, Thairo Estrada versus the Marlins’ Anthony Bender, in front of a nervous crowd. They had all been enjoying the sunshine and a glorious game; all smiles, sensing victory. But now, rattled by the young relievers who gave up the lead, an excited anticipation filled the yard.
The Giants used homers last year to bail themselves out of situations like this – so many solo shots – and, in the bottom of the ninth, on the second pitch, Thairo Estrada hammered an 84mph slider deep to left and tied the game!
I love Estrada. Recognizing he played a part in giving up the lead with his overthrow error in the top of the ninth, he wasn’t going to let the team down. He sought and achieved redemption. He did that on the road in Colorado last year. It was awesome. Giants 5, Marlins 5.
EXTRA INNINGS ON OPENING DAY WITH ZOMBIE RUNNER AND DH
Yeah, I guess that’s what we’re doing now. Ugh. I HATE the zombie runner, the ghost runner, the Manfred Man. It’s not baseball. A free guy on base is NOT baseball. Dump the Zombie runner. Such a bullshit extra inning rule. Ok. that is the last I will say about that. Time to watch what’s up now.
John Brebbia went for the Giants in the tenth and I think any regular reader of GBC knows, I’m not a fan. But it’s a new season and I have been wrong before. I look forward to being wrong again about Brebbia.
Despite walking Sanchez to start matters, and then giving up a deep enough pop-up fly out by Aguilar to advance the runners to second and third, Brebbia managed to induce a grounder to third that allowed for an easy tag of the zombie Cooper – out at the plate. Critical out.
Not allowing the zombie runner across is the one job.
Kapler, doing the thing he does so well, pulled Brebbia and brought in Jose Alvarez, with two down and a runner on second. Alvarez struck out Anderson for the final out, keeping scores level.
Kapler’s brilliant use of the ‘pen continues in ’22. Has he now learned how to win with the zombie runner, too? He was terrible in The Irregular Season, ’20, and only at the end of last year did he even manage to win a few extra innings games. I was looking for improvement and this looked textbook.
The Giants started the bottom of the tenth with Mauricio Dubon on second, Brandon Belt at the plate and Darin Ruf on deck. Belt popped it up, but not really deep enough. Dubon had overcommitted on the basepath and got tagged trying to get back to second after the catch. Terrible. Now the Giants had two down and nobody on. facepalm.
But wait – Darin Ruf managed to draw a two-out walk. His OBP fills with those. He is 100% down with the system. Then, on a 2-2 count, Austin Slater came up and doubled a 94mph sinker to deeeeeep left!
Big Darin Ruf came rumbling around second with new 3B coach Mark Hallberg consistently waving him in – a great call in his first major test.
The throw from the cutoff man Miguel Rojas to the plate was almost exactly on time, but too long on the one-hop. It skipped up at catcher Stallings’ knees in front of the plate and bounced away toward the third base line.
Stallings, who was the Marlins hero in this one, was left flailing with an empty glove at Ruf. That moment was the walkoff in a snapshot. Ruf looked like he’d beaten it anyway – scored standing!
Austin Slater Walks it off with two outs in the tenth – Giants 6, Marlins 5
Unbelievable – we actually erased the advantage of the zombie runner and won it anyway! So typical of Giants baseball and very much in keeping with the team last year. Giants Win! Giants Win! Giants Win!
Kapler and staff were brilliant, but made me realize, we need a pinch runner (like they had) for these big, and older, guys we’ve got. Getting better at extras means knowing how to balance that bench with a runner, especially since we have the DH as a bat now. A note to make was that Ruf getting on with, say Dubon as a PR. could be a valuable extra innings weapon.
But that’s picking nits on day one which is uncouth. Kapler and staff were very consistent at executing exactly what they said they were trying to execute last year. The starter went six scoreless. The flexible elements in relief are more flexible. Kap pulled guys quickly, efficiently and on time. Managed around the struggles of two relievers.
The strategy to get on base through patience, including the walk as an offensive strategem and the bunt as a principled way to move em along, was coupled with solo shots. This amazing phenomenon, born last year with the staff assembled, was confirmed as not a fluke on day one of this season. This team can walk, bunt and hit with power. The question is: can they hit consistently, situationally. Can they rack up singles, doubles and RBI’s? We don’t know.
Many positives in areas of concern:
1. Substitutes Flores at 3B and Estrada at 2B were just fine. Estrada particularly so.
2. Darin Ruf was ideal as first DH, drew walks when needed and hit when required
3. Three solo shots: Joey Bart, Brandon Belt and Thairo Estrada
4. Joey Bart was excellent catching Webb on Opening Day, and homered and drew a walk to score
5. Logan Webb was crisp, looked like the leader of this staff
6. Six relievers (Jose Alvarez, Tyler Rogers and John Brebbia being clutch) and a key bench bat, Austin Slater, fought hard to get the win
What a great opening day game!
Jose Alvarez gets the win. 40,853 was the attendance.
Note: I DID NOT LISTEN TO KNBR OR READ ANY LOCAL COVERAGE WHILE WATCHING AND WRITING THIS FIRST POST OF THE YEAR.
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