It would be nearly impossible for Jose Alvarez to enter a game in a higher leverage situation than the ones he faced in the final two games of the Giants' three-game sweep of the Mets. San Francisco ultimately won both games by a 3-2 score, and Alvarez navigated his way out of identical bases-loaded jams in each one.
On Wednesday, he entered a tied game at Citi Field in the fifth inning with the bases juiced and required just one pitch to get Mets infielder Jeff McNeil to fly out to end the inning. On Thursday, he came on in the eighth and again got McNeil out -- this time on the third pitch he threw -- to preserve the 3-2 lead.
Manager Gabe Kapler turned to Alvarez in both high-stress situations, and it's easy to understand why. He has been the most dependable Giants reliever for well over a month now. Including Thursday's clutch outing, Alvarez has now gone his last 20 2/3 innings without allowing a run. His season ERA is down to 2.12.
It's been quite a turnaround for Alvarez, whose ERA reached its high point (5.56) back on May 20. In his 33 appearances since the beginning of June, however, he has not allowed a run in 32 of them.
"His season didn't get started off on the foot that I think he wanted to get started on, and us as well," Kapler said of Alvarez after Thursday's win. "And since he's kind of got his footing, he's been just excellent for us, and I think we're leaving this series with a sweep in large part because of the work that he did over the last couple of days."
"I think I've used the term 'ice cold' with LaMonte [Wade], you know, [Alvarez] has been that way," Alex Wood said after taking a no-decision in the win. "It doesn't matter the situation, he's coming in, he attacks the zone, he's going to force you to hopefully hit his pitch. Back to back nights, and really in the last couple months, he's just been dominant. It's been a lot of fun to watch."
Jarlin Garcia and Dominic Leone combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings before giving way to Alvarez, and Tyler Rogers pitched a clean ninth for his 12th save. On another night when the Giants' bats struggled against the Mets' pitching -- they had 10 hits over the last two games combined -- the bullpen picked up the slack, just as it has all season long.
"I'm just super impressed with all the relievers," Kris Bryant said. "I feel like they just take the ball and they don't know how long they're going to pitch for, but they're willing to go as long as the team needs them to, as long as Kap needs them to. I can honestly say I've never been on a team where we've had a bullpen like this that kind of goes out, pitches more than one inning here and there, pitches one out, pitches all through the second inning all the way through the ninth.
"That says a lot about the ego of the guys down there. They don't care. They just want to help the team any way possible. That type of attitude is very contagious and it spreads to us as position players, as hitters. There's zero selfishness here."
Alvarez's name is unlikely to be one of the first few mentioned when naming heroes of this surprising Giants season, but that's purely the product of volume and no fault of his own. Make no mistake, the Giants wouldn't be where they are without him, and he figures to have a major say in how this fairy tale ends.