Giants

Rewind: Casilla's balk-off gives Giants 18th blown save

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Rewind: Casilla's balk-off gives Giants 18th blown save

SAN DIEGO — Try to wrap your heads around this one: The team with the best record in the Majors also has the most blown saves. 

One part of that sentence allows the Giants to sleep easier on nights like this. They are still, even after a 7-6 balk-off loss to the Padres that clinched a series loss here in San Diego, the best team in baseball record-wise. The other part of that sentence keeps the staff up at nights.

The Giants continually walk a tight rope in the late innings, and Santiago Casilla stumbled off of it Saturday, balking home the winning run and giving the Giants 18 blown saves in 92 games. 

Casilla’s night would have stood out regardless. He gave up three singles and two runs in the 10th. But it was magnified by what Sergio Romo did an inning earlier. The former closer struck out two in a perfect inning, throwing an unfair slider to Wil Myers and freezing Matt Kemp with a clever two-seamer. 

Afterward, Bochy tried to quiet any talk of switching roles. He said the Giants had this night set up just the way they wanted.

“One guy threw well, the other guy struggled,” Bochy said. “I don’t want to get in a situation where you’re flip-flopping guys. If you have to tweak it, you do. But Santiago, it’s been a while since he’s had a hiccup. He’s had a lot of rest (the last week), maybe too much, to where he wasn’t sharp.”

Casilla had locked up nine straight save opportunities and he had given up a run in just once of his previous 11 appearances. But this one was off the rails from the start. 

Casilla fell behind Alex Dickerson 2-0 and then gave up a single. Derek Norris lined a 2-1 fastball for another single. Casilla lost track of Norris, and he alertly stole second. 

“You get behind that first batter, that’s always tough,” catcher Buster Posey said. “The ball that Noris hit was a little more on the plate.”

Adam Rosales fell behind 0-2 but Casilla threw two straight in the dirt before Rosales poked a single past a drawn-in infield. With Alexei Ramirez up, Casilla came toward the plate and stumbled, his cleat sticking in the dirt. He tried to throw the ball anyway but the damage was done.

“It looked a little discombobulated on that balk,” Bochy said. “He’s going home and gets caught. He did the right thing and threw the ball. But he stutter-stepped and that was it, a balk.”

Casilla said his mechanics were fine on the pitch. His foot simply caught.

“It’s always frustrating,” he said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “What’s more frustrating is I felt really good.”

What was more frustrating for the Giants was that they spent hours trying to fight back from a rough start. Jeff Samardzija gave up two homers and five runs in the first three innings, but he settled in near the end of his start and the bullpen let the lineup catch up. Angel Pagan hit a big homer and Mac Williamson and Ramiro Pena went deep in the sixth to tie it. 

Posey hit a high shot to right in the top of the 10th, his first career extra-innings homer. The Giants looked headed for a thrilling win, but it wasn’t to be. They have lost two in a row to a team they beat nine straight times in the first half. 

“Yesterday we seemed a little sluggish, but I thought today everything seemed normal,” Posey said. 

--- The Giants got good news on Hunter Pence. He came out of his rehab game after just three innings and was holding his right hamstring, but he might actually play on Sunday as planned. Bochy said Pence told trainers that the problem actually occurred when he was hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance, not on his single in the third. 

“He was trying to get out of the way and he thinks he aggravated,” the hamstring, Bochy said. “It got a little sore. We were being cautious.”

The Giants will reevaluate Pence on Sunday and he might be cleared to play. Originally, he was scheduled to play five innings Sunday and then take Monday off.  

MLB rumors: Former Giants GM Bobby Evans interviewed for Astros job

MLB rumors: Former Giants GM Bobby Evans interviewed for Astros job

A little over a year after he was fired, former Giants general manager Bobby Evans could land on his feet.

Evans interviewed for the open Astros general manager position, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday, citing sources.

Evans spent four seasons as the general manager of the Giants before being reassigned within the organization at the end of the 2018 season. Including the 2019 season, Evans has spent the last 26 seasons in San Francisco.

The Astros are in need of a new GM and manager after Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch were fired in the fallout from the sign-stealing scandal that has rocked baseball in recent weeks.

The Astros are tainted at the moment, but Evans would be inheriting a roster that still possesses the talent to compete for a World Series, with or without trash cans.

While serving as assistant general manager for the Giants, Evans helped lead to the team to World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. But his tenure as GM wasn't as successful. A lot of the moves Evans made, including the signings of Mark Melancon, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Denard Span, didn't lead to the desired results.

[RELATED: Evans' dismissal hard on Giants players]

With Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris at the helm of the Giants, it makes sense for Evans to consider outside opportunities, even if the Astros are the blackeye of baseball.

Both Evans and the Astros need second chances, so this could be the perfect marriage if the two sides can come to an agreement.

Giants Mailbag: Could young starting pitchers be headed for bullpen?

Giants Mailbag: Could young starting pitchers be headed for bullpen?

While the Bay Area focused on the 49ers this week, the Giants had their eyes on a different patch of grass. They're currently holding their developmental camp in Scottsdale, giving prospects an early chance to impress before the real fun starts next month:

We're two weeks from FanFest, and a few days after that, the players will actually take the field under new manager Gabe Kapler for the first time. Baseball season is coming fast, so let's run through another round of Giants questions (from my Instagram followers) as we wait for pitchers and catchers to report ... 

"In all seriousness Alex -- why should I watch/spend money on the Giants in 2020?" -- erniepomin

Well, first of all, we have a new state-of-the-art set that'll allow us to do a lot of cool things on the pre-game show next season, so that's a start. Plus, Kruk and Kuip! Come on, that's all you need. 

