Giants

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

SAN FRANCISCO — With the winning run on second and a bat in his hands, Cory Gearrin allowed himself to dream. He was a second baseman at Mercer University years ago and he entered the night with a 1.000 batting average in the big leagues. Why couldn’t this be his night on the mound and at the plate?

Gearrin stopped on the way to the plate and told Buster Posey that he was going to walk it off. He dug in against right-hander Chad Qualls and waited for the first sinker. He swung over the top of it, but he felt it was a quality hack. And then he missed the next sinker, and then the next. 

“I felt good going into that at-bat,” Gearrin said. “It was fun getting that opportunity. I’ve never faced a sinker like that. I felt like I missed it … by a lot.”

Gearrin can take solace in two facts. First, using his own sinker, he pitched three shutout innings, more than earning his keep, and he was a well-deserved winning pitcher in a 4-3 win over the Rockies that became official one minute after midnight.

Second, perhaps he gave the next hitter, Denard Span, a better view of an opposing pitcher’s repertoire. 

“Yeah ... he gave me a lot of information during that at-bat,” Span said as he laughed. 

Okay, so maybe Gearrin’s contributions were limited to the mound, but oh what a job he did against one of the best lineups in the National League. Span didn’t glean anything from Gearrin’s brief battle, but he didn’t need to. He spat on a changeup and then ripped a sinker into right, allowing Gorkys Hernandez to race home for a 14th-inning victory. 

Span, who is open about his distrust of birds, had spent nearly two hours standing under a circling flock of seagulls. Between pitches, he often dropped his hands onto his knees, looking more eager than anyone for the night to end. 

“Those birds were dropping stuff all around me,” he said. “I was like, you know what man, I don’t got time for this.”

The single gave the Giants back-to-back wins for the first time since May 27-28. It validated so much good work, from the five relievers who got the ball to Gearrin, to the Brandons who turned a snazzy double play in the 11th, to Buster Posey, who twice threw out runners at second in extra innings. Gearrin shouted out the defense in his post game media session. 

“It’s not news to us that we’ve got gold glovers all over the field,” he said. 

The Giants trailed by a pair after Matt Cain hung a curveball to Mark Reynolds, but they chipped away. The Rockies were the jumpier team in extra innings, but every rally was cut down by stellar defense and quality pitches. Gearrin threw 34 of them. 

The veteran right-hander had never before recorded more than six outs in a big league game. He got nine outs Tuesday, giving Bochy one extension after another as he battled to make it through a game shorthanded. With Conor Gillaspie headed to the DL, the Giants had just three position players on the bench. That meant Ty Blach was used as a pinch-runner. Jeff Samardzija pinch-hit in the 11th. Bochy thought of using Matt Moore in the 14th when the pitcher’s spot came up. Hunter Strickland was warming up to pitch the 15th, but …

“I could have hit Moore — I probably should have,” Bochy said, smiling. “But Cory is a pretty good athlete and had a pretty good average going into that at-bat. The numbers swayed me.”

Gearrin got his first career at-bat last season and singled. He has not even taken batting practice since that day, but he was fired up when given the opportunity. He was still so fired up after the Giants chased Span into the outfield that he didn’t mind the fact that his shiny 1.000 batting average has been cut in half. 

“I got to use that line for a year,” he said. “But I’ll gladly sacrifice the 1.000 average for a walk-off win.”

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers, but release 20 players

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers, but release 20 players

The end of the month brought a bit of good news for most Giants minor leaguers, but a potentially career-ending blow for 20 of them.

The Giants have extended their stipend program for minor leaguers through at least June 30, continuing to guarantee them $400 per week. At the same time, 20 minor league players were released Thursday, continuing a trend around the game.

The releases were not a surprise and did not involve any elite prospects. The players being let go around the game right now -- some estimates are that it could be more than 1,000 minor leaguers -- generally are players who were filling out minor league rosters and had slim chances of soon reaching the big leagues. But this is still a rough time for those players, many of whom will see their dreams end this year as the sport deals with the fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

With the draft shortened to five rounds and more than 40 minor league clubs already on the chopping block entering the season, big changes are expected over the next year regarding minor league baseball. Teams generally release prospects at the end of the spring and again before signing a new class of draft picks, but this year's group is larger than past ones. Baseball-America did research that showed teams release 22-25 minor leaguers through May in typical years, with 30-35 still falling in a normal range. The Giants had previously released 17 players in March.

