San Francisco Giants Morning Minute: Huge Bullpen Game, Weird Day for Williamson

Jun 21, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik (12) celebrates in the dugout after scoring a run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 21, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik (12) celebrates in the dugout after scoring a run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

On this edition of the San Francisco Giants Morning Minute, we discuss a fantastic performance by the bullpen, and a weird day for Williamson.

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Good morning, San Francisco Giants’ fans, and welcome to another edition of the Giants Morning Minute. