Rewind: Giants once again prove they're 'hard to kill'

Rewind: Giants once again prove they're 'hard to kill'

SAN FRANCISCO — After flying for four hours Sunday afternoon, the Giants held an optional workout at AT&T Park. Madison Bumgarner walked out to left field to play a light game of catch with Matt Moore. A couple of reserve infielders took grounders from bench coach Ron Wotus, and relievers stopped by the clubhosue to shake loose after a hectic week of travel.

Several regulars came in for treatment, but the rest headed for the garage tucked under the left field fence, getting into sports cars and oversized trucks and heading for the comforts of home. 

It was the quietest day of the year at AT&T Park, except for in one long corrider. In the batting cage behind the home dugout, Conor Gillaspie lined up by himself and hit baseballs until he felt he no longer needed to. Earlier, Joe Panik had done the same.

There is no way to prepare for the physical and mental carnage of a 13-inning, win-or-go-home game, but you can prepare for the moments that make up the classics. Gillaspie and Panik did, and in the biggest moments Tuesday, they came through. 

Gillaspie stunned Aroldis Chapman in the eighth and Panik walked off Mike Montgomery two hours later, at 11:43 p.m., sending Brandon Crawford flying around third as the Giants roared to a 6-5 win over the Cubs that allowed them to fight another day. They have won 10 straight elimination games, a postseason record. 

“We’re hard to kill,” a grateful Madison Bumgarner said in a joyous but weary clubhouse. 

Bumgarner is the game’s best example of a player who punches hardest when his back is against the wall. He entered the night having never allowed a run in an elimination game, and the Giants came in prepared to ride their horse once again. 

There would be no speech from Hunter Pence, however. Bruce Bochy stood in the middle of the clubhouse for about a minute and simply conveyed, “We’ve been here before.”

“There was not much else to say,” Panik said. 

The script was one the Giants followed to a title in 2014, and through the Wild Card Game last week. But Jake Arrieta threw a wrench into Bumgarner’s plans, hitting a three-run shot in the second inning that nearly ended the left-hander’s night and seemed to be the blow that would end the Giants’ season. Bumgarner had thrown two fastballs past Arrieta. A third landed in the second row of the left field bleachers. 

In an instant, AT&T Park understood what PNC Park felt like when Crawford hit a grand slam, and how Citi Field when Gillaspie hit a three-run homer. It was silent, the loudest sound being the grunting of the man on the mound as he tried to prevent a blowout. Bumgarner found a way through five, and in the dugout, players looked up at the scoreboard and saw a game still within reach. 

Bumgarner would not carry them to Game 4. But maybe he didn’t have to.

“It’s about time we did it for him,” Panik said. “He’s done so much for us. It’s about time we picked him up.”

The Giants got a run back in the third and another in the fifth. Arrieta recorded 18 outs, and from there the countdown started. The Giants appeared to have two more innings to tie the game. Chapman, who closed out the first two in dominant fashion, loomed. 

That wasn’t how the Cubs viewed it, though. They did not pay a bounty at the trade deadline to limit Chapman to the ninth, and when Brandon Belt singled to lead off the eighth and Buster Posey walked, Chapman came on for a six-out save. 

When he struck Hunter Pence out, the path seemed clear. Chapman had faced 20 left-handed hitters as a Cub and struck out 12 of them. Only two had recorded hits. If Gillaspie knew what he was in for, it did not seem to bother him. Chapman reached back for a 101 mph fastball and Gillaspie smacked it toward the 421-feet sign in right-center. As the ball left his bat, Gillaspie lost track of it. 

“I knew I hit it good,” he said. “At that point, you just put your head down and run.”

When he stopped, he was on third. The Giants had a 5-3 lead. Five days after stunning one All-Star closer, he had downed another. He had done it on the fastest pitch he had seen in the big leagues, no less. 

“Just fire your hands at it, I guess,” Gillaspie said. 

He shrugged and looked up for the next question. It cannot be that simple to hit triple digits, he was told. 

“I don’t know what else to say,” he answered quietly. “You practice right, and you hope it comes out right in the game. A lot of times it doesn’t.”

The Giants continued to live right, at least momentarily. Crawford followed Gillaspie’s triple with a single that padded the lead. Panik drew a walk, ending Chapman’s night as Joe Maddon started saving bullets for Game 4. It nearly didn’t come. 

Sergio Romo solidified the ninth inning after the blown save tracker reached 30, but the man who threw the final pitch of the 2012 season was not able to throw the final one Monday. Romo hung a slider to Kris Bryant, and when a moonshot landed on top of the Chevron cartoon car on the left field wall and skipped onward, the teams were headed for extra innings. 

On they went, stranding runners and trading zeros until the 13th. Rookie Ty Blach, the fifth Giants reliever, coaxed a double play to get out of the top of the inning. Montgomery, the sixth Cubs reliever, was greeted by a Crawford double as he started his fifth inning of grueling work. His 57th pitch of the night was a 92 mph fastball, and Panik pulled it to deep right. He jogged down the line, both eyes on the ball as he urged time to move along. 

“Everything was in slow motion,” he said.

When the ball ricocheted safely off an archway, Panik lifted one arm. Crawford raced home and the rest of the Giants rushed for Panik, who put his arms up to protect himself from celebratory punches and slaps. There were no bumps or bruises, but an hour later, he walked slowly through an emptying clubhouse, the adrenaline having worn off and reality setting in. 

Players shuffled out of the clubhouse knowing that the big win will be lost to the bigger picture if it is not repeated. Panik had responded to Saturday's loss by saying that you can’t win three elimination games before you win one. He repeated that mantra Tuesday, with a twist. The Giants have taken 10 straight with the season on the line. They still need to get to 12.

“Fortunately, we’ve had a lot of success in these games,” Posey said. “But at the same time, it’s one win. We’ve still got our work cut out for us. You quickly enjoy this game, and then you get ready to go tomorrow.”

MLB rumors: Why Giants should trade for Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray


MLB rumors: Why Giants should trade for Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray

The Sonny Gray era in New York appears to be coming to an end, and the Giants should pounce at the chance to add the former Cy Young candidate. 

According to Fancred's Jon Heyman, the Yankees are pushing hard to complete a Gray trade soon. He also lists the Giants as one of seven teams that have been involved as possible partners, and perhaps recent favorites.

Why would the Giants want to trade for someone that had a 4.90 ERA in only 130 innings and a whopping 1.50 WHIP last season? The numbers aren't that simple. 

It all starts with Yankee Stadium, or "The Sandbox in the Bronx." Gray had a brutal 6.98 ERA in 15 games in his home park in 2018, but a great 3.17 ERA in 15 games away from it. His WHIP went from 1.91 in New York to 1.16 at all other ballparks. 

The Yankees are known as the Bronx Bombers for a reason. They turn games into Home Run Derby in their own backyard. Now imagine being on the other side of the ball, the one who throws the pitches and sees a pop-up turn into a jog around the bases. 

When looking at Park Factors, which compares the rate of stats at home versus the rate of stats on the road, Yankee Stadium was the sixth-best home run park in the league. It's no coincidence Gray allowed 11 home runs there and only three on the road. 

By comparison, AT&T Park Oracle Park was the second-worst ballpark for home runs last season by Park Factors. 

It's well known that the Giants play in one of the most pitcher-friendly places in all of baseball. Gray has never had the luxury of pitching in San Francisco -- he's also never pitched at Petco Park (Padres) or Coors Field (Rockies) -- but he's only allowed two earned runs in 15.1 innings combined at Chase Field (Diamondbacks) and Dodger Stadium. 

Gray, 29, could thrive in a new environment like San Francisco -- especially by working with his old pitching coach Curt Young again. Young was Gray's pitching coach on the A's, when Gray had his most success (including a third-place finish for the Cy Young Award in 2015).

As Gray is a free agent after 2019 season, he could either help the Giants contend this season or become a valuable trade chip if San Francisco is out of the playoff hunt by the July 31 trade deadline. 

In an offseason where bringing back Derek Holland has been the biggest move, it's time to take a chance and make it Sonny in the Bay again.

Giants Mailbag: Is there an ideal fit still out there on the market?


Giants Mailbag: Is there an ideal fit still out there on the market?

SAN FRANCISCO — On Friday, we will be one month from the first full-squad workout at Scottsdale Stadium.

If the Giants gathered today, they would look eerily similar to the team that finished far out of contention last season. 

That should change, of course. Team officials expect to make multiple additions over the next three weeks, taking advantage as prices continue to fall for the dozens of quality free agents still on the market. Trade talks have remained steady, too. 

