Giants must forget the past, focus on Bochy's magic 2013 shirt

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Giants must forget the past, focus on Bochy's magic 2013 shirt

The eleventh celebration of the decade for the San Francisco Giants was surprisingly long in duration and exuberant by volume of alcohol dripping off the ceiling and trod into the clubhouse carpet. They did not act, to be sure, “like they’d been there before.”

But all history starts with the immediate, and given the circumstances, they could be forgiven for thinking that this wild-card berth felt a lot like any of their World Series.

That’s the beauty of exhaustion fueled by relief, though. Life in the minefield doesn’t seem so bad the moment you’re on the other side of danger, safe and with all your limbs where they started.

Of course, choosing to forget about the minefield immediately is another way to do it.

While the Giants players, coaches, executives and staff and ancillary family members all celebrated the Giants’ return to the postseason, proudly wore the latest MLB wear-this-under-pain-of-death giveaway, an industrial strength gray T-shirt that said “BACK TO OCTOBER,” Bruce Bochy sat in his office wearing a weary smile and his own beer-sozzled shirt -- one that proudly read “2013 SPRING TRAINING” in red and gold letters that looked like he’d bought it at an Iowa State rummage sale.

“I wore it the other day against Colorado,” he said almost sheepishly as he basked in the mutant-green glow of Sunday’s 7-1 win over the Los Angeles Scullys, and the upcoming Wednesday do-or-golf play-in game in New York. “And I’ve been wearing it ever since.”

Hey, anyone can wear a new freebie, but only the most skilled people in closest contact with the occult can feel the magic in an old, generic, off-brand freebie from the bottom of the locker.

Bochy had watched Matt Moore make his job easy Sunday, just as he had watched Ty Blach do the same thing a day ago, and Madison Bumgarner the day before that, and Johnny Cueto the day before that. He watched hit follow hit as a belated and refreshing change, and nine multiple-run innings in the last 32, after 10 in the previous 90. He watched Sergio Romo bolt down a seemingly rusted-out bullpen.

He watched, frankly, 2012 compressed into four desperate days. And he remembered how it felt to be the master of his surroundings again.

“It’s hard to think of what the hardest one was,” he said when asked if making the play-in game Wednesday against the Mets was the toughest hill his platoon has had to climb. “But all the fighting we had to do to survive, all the struggles, knowing we couldn’t afford to lose any of these games . . . I guess they just needed to feel their backs against the wall.”

No, the Giants didn’t save their best for last in sweeping the Dodgers during Vin-A-Palooza. They actually used their best in the first 90 games of the season, and all the math shows it. These last four wins (including the last game against Colorado) were, in fact, their first and only four-game win streak of the second half.

You know who had more? Every other team, save San Diego and Miami.

On the other hand, they failed to become the first team ever to have the best record before the All-Star Break and the worst after it – they passed Minnesota, Philadelphia and the Padres in the last week. So they blew that narrative, too.

Which brings us to the resident sage, Grandmaster Sabes. The general manager emeritus, Brian Sabean, stood in the hallway, away from the damp and musty madness, and looked at the season as he had never had the luxury to do before – from afar.

“You know what people don’t get?” he said, priming exactly the kind of rhetorical question he used to loathe when they were being asked of him. “They don’t get the power of the grind, and how hard it gets. They don’t get how the longer you’re in it, a season is actually one long game, that yesterday’s game affects today’s game and today’s game affects tomorrow’s game. It’s like life. Eventually, the past doesn’t matter.”

Especially when the past was as bad as the last two months.

“It was kind of weird the way we could never get any traction in the second half until right at the end,” catcher Buster Posey said. “We’d win a big one, and the next day we couldn’t do a thing. We’d win a couple but we couldn’t get the third one to build off.

“That’s why this is different than two years ago (when the Giants had to go to Pittsburgh to beat the Pirates in a play-in game behind Bumgarner). That time, we knew we were pretty much in it for the last week. This time, it came down to the end, and so that was different. I guess we’ll see if that was better or worse.”

Actually, it can’t be better than winning it all, but it could tie, which the Giants would cheerfully take.

Mostly, though, we will now see if the Giants can ignore the first half, which was full of false positives, the second half, which was full of frightening negatives, and even the last four games, when they did everything they wanted to do whenever they wanted. They even have to forget 2010, 2012 and 2014, because history doesn’t get them past Noah Syndergaard or the Chicago Cubs or Washington Nationals or the Fightin’ Scullys of whatever the American League tosses out in the World Series. Only the actual baseball does that.

