Giants

Notes: Old friend Vogelsong can help Giants on Sunday

vogey-pointing-usatsi.jpg

Notes: Old friend Vogelsong can help Giants on Sunday

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants know Ryan Vogelsong well enough to know that it doesn’t matter what’s at stake Sunday. The glare would be on Vogelsong’s face no matter the opponent. The will to win would be there no matter the date.

Still, just in case … 

“I was talking to Buster, and we said we should send him some enchiladas,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “Just order some up and send them to his hotel room in St. Louis.”

Vogelsong, now with the Pirates, will face the Cardinals on Sunday at Busch Stadium. The Giants and Dodgers will get going 10 minutes earlier at AT&T Park, and the Giants need just one more win to clinch a postseason spot. If they can’t finish the sweep, however, they’re hoping to get some help from an old friend. If Vogelsong beats the Cardinals, the Giants will be in the postseason regardless of what they do.

It’s a peculiar position for a player who hoped to return to San Francisco this season. Vogelsong helped the Giants to two titles, and now he has a chance to help them clinch a trip to New York for Wednesday’s wild card game. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle could have started a young prospect, but he told MLB.com that he chose Vogelsong out of respect for competition. 

"Ryan's buy-in is going to be bigger than anybody else's buy-in in that clubhouse to go out and pitch a good ballgame,” Hurdle said. 

Vogelsong, 39, told CSN Bay Area in August that he’s committed to playing next season. He has struggled down the stretch and he had an 8.72 ERA in September, so the start represents one final chance to put up a solid box score before the offseason. 

The Giants will have one eye on Vogelsong and the Cardinals, but to a man they said the only goal Sunday is to win it at AT&T Park. Several Giants did, however, send Vogelsong text messages on Saturday afternoon. 

“I’m going to tell him I love him, and then I’m going to tell him to bring his A-game,” George Kontos said. 

Second baseman Joe Panik didn’t play with Vogelsong as long as most of the clubhouse, but he joked that he might reach out anyway with a simple, “Hey, Ryan … we’re thinking about you.” 

“Seriously, though, if someone from Pittsburgh is going to be in that situation, I want it to be him,” Panik said. 

Crawford agreed. He wasn’t sure if he would actually send a text to Vogelsong, who famously starts to lock in the day before a start, but Crawford does know that extra motivation isn’t necessary. 

“He’s going to go out and try to win, because that’s what he does every single start,” Crawford said. 

--- From earlier, here’s my game story on Ty Blach’s big day at the park. And, this seems a good time to note that Blach was on my podcast last month talking about his call-up. You can listen to him here. 

Thanks in large part to Blach, the math tomorrow is pretty simple. If the Giants win, they’re in. If they lose and the Cardinals win, the teams will play Monday night in St. Louis. If both teams lose, the Giants are headed to New York to face Noah Syndergaard.

--- Vin Scully was taken through the lower concourse on a golf cart after the game, and he got a loud ovation from Giants fans. He tried to stop the cart as he passed the clubhouse because he saw Buster Posey. He reached out and shook hands with the catcher. A reminder: CSN Bay Area will carry Scully’s call during the third inning of tomorrow’s broadcast. 

In case you missed it, Jon Miller was on my podcast to tell stories about Scully. 

Giants Review: After starting Opening Day, Blach finds home in bullpen

usatsi_10931869.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Giants Review: After starting Opening Day, Blach finds home in bullpen

SAN FRANCISCO — No matter what else happens in his career, Ty Blach will always be the subject of a good trivia question. 

Who started on Opening Day for the San Francisco Giants in 2018?

It was not Madison Bumgarner, the franchise’s ace. It was not Johnny Cueto, who looked like a Cy Young candidate before his elbow started aching, or Jeff Samardzija, who was coming off a strong year. It was not Derek Holland, the former top prospect, or youngsters Dereck Rodriguez or Andrew Suarez, who may look back at 2018 as the year long big league careers started. 

It was Blach, the quiet third-year left-hander who wasn’t even supposed to be in the rotation. Bumgarner and Samardzija went down on back-to-back days late in the spring and Cueto’s schedule didn't line up, so Bruce Bochy turned to Blach, the latest profiled in this series looking back at the 2018 Giants. 

If you missed it earlier, here are reviews for Kelby Tomlinson and Chase d'Arnaud. 

What Went Right: Blach entered the season with a 2.23 ERA in seven appearances against the Dodgers, so it wasn’t really a surprise when he threw five shutout innings on Opening Day. When Joe Panik homered, Blach had a win over Clayton Kershaw. He became the first Giant other than Bumgarner, Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum to start on Opening Day since Barry Zito did so in 2008. 

