Friday, August 21, 2015

Byrd in the Hand

Marlon Byrd made the SF Giants front office look mighty good by launching a two-run homer in his first at-bat as a Giant, in Pittsburgh Friday.  He also doubled and singled in the game, going 3 for 5.

With that homer, Byrd instantly became the Giants' home run leader with 20 for the year.  Brian Crawford has been stuck at 19 for awhile.

Madison Bumgarner pitched 6 and a third gritty innings, giving up but two runs, which he got back with a 400 foot plus homer with one on.  He's homered in his last two starts.

The Giants offence then stalled and the Pirates chipped away in their usual relentless fashion, but the Giants' bullpen bent but did not break, and the Giants won the second game of this four game set, 6-4.

All the heroics (that included some excellent fielding by Duffy and Blanco) obscured the shocker of the day--to make required roster room in activating Mike Leake (who will start on Saturday), the Giants sent their second-best pitcher back to the minors.  Chris Heston will get some rest and some less pressured work for 10 days, until the rosters expand and he can rejoin the club.

Maybe others expected this but I sure didn't.  Still, it makes some sense, especially after a strong couple of starts by Vogelsong and a promising start by Matt Cain.  Heston is, after all, a rookie, and his shaky starts recently could indicate some bad habits that need to be corrected before they get worse, or even just a breather from big league pressure before it gets really intense in September.

Manager Bruce Bochy didn't want to give up a position player--his bench is replete with good gloves but not so many bats.  In a pitching emergency, Tim Hudson could be quickly activated.  The next decision point may be when Angel Pagan is healthy.

Marlon Byrd started in right field, which is the short side in Pittsburgh but the long side in San Francisco.  I'd look for him to start games there but be platooned with a younger fielder in the late innings of close games.  His three hits Friday came on his first three at-bats.  Aoki was in left field, and he had a three hit day as well, leading off.

Blanco has started hitting again after a slumping start to the road trip.  Buster Posey is slumping in terms of hits but he drove in the first run with a sac fly, and he's hit some very deep balls on this trip.  Brian Crawford, who got his hitting streak broken yesterday, got a hit today.

So far the series works for me, as I'd like to see it even at 2-2.  Mike Leake starts Saturday, against the Pirates ace, Gerit Cole.  Leake normally pitches well against the Bucs, but this is his first game off the DL.

The Pirates also got back their leadoff man, Josh Harrison, who started at second base.  When Mercer comes back, the Bucs hope to soon be in the enviable position of having 5 infielders who can start (and hit) for three positions.  They're going to be something in the postseason.

Speaking of postseason, one of the heroes of the 2013 postseason for the Pirates was none other than Marlon Byrd.

In today's races, the Pirates lost no ground as the Cards lost, but the Giants picked up a game when Mike Fiers of the Astros threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers.  The last LA batter was up as the Giants announcers were beginning their postgame wrap, so they did an improvised and hilarious fake play by play (Ronald Reagan-style, by picking up the pitch off the wire and making up the rest) on Fier's final strikeout.  I'm sorry but I'm absolutely spoiled for any other announcing team--they all sound like fake automatons next to these guys.

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