But right now, we’re still in the midst of an extremely quiet offseason. On Wednesday, Ahmed Fareed joined me for a lengthy podcast that went over the slow pace, the Harper-Machado markets, the issues with the CBA, young players vying for jobs and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

Thank you to everyone who sent questions along. There were so many that it’s time to add a mailbag to the podcast … 

Sign Marwin Gonzalez as a super utility, seems like a Zaidi kinda guy, provided he’s not too expensive. Then look to trade him at the deadline to a team in the hunt. - @brayden_cleland

Longtime listeners of the podcast know that Gonzalez has been my target throughout this offseason. He could be the opening day left fielder and provide depth throughout the infield, and he would add some pop. He has been connected to some contenders — primarily the Braves, lately — but for the most part, he has been out of the headlines.

It’s possible Gonzalez is waiting to see where Harper and Machado end up, knowing that the teams that miss out will have plenty of money left to spend. 

The second part of this question is interesting to me because we don’t quite know what Zaidi thinks of no-trade clauses. Bobby Evans handed them out to just about everyone, and the Giants are paying for that. You can bet Zaidi would like to avoid doing the same. But it’s possible that veterans — like Gonzalez — will make that a prerequisite of signing with a team that’s not looking like a contender. It’ll be interesting to see how Zaidi handles the no-trade issue. 

Will Watson and Smith both be traded this year? What teams do you think are the best trade partners? - @Dc_cargo

I would be surprised if they’re both on the Opening Day roster. Ahmed made a good point on the podcast, predicting that the Giants will actually make their trade during spring training. There will be a team that loses a valuable reliever to injury during spring training, and perhaps that’s when Zaidi will pounce. 

Before then, I still think there’s a strong chance that Smith gets dealt. Team officials were awfully shy about naming him the closer when they gathered in Las Vegas last month, and they’ve made no secret of the fact that they get calls on Smith. Andrew Baggarly mentioned the Angels as a team that’s been hot on Giants relievers.

This is just my speculation, but if the Red Sox aren’t able to bring Kimbrel back, Smith could make a ton of sense for them. With Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton in New York, the Red Sox certainly have some work to do to keep up with their rival. 

How does the Giants brass feel about possibly sharing Oracle Park with the Raiders next season? - @SportsAnthony

I’m sure there are mixed feelings throughout the organization. Some people I’ve talked to were shocked that this was an option, but at the same time, it could bring some serious cash into the organization, and this remains a business.

The Giants looked seriously into having an XFL team play at AT&T Park when that league reboots, so they’re prepared to continue hosting occasional football games. I checked on this about a week ago and was told it’s still possible that the Giants and Raiders strike a deal. 

Is Zaidi going to keep the infield and try to trade bullpen pieces for a veteran outfielder? Also, how does the rotation stack up for you? Bum, D Rod, Holland, Suarez, Stratton? Will they trade Samardzija? Will Pablo and Longoria platoon at third? Better athlete...Ahmed or Alex. - @Hardeepd2

A lot to unpack here. If the Giants do trade a Smith or Watson, they won’t be aiming to get veterans back. The goal in any deal right now is to get young cost-controlled contributors who have options remaining. Think of it as trying to get another team’s Andrew Suarez or Steven Duggar. Zaidi wants flexibility. 

It’s just about impossible to trade a guy with a shoulder injury, so the best the Giants can do with Samardzija is hope he’s healthy — his throwing program is said to be going well — and run him out there as part of the rotation, either for their own benefit or to rebuild his trade value before July 31. Right now, it’s Bumgarner, Rodriguez, Holland, Samardzija, and Suarez in some order. 

RELATED: [What Zaidi learned from Muncy, Taylor discovery]

They won’t put Longoria in a straight platoon, although I think all the veterans will lose some time when the matchups are right. Longoria doesn’t have huge splits but I still think they’ll give him more rest. 

As for the final question, this is certainly something we should have settled when the Giants were losing every day in September and we were trying to figure out what to talk about on the pre-game show … 

Any thoughts on Adam Jones? - @jakewilcken420

On a cheap, one-year deal that puts him in an outfield corner? Sure. There’s no harm in that, and the roster certainly needs a veteran right-handed bat in the outfield. But I think there’s a fine line with some of the remaining veterans. You look over the outfield list and at some point, you reach a point where you might as well throw Williamson, Slater, Shaw, Gerber, and Ferguson out there and let them sink or swim.

A big part of the 2019 season is figuring out who can be part of a more potent team in 2020, and the Giants won’t do that if they give too many at-bats to 33-year-olds.