Bochy: 'They finally broke out'
Brett Pill and Roger Kieschnick drove in six of the Giants' nine runs on Wednesday night. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
In his MLB debut Wednesday night, Roger Kieschnick went 2-for-5 with two RBI. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
PHILADELPHIA – One of the things that makes Brandon Crawford a good shortstop is that he takes a direct path to the ball.
He takes a direct path to most questions put to him, too.
Crawford echoed the same remarks made by several of his teammates after the Giants followed a quiet trade deadline with a loose and inspired 9-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies Wednesday night. He said he was glad that GM Brian Sabean didn’t sell any parts.
“I like our team how it is now,” Crawford said.
But it is a fifth-place team. It’s a team that went 8-17 in July, has the worst record in the majors since May 14 and just put together the franchise’s worst two months in 22 years.
What logic could anyone employ to say they like the Giants as they are now?
“Because pretty much the same team last year won the World Series,” said Crawford, expertly playing the short hop. “I’m sure that’s a pretty easy answer. But I think we have a good group of guys. We have good chemistry. We all get along. We have a lot of good players, even though it may not look that way at times.”
There’s usually a bounce in the clubhouse when the GM shows enough confidence to buy at the non-waiver trade deadline. This time, the Giants got the bounce because Sabean decided not to sell.
It was a signal to the group that this season and this month – their 8-17 July is their lowest winning percentage in a calendar month in nine years – represent an aberration, and not their true selves.
Javier Lopez spoke of the Giants “honoring their commitment” to him. And Hunter Pence was so happy that he almost looked ready to deliver another version of his “I want one more day with you” speech from last October.
Pence will get two more months, at least. And if the Giants can set aside everything else and play better than .500 ball the rest of the way, that’s a bit of brightness they can take into next season.
It made Crawford even more pleased at the two hitters in the lineup who carried the flashlights on a moonless night. Roger Kieschnick was his teammate going back to 2006, when they played on a Team USA squad that traveled all over the country and to Cuba. He was his roommate in Single-A San Jose. And Kieschnick was one of just two baseball people – minor league catcher Tyler La Torre was the other – to be in his wedding party.
Kieschnick collected a two-strike, RBI single in his first big league at-bat. Then in the third inning, he contributed another.
“Awesome,” Crawford said. “Just watching him do what he did in his debut was a lot of fun. … He’s been a fastball hitter as long as I’ve known him. So to see him getting his first hit on a changeup, that showed me something.”
Ask some of the homegrown Giants to name a player or two in the minor leagues that would produce if given an everyday chance and you’ll hear Kieschnick and Brett Pill mentioned most often.
Pill is 6 for 9 in two games since he was seatmates with Kieschnick on a flight from Fresno on Monday. He had three hits, four RBIs and snapped the club’s 90-inning streak without a home run when he went deep in the seventh.
Together, Kieschnick and Pill drove in six runs. That’s a cornucopia for a club that had only scored five runs once in 11 games since the break.
Starting pitcher Chad Gaudin could only think of one way to describe it: “Really uplifting.”
Kieschnick described his debut another way: “Kind of a blur.”
In the stands were his parents, a cousin, two high school buddies, his high school coach and his host family, the Smiths, from when he played in San Jose. And on the field, a former Team USA roommate, of course. A third member of that 2008 draft class, Buster Posey, was Kieschnick’s roommate when they played for the Waikiki Beach Boys in the fledgling Hawaiian winter league.
Gregor Blanco was watching out for Kieschnick, too. He told the left fielder to take a step back with Darin Ruf at the plate in the second inning.
“The next pitch, it was over my head,” said Kieschnick, who made a leaping catch at the track. "Thank you, Gregor."
Kieschnick is known as a plus defensive outfielder with an above average arm. It was his approach at the plate that most impressed Bochy.
“He was impressive with how patient he was with two strikes,” said Bochy, who nonetheless plans to start Jeff Francoeur against left-hander Cole Hamels on Thursday. “He went the other way. For his first game, he showed a lot of poise.”
It might have helped that Kieschnick batted seventh behind Pill, whom he was accustomed to watching from the on-deck circle in Fresno.
“Today I was more excited to see him play,” Pill said. “I was just having fun trying to get on base for him, because I’ve seen how he’s been swinging it.”
Kieschnick became the first Giant to collect an RBI in his first career at-bat since Pill. And lest anyone forget, Pill hit a homer in his debut at-bat.
By the time Pill and Kieschnick sprayed their two-out, RBI singles in the first inning, the Giants had four runs – their biggest rally since the break. And that, more than anything, helped the Giants realize that yes, they like their team how it is.
“The fact the trade deadline is over, sure, that might have helped relax the guys,” Bochy said. “Once they started getting hits early, the guys got their confidence back and the kids came through. It lifted the club. We can do this.”
Crawford had an even more direct take on it.
“Just scoring runs early,” he said. “It’s not like we go into every game really tight or worried about what we did the game before. I don’t, personally. It’s more as the game is going on, it’s like we’re losing and we have to score a run. That’s when we put too much pressure on ourselves or end up playing tight.”