Erik Kratz and the deep bullpen guide Giants to 18-inning marathon victory

Erik Kratz and the deep bullpen guide Giants to 18-inning marathon victory

SAN FRANCISCO -- Erik Kratz stood in the middle of the Giants clubhouse after one of the longest games in franchise history and smiled as he noted that he's actually been through this before. Of course he has. 

The 38-year-old has seen just about everything in this game, and he recalled all the details of that 18-inning game he caught with the Pirates in 2016. It was in July. Daniel Murphy ruined a shutout in the ninth. He hit a homer off Mark Melancon.

"Melancon shook off five pitches," Kratz said. 

Kratz remembered it all, and in that moment, it became clear how Kratz got through 18 innings behind the plate and still managed to focus and put a two-strike pitch in play in the bottom of the 18th to bring Brandon Belt home as the winning run.

The Giants beat the Rockies 3-2, and on a night when the lineup went 19 at-bats without a hit at one point and then went 16 more immediately after, Kratz guided the bullpen to a remarkable performance. Eight different relievers combined for 13 shutout innings, striking out 19 Rockies. 

Tony Watson was an early standout, getting himself out of a jam he created by getting Ian Desmond and Josh Fuentes out with the bases loaded in the eighth. Melancon struck out three and worked around four baserunners in two innings and he still has not allowed a run this season. 

Trevor Gott also went two innings, striking out three while pumping 95-96 mph fastballs. Do you think the Nationals want him back right now? Nick Vincent followed with three shutout innings, allowing just one hit. Rookie Travis Bergen got the win by striking out five in his two innings.

"A really gutty effort," manager Bruce Bochy said. "They had some chances and we got out of it. That's a great win, a great win. We used everybody. We stretched some guys out to where they hadn't really been, three innings. Melancon threw two innings. they pitched their hearts out."

Kratz, who caught 265 pitches, said watching it was "incredible." He was there every step of the way.

"I caught a second wind in the 17th inning," he cracked. 

In the bottom of the 18th, he got enough of a grounder to allow Belt to reach when the catcher pulled his foot. Kratz was running down the line and wondering how an infielder got to the ball, but Belt followed him and assured him he was safe. 

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That all allowed Bergen, the last man standing before the ball was handed to Sunday starter Derek Holland, to take a deep breath. He had not had an at-bat since 2012 when he was in high school, but at 12:50 a.m., there he stood, watching Kratz bat with the bases loaded and one out.

"I was scared to death, that's for sure," Bergen said. "I was trying to decide if I would swing at the first pitch or not. I went back and forth like 50 times in what felt like the three hours I was standing there."

Why Vladimir Guerrero Jr. MLB debut makes Giants' Bruce Bochy feel old


Why Vladimir Guerrero Jr. MLB debut makes Giants' Bruce Bochy feel old

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy will spend parts of this season reminiscing as he walks into visiting ballparks for the last time, but all those memories are not the only reminders of how long the Giants' manager has been in the game. 

On Opening Day, the Giants watched the debut of San Diego's Fernando Tatis Jr. Bochy played with the 20-year-old's grandfather in the Astros' minor-league system, and managed against teams featuring his father. On Saturday, Bochy watched as Pirates rookie Cole Tucker sunk the Giants with a game-winning two-run homer. Later that night, Jackie Tucker visited Bochy in his office. The two have ties to the same community college in South Florida and Jackie played with Bochy's brother, Joe.

There's a chance this strange tour will continue Tuesday. The Blue Jays are close to bringing up Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is either the top prospect in the game or right behind Tatis Jr. Asked about the possibility in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Bochy smiled. 

"It shows you you're getting old," he cracked. "That's the biggest thing."

Guerrero Jr., 20, hit 20 homers with an OPS over 1.000 while tearing up three levels in the minors last season. An injury -- and service time concerns -- delayed the promotion discussion this spring, but he already has reached base eight times in 20 plate appearances in Triple-A, homering twice. He is ready, but there have been conflicting reports about when he might join the Blue Jays. 

A source said Sunday that Blue Jays players did not think the super-prospect would debut Tuesday. But, Bochy and some others in the Giants clubhouse seemed to think that was a strong possibility. 

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Bochy saw plenty of Vlad Sr. over the years. If he sees the son, it'll continue a theme that includes Bochy's own players, too. Bochy now manages Dereck Rodriguez, son of Pudge, and he managed his own son, Brett, for seven big-league appearances. 

"It's kind of cool to see these kids of ex-teammates and guys I managed against coming up and doing so well," Bochy said. "You see their talent."

What Buster Posey's first homer of 2019 in Giants' win shows Mike Krukow

What Buster Posey's first homer of 2019 in Giants' win shows Mike Krukow

Buster Posey's first home run of the 2019 season was a no-doubter. And it couldn't have come at a better time, plating each of the Giants' runs in a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. 

With the Giants down 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning Sunday against the Pirates, Posey hit a three-run shot to the farthest part of the ballpark. The catcher crushed a 92-mph fastball from Chris Archer 409 feet to dead-center field at PNC Park. 

"That tells me that his balance is finally in sync," Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow said Monday on KNBR. "With his hip throw, with his hand throw, all of that is in synch. And he can backspin a a ball over center field. That was huge." 

Just as important, Posey's smile was back with his first home run since June of 2018. 

"You could see the look of relief on his face," Krukow said. "It was wonderful."

Even manager Bruce Bochy knows this was a big swing for Posey, who has accomplished pretty much everything anyone can ever dream of in baseball. 

"I'm sure, even for Buster, that some weight is off his shoulders," Bochy said after the game.

The Giants held on for a wild win that snapped a four-game losing streak. They're 2-4 on their current road trip, and play two more games away from home starting Tuesday in Toronto.

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"Getting Buster back, getting his confidence back in his swing, and winning the way they did in a comeback victory -- to salvage a game -- that's a huge win for this team," Krukow said.