Sunday, September 18, 2016

A New Sound That May Echo For Awhile

As shocking as the SF Giants fall has been, it reached a particular inflection point on Saturday night that might have consequences beyond this season.

The Giants had won two games in a row against St. Louis, improving their wild card position while gaining on the Dodgers.  On Saturday they were leading 2-1 going into the ninth, in the game that would put them 4 games up on St. Louis for the wild card.

That manager Bruce Bochy turned to Casilla to save the game was a surprise.  Casilla's reception in his home ball park was the shock.  He was booed.  When he gave up the tying run, he was booed again.  When he left the game after giving up the lead run, he was booed once more.  The Giants lost 3-2, and went down with barely a whimper on Sunday afternoon.  They split the series, but to play even at this point in their season is to lose ground, and they did.

Writers so far are saying that no Giant has been booed in their home park in this century.  (The good-natured booing that greeted Bochy's visit to the mound to take his own son out of the game--which he then decided against--doesn't count.)

It's a big deal.  And it can mean a great deal.  It probably means that Casilla will not be booed again this season, because his season in his home park is probably over, certainly in the ninth inning.  He probably won't be in an SF uniform next year.

But if this trajectory continues and the Giants fail to make the playoffs, he may not be the only one. There could be a very different team in San Francisco next season.  Conceivably with a different manager.

The Giants made a mid-season correction to better their chances in the playoffs.  But they weakened themselves for getting to the playoffs by lacerating team chemistry with the Duffy trade.  They gambled on stacking their starting pitching and their starters have been excellent lately.  But they don't have a closer, and they don't have much time to find one.  They'll try Derek Law, who is probably not even at full strength after his injury.  But that's their last play this year.

Bochy has 15 relief pitchers on the payroll, and still his bullpen is weaker than it was last year and certainly in 2014.  All those roster spots mean fewer hitters, fewer pitch hit possibilities in those last of the ninth matchups when the bullpen blew the lead.  Fewer ways to spell starters and keep them fresh.

The lineup may start changing even before this season ends.  Meanwhile it's hard to watch.  And if things keep going down like this, there's not much more to say.

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