As for the team, I've long said that I'll never tell people how to spend their money when it comes to the Giants. It can get expensive, so if you'd prefer to sit out a couple years, you have every right to do so. But, I do think this season is going to be more interesting than the past couple. 

I happen to think "youth breaking through" is an intriguing storyline, so shortstop Mauricio Dubon and pitchers Tyler Beede and Logan Webb could provide plenty of reasons to watch early on. Catcher Joey Bart will be up at some point this year, and there's a chance that somebody like outfielder Jaylin Davis or infielder Chris Shaw finally puts it together.

Every Johnny Cueto start has the chance to provide plenty of entertainment regardless of the team's record.

Regardless of your feelings about Gabe Kapler, I do think it'll be interesting watching a different manager pull the levers for the first time in over a decade. If you're tuning in expecting to watch a win, you'll be disappointed more often than not. But if you try and view this as the start of something, I think you'll have a lot more fun in 2020. 

Are the Giants one of the rumored teams to have made a multi-year offer to Ozuna?" -- mgmatter17

I never once heard of any interest in Marcell Ozuna this offseason, and the fit wasn't really there. He's a good player, but not a game-changer, the type you re-arrange all your (rebuild) plans for. And if he was looking to re-establish his value as a power hitter, Oracle Park is a terrible place to play. 

"Is Sean Hjelle going to be one of the main focuses for at least early spring training?" -- aedinbratton18

Hjelle, the organization's top pitching prospect, is always going to be a focus purely because of his height. You can bet that early in camp someone will tweet out a photo of him dwarfing his fellow pitchers. 

But seriously, he will get plenty of attention for what he's capable of. He spent limited time in San Jose so we haven't really seen much of him, and it's going to be fascinating to see what his mechanics look like in early bullpen sessions. Hopefully, he's able to get into a game or two before getting sent to minor league camp. 

"Who will be the Giants' ace now that Bum is gone?" -- dianebertocchinoonan

Cueto has done it before, but he is coming back from Tommy John and there's a decent chance he gets traded before the end of his deal. Long term, this is a hell of a question.

Beede and Webb have the stuff to get there eventually and Hjelle is their top pitching prospect, but the organization is pretty thin on high-end starting pitching. I don't think you can look at anyone the Giants have right now and think, "He's going to start on Opening Day in 2022."

"If Beede or Webb don't make the rotation, do you think they'd let them pitch out of the bullpen?" -- _juanvillaseno_

This is a question we'll legitimately be asking in a couple weeks, because Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Drew Smyly and Kevin Gausman have the inside track on four spots. Either one of these young guys could be a good bullpen piece, but the Giants aren't ready to go there. 

They really made a commitment last year to giving Beede a shot in the rotation, even when he had some brutal starts, and he showed what he's capable of at times. The Giants are going to give him every opportunity to make the rotation his long-term home. As for Webb, there's been enough "innings limit" talk this offseason that it seems likely he starts the year in the minors, but he's definitely still a starter. 

[RELATED: Giants sign veteran Drew Smyly]

The caveat here is that I do think the Giants will try some new things this year, using semi-regular openers and potentially "piggybacking" guys, allowing them to go 3-4 innings at a time. That might lead to some "relief" appearances for young starters. 

"Why will Logan Webb have an innings limit this season?" -- tyler.j.burton

Webb threw 104 2/3 innings in 2018 but was limited to 103 across all levels last season because of the suspension. Ideally, he would have gotten around 130-140 last year, but that wasn't possible, so the Giants will hold him back a bit this season so he's not jumping from 103 to 160-170. 

Remember, he just turned 23. His health is a priority right now, even if that costs him some time in the Majors. 

"Will ticket prices drop this season with the current state of the team?" -- rioscristian15

I'm not sure of exact rates -- the Giants usually talk about that side of the business at their media day in March. I will say, it's pretty easy to find a cheap ticket to a game on the secondary market during the season. A lot of fans told me they were getting in for like $6 the last couple of seasons. Take advantage of the lack of interest while you can. 

"Which core veteran player is most likely to have a good bounce-back year?" -- shockmaan

I know the staff is really excited about working with Brandon Belt and there's a belief that Buster Posey will be much more productive after a normal offseason. I don't know which veteran is most likely to bounce back, but I will say I'm most curious to see what kind of season Brandon Crawford turns in. 

He's 33 now, but he's athletic enough that the age shouldn't be an issue yet, and he's not far removed from All-Star caliber play. Crawford hit .292./.363/.462 in the first half of 2018 and basically carried the lineup for weeks at a time. There are newcomers to the organization who have looked back at that stretch to see what the difference was, because it really wasn't that long ago. 

"Any way to find out if they are adding anything crazy to the menu like a 25-inch corndog?" -- takem84

The Giants traditionally unveil new menu items and giveaways at their media day. Last year, I asked my bosses if a cameraman could follow me around as I ate every single thing at the stadium and they somehow said yes. That ultimately led to me standing in the heat at SunTrust Park eating a burger covered in chicken tenders, nacho cheese and tater tots. Life comes at you fast. 

"Favorite restaurant to hit up during spring training?" -- uscgabe

The lock of the spring is that every Giants beat writer and a dozen team employees will be at ChopShop after the first team workout on February 12. That's the go-to for lunch, and The Mission is the place you have to hit up for dinner. I also try to visit Rudy's BBQ a couple of times because it's a Texas treasure that has somehow found its way to Arizona.

(Full disclosure: There's a Chick-fil-A outside half the Cactus League ballparks and a Shake Shack in the Scottsdale mall, so spring training is peak "This place doesn't exist in San Francisco so I might as well go here 17 times while I'm in Scottsdale" season.)