They need, in short, to forget all of the past – except, of course, the improbable spring training of 2013, when nothing much happened of note except that elves, pixies and sprites combined to make one magic t-shirt and threw it in Bruce Bochy’s travel bag – perhaps for just this eventuality.

Dodgers claim former Giants RHP Chris Heston off waivers

Dodgers claim former Giants RHP Chris Heston off waivers

Chris Heston will always go down in Giants history. 

On June 9, 2015, Heston hurled the 17th no-hitter in club history in the Giants' 5-0 win over the Mets at Citi Field. Now two years later, Heston is one of the Giants' rivals. 

The Dodgers claimed Heston off waivers Friday, the club announced. He went 0-1 with a 19.80 ERA over two appearances -- one start -- for the Mariners this season. 

After the 2016 season, the Giants traded Heston to the Mariners for a player to be named later, who still hasn't been named to date. 

Heston went 13-12 with a 4.16 ERA over 38 games pitched for the Giants from 2014-16. 

Down on the Farm: Crick continues to impress as River Cats' closer

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USATSI

Down on the Farm: Crick continues to impress as River Cats' closer

Long before there were Giants pitching prospects like Ty Blach and Tyler Beede, Kyle Crick was the talk of the town and for good reason. 

San Francisco selected Crick with their sandwich-pick in the Compensation A Round, No. 49 overall, as a power-throwing right-handed Texas high school arm in 2011. Quickly he showed his immense potential on the mound and seemed to be on the fast track to The Show. 

In Crick’s first full season of minor league ball, he posted a 2.51 ERA to go with 128 strikeouts in 111.1 innings pitched for the Augusta GreenJackets at just 20 years old. One year later in 2013, he upped his game, pitching to the tune of a 1.57 ERA over 14 starts for the San Jose Giants and continued striking out batters at a high rate with 95 in 68.2 innings. 

But then, control issues hampered Crick, outweighing his high-90s fastball and ability to make batters whiff. He fell completely off prospect lists and saw plenty of other Giants pitchers leap him and make it to San Francisco. At one point, Crick even contemplated quitting. 

“When you are in those dark places and those tough spots, it’s hard to find the confidence,” Crick told the San Francisco Chronicle in March

Despite his struggles, the Giants’ front office still saw the potential in Crick and formed a new plan. Crick toyed with relief duties while also serving as a starter in 2015, but then started all 23 of his appearances the next year. Before the 2017 season, there was no more messing around. Crick is now a full-time reliever in Triple-A for the Sacramento River Cats, and as he’s able to rear back and fire his blazing fastball in no more than two innings at a time, he is thriving once again on the hill. 

Crick converted his fifth save of the season for the River Cats Thursday night in a 5-3 win over the Memphis Redbirds at Raley Field. With the game on the line, Crick didn’t make it easy loading the bases, but once again turned to his knack for the strikeout and struck out the side to preserve a River Cats victory. 

Over 16 games this season, all out of the bullpen, Crick is enjoying career reinventions. He owns an 0-1 record with a 3.20 ERA, his lowest since that eye-opening 2013 campaign. And Crick has struck out 28 batters in 19.2 innings pitched during the 2017 campaign. The power righty leads all Pacific Coast League relievers with his career-high 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Most importantly though, Crick’s control issues are long gone so far in his new role. 

Crick has only eight walks on the year. Just once, back on May 1, did he walk more than one batter in a game. From 2012-2016, Crick’s walks per nine innings went like so: 5.42, 5.11, 6.08, 9.43 and 5.53. As a reliever this season, that number has dropped down to a career-best 3.66. 

This is now Crick’s sixth full season in the minors and his first crack at Triple-A after three tries at Double-A. None of that matters. What does matter, is Crick’s young age of 24 and that the numbers show his confidence may finally be back.

In an age where we want everything right now, including top prospects performing in the bigs, the key to Crick’s potential may have been patience the whole time. 

Around The Horn

— Chris Shaw made his Triple-A debut for the River Cats. He went 1-for-4 including an RBI double and played left field. Here’s what Shaw had to say about his promotion: "It was exciting. That's definitely something that I was glad to hear and something that every player wants to hear. I'm getting a chance to play at the next level and get a step closer to the goal.”

— Jae-Gyun Hwang is swinging a hot bat the last two games in Sacramento. Hwang has five hits in his last nine at-bats with five RBI.

— Matt Krook, the Giants’ fourth-round pick last year, won his first game of the season in his eighth start for San Jose. The big lefty is seen as someone with huge upside but has struggled mightily with his control, walking 31 batters in 29 innings this year.