Giants

Joe Panik's walk-off aided by slow Giants alertly stealing two bases

Joe Panik's walk-off aided by slow Giants alertly stealing two bases

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have the slowest roster in the big leagues, but they won a game Tuesday night with some speed. Or rather, by mixing some smarts with some speed. 

Braves closer Luke Jackson showed zero interest in checking on runners in the ninth and Kevin Pillar and Mac Williamson took advantage, twice stealing second before Joe Panik’s single brought them both home in a 4-3 win. The late rally came in drips, but it led to a thrilling win on a night when the Giants were absolutely flat for eight innings. 

Jackson seemed to be having issues with the signs, repeatedly asking catcher Brian McCann to run through them again. He was deliberate, and Pillar took advantage first, a few moments after his RBI single with two outs brought Brandon Crawford screaming home and cut the deficit to one. Jackson never checked on Pillar with Pablo Sandoval at the plate and he took off, sliding in just ahead of McCann's throw. 

Sandoval ended up with his 10th pinch-hit of the year, but with Pillar at first, Josh Donaldson's diving stop at third would have led to a game-ending force. Instead, Pillar eased into third as Sandoval raced to first with no throw, reaching on an infield single. Sandoval was replaced by Williamson, who also received no interest from Jackson. On an 0-2 pitch to Panik, he stole second without a throw. 

"That was huge," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Kevin, he's a basestealer and that was a huge base. Once Mac got it, now you realize it just takes a hit to win the game. That's a big base."

Panik's eyes got wide once Williamson touched second. 

"I don't have to hit a double to win the game," Panik said. "I can stay within myself, stay in the middle of the field, and you can win the game with a single."

Panik did, ending a great at-bat by pulling a curveball into right, a few feet past a diving Ozzie Albies. The only speed Panik needed was to get away from a rush of teammates waiting with kidney punches and turkey taps. But before that, he took advantage of tendencies, too. 

Panik has been as locked-in as an Giants hitter the last three weeks, and he fouled off three pitches while getting to 2-2. When Jackson threw a fastball that never threatened the plate, Panik thought back to the scouting report. 

"I thought it was a setup pitch for his breaking ball," he said.

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It was. Jackson went to his curve on 3-2 and the game was over a few seconds later. 

"That's a great comeback," Bochy said. "We looked pretty flat. We just couldn't get going offensively. Their guy (starter Julio Teheran) did a great job on us. That's a huge win.

Why Giants will have to make even faster evaluations if MLB returns

Why Giants will have to make even faster evaluations if MLB returns

One thing fans learned right away in Farhan Zaidi's first season in charge is that the new-look front office is remarkably fast when it comes to altering the roster. The Giants could move even faster in 2020, though. 

If the season returns in July as hoped, the Giants expect to play 82 games, meaning the long six-month grind is now a bit of a sprint to the finish line. That will have a big impact on roster moves, and during his last appearance on KNBR, manager Gabe Kapler said the staff is already discussing how to handle this, knowing they don't have nearly as much time to evaluate players. 

"We don't necessarily have 82 games to evaluate that and then have another 82 to put the best defense out there," he said. "We actually have to make decisions sooner, we have to evaluate better in this modified camp that we have coming up. So the 82-game schedule absolutely makes us think about the roster construction differently and also about game strategy differently, for sure."

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Kapler mentioned that one discussion going on right now is about center field and right, and which players will be the best options. Even though it might have seemed like Gerardo Parra got a quick hook last year, he did actually play 30 games before being designated for assignment. Yangervis Solarte, another veteran, lasted until May 7.

The Giants seemed set to take a long look at Billy Hamilton this year and potentially break with Darin Ruf in the mix, but if they're looking to stay in the NL West race over half a season, perhaps they'll lean more towards sticking Mike Yastrzemski or Mauricio Dubon in center every day, guaranteeing more consistency for the lineup. 

Dubon is also part of the flip side of this. The front office hoped to give some younger players a few hundred at-bats to sink or swim, but that's not really possible with 82 games. If Dubon struggles early on to stick in his new utility role, that experiment might be halted until 2021. Jaylin Davis might have started the season in Triple-A, but the Giants now won't have that option, and they could run Davis out there every day in right field. But they certainly wouldn't have as many at-bats to play with if Davis gets off to a slow start. 

[RELATED: Giants affiliate lists stadium on Airbnb]

The rotation will be impacted, too. Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly have been viewed as potential 2020 versions of Drew Pomeranz, but Pomeranz struggled quite a bit before he was moved to the bullpen, where he became a good trade chip. That first relief appearance, though, didn't come until the Giants had played 101 games. There won't be nearly as much time to evaluate the pitchers who came in on one-year contracts. 

There are going to be a lot of wrinkles to an 82-game season, and this is an added one. The Giants made quick evaluations last season compared to what fans have gotten used to, but they're still going to need to pick up the pace if the game returns. 

Giants' minor league affiliate to allow fans to rent stadium on Airbnb

Giants' minor league affiliate to allow fans to rent stadium on Airbnb

Have you ever wanted to field grounders on the same patch of dirt as Brandon Crawford? Or hit in the cage that Buster Posey has used to hone his swing? If you have a little disposable income, and an easy way to get to Oregon this summer, a Giants minor league affiliate is trying to make those dreams come true. 

With the minor league season almost certainly canceled, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes found a creative way to make use of their stadium in Keizer, Oregon, a small town south of Portland. They listed it on Airbnb. 

For $1,000 a night, individuals or groups can stay in the ballpark of the short-season affiliate that was home to Posey and Crawford in 2008, Tim Lincecum in 2006 and more than 100 other big leaguers over the years. Last year, Hunter Bishop and Marco Luciano were among the prospects who spent time in Salem-Keizer. 

The listing says you'll have full access to the clubhouse and training facility, which includes four indoor cages and pitching machines. You will also have use of the field and batting practice can be set up. The Volcanoes offered to supply cots for overnight guests, or you can bring sleeping bags to set up somewhere in the ballpark. Oh, and this is important: The park has WiFi. 

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The Volcanoes are offering dates throughout the summer with the caveat that bookings could be impacted by games. That's extremely unlikely, though. MLB organizations do not expect to hold a normal minor league season, and the Volcanoes also are unfortunately at risk if MLB follows through with a plan to cut 42 minor league teams permanently. 

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