Blach had a 4.25 ERA for the season but his numbers were much better out of the bullpen. In 34 relief appearances, Blach compiled a 3.17 ERA. Opposing hitters had an OPS that was nearly 100 points lower when Blach came out of the bullpen, and his strikeout rate jumped from a microscopic 4.9 K/9 as a starter to 6.7 as a reliever. Among NL pitchers who threw at least 50 relief innings, only San Diego’s Robbie Erlin did so in fewer appearances than Blach, who pitched 54 innings in 34 relief appearances. 

What Went Wrong: You don’t dream of being a long reliever, but Blach was moved out of the rotation after posting a 4.90 ERA through 12 starts and failing to complete at least six innings in eight of those starts. Opposing hitters had a .788 OPS against Blach the starter, and he was weirdly equal-opportunity; lefties hit him at a .289 clip in 2018 and righties batted .288. 

When Blach was not on his game, he was so hittable that he couldn’t live up to the long reliever role in those outings. Opposing hitters batted .451 when they put the first pitch in play and hit .343 against Blach with runners in scoring position. Among NL pitchers who threw at least 100 innings, only Homer Bailey allowed a higher opponents’ batting average than Blach. 

Contract Status: Blach made $5.65 million in 2018 and is not arbitration eligible until 2020. He did use an option, though, despite never pitching in the minors. Blach was optioned on July 25 and then recalled the next day when Brandon Belt went on the DL. It was a mistake by the front office, and it cost the Giants a second option year on Blach, who has one option remaining. 

The Future: Blach, 27, isn’t in the rotation plans any longer, but he could still carve out a nice niche as a long reliever who can spot-start. In today’s game, there’s a lot of value in being a left-handed reliever who can pitch two or three innings out of the bullpen and save your manager from burning others. Blach warms up quickly, has never had injury issues and bounces back well from outings, and he should be in next year’s bullpen as Bochy’s long man. 

Giants Review: Chase d'Arnaud takes the mound in sixth big league stop

Giants Review: Chase d'Arnaud takes the mound in sixth big league stop

SAN FRANCISCO — Everywhere the Giants went in the second half, Chase d’Arnaud seemed to know somebody. The visiting team usually stretches while the home team is finishing batting practice, and it was a common sight to see d’Arnaud walk over and chat with a former teammate or coach. 

Part of that is d’Arnaud’s personality. He’s as energetic and friendly as any ballplayer. But part of that is also the fact that, well, d’Arnaud has played with a lot of different teammates. The Giants were d’Arnaud’s sixth organization in the last five seasons, and he ended up getting 100 big league plate appearances. Here’s a rundown of the highs and lows … 

What Went Right: Look, the numbers don’t lie — d’Arnaud tied Pablo Sandoval and 18 others for the NL lead in ERA. That's a fact. He took the mound for the first time on August 19 in Cincinnati and recorded three flyouts while giving up a single. With that inning, d’Arnaud — like Sandoval — finished the year with a 0.00 ERA. He joined Sandoval and Matty Alou as the only position players in franchise history to pitch a scoreless inning.

With three homers, including two that gave the Giants a lead, d’Arnaud set a new career-high. He reached 100 plate appearances for just the third time as a big leaguer, playing every position but catcher and outfield. 

What Went Wrong: d’Arnaud hit .273 in his first 14 games but had just eight hits in 49 at-bats the rest of the way. All three of his homers came in that first stretch, and over the season’s final two months he had just three extra-base hits. The way to make your mark off the bench is to come through as a pinch-hitter, and he was just 1-for-15 in those situations with 10 strikeouts. 

Overall, d’Arnaud posted a .215/.253/.366 slash line. He showed off his speed in spring training, but at the big league level he had just two stolen bases. 

Contract Status: After signing a minor league deal last winter, d’Arnaud has gathered enough service time to be arbitration eligible. MLB Trade Rumors projects that he’ll make $800,000 if he goes through that process. 

The Future: It seems a no-brainer that d’Arnaud will be non-tendered by the Giants. They have younger, cheaper options as infield depth and they need his 40-man roster spot. D’Arnaud did everything that was asked of him and was good in the clubhouse (he does an amazing job of interacting with fans, too), but the Giants invite two or three middle infield non-roster invitees to camp every year and will do so again. Perhaps d’Arnaud will be part of that mix in 2019, or perhaps he’ll continue his tour, adding a seventh big league hat to the collection.