[RELATED: Could Luciano make Giants roster? Zaidi considering it]

While there are some teams that have released significantly more prospects in recent days, others have committed to keeping all of their minor leaguers through the end of what would have been the minor league season. The Giants, by using June 30 as a date for extended pay, fall in line with most of the rest of the sport thus far, although they certainly have the resources to extend the program through August or even later at some point. 

The A's had previously informed minor leaguers that they will not pay players past May 31. When COVID-19 first shut down the sport, MLB announced stipends across the minors through that date.  

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Five Giants who have seen much more success when visiting the Rockies

Five Giants who have seen much more success when visiting the Rockies

The Giants and Rockies play 19 times every year, with three series at Coors Field and three at Oracle Park. Those games could not possibly be any more different. 

The ones in San Francisco tend to end with scores like 4-2, 2-1, or, in one wild case last year, 8-5. In Denver, it's predictably a free-for-all. There are normal games, to be sure, but the Giants also won one game last year at Coors Field by a score of 19-2. Another win was 11-8, and there was a 12-11 loss mixed in. 

That's the norm in the season series every year, with wild swings depending on where they play. There's just one real exception, and you know him well. Extrapolate Nolan Arenado's career stats at Oracle Park over a full season and you have 29 homers, 45 doubles and 95 RBI, albeit it with a .819 OPS that's nearly 200 points lower than his career mark at home.

Arenado breaks Giants' hearts no matter where he faces them, and they'll see the digital version of the third baseman in tonight's PlayStation simulation on NBC Sports Bay Area. Tonight's game would have been played in San Francisco, so it likely would have been low-scoring. 

But the Giants-Rockies matchup got us thinking: Which Giants would benefit most from switching ballparks? If you go through the roster, there are some serious outliers. Here are five Giants who stood out for their career numbers at Coors:

Buster Posey

Put Posey on the Rockies for a full season and he might take a run at his second MVP award. In 73 career games at Coors Field, Posey has a .368 average, .435 OBP and .610 slugging percentage that's 172 points higher than his mark in home games. He has 14 homers, his most in any ballpark other than Oracle. 

It all makes perfect sense. Posey has a middle-of-the-field approach, and while Coors is known for being a launching pad, it also has a massive outfield that provides Posey plenty of green to aim at. His .368 average there is the highest among active players and sixth-highest in the ballpark's history for players with more than 250 at-bats. 

The ballpark was particularly helpful in 2012 when he won his MVP award. Posey went 16-for-33 in Denver that year with three homers and nine RBI. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Donovan Solano

Like Posey, this veteran infielder has a solid approach that's tailor-made for the outfield at Coors. Solano went 9-for-18 last year with three homers and five RBI. He first played there in 2012, and overall he has a .306/.328/.597 slash line as a visitor.

Last year's demolition of Coors helped Solano become just the second player since 1979 to hit .400 on the road (minimum 100 plate appearances). He hit .402, joining Ichiro, who batted .405 on the road in 2004. 

Billy Hamilton 

There are others with better numbers -- most notably, Mike Yastrzemski loved Coors as a rookie -- but the new Giants center fielder stands out because he has never been known for his bat. At Coors Field, however, Hamilton has an .875 OPS in 18 games and a .382 OBP that's well above his low career mark (.297). 

Hamilton has never homered at Coors but has six doubles and two triples. He is a perfect 8-for-8 stealing bases. He's a perfect fit for the ballpark defensively, something that'll be fun to watch if the Giants ever make it there this summer. A ball in the gap could put us on inside-the-park watch, too. 

Evan Longoria

He has played most of his career in the American League, but he definitely took advantage of those rare trips to Coors Field, picking up 13 hits and three homers in nine games there while with the Rays. 

Longoria has kept that going as a Giant, and overall he's a .347 hitter in 18 starts at Coors Field, with a .405 OBP, .636 slugging percentage and six homers. Longoria even has four triples, his most in any ballpark other than Tropicana Field. 

[RELATED: Could Luciano make Giants roster? Zaidi considering it]

Wilmer Flores

Gabe Kapler will have some appealing options at first base for his first trip to Denver as a Giant. Brandon Belt has 10 career homers there, including a shot into the third deck a few years ago:

Flores, the right-handed newcomer, has had even more success from an OPS standpoint. He has a 1.054 mark in 15 career games in Denver, buoyed by a .423 on-base percentage. He has driven in 13 runs in just 46 at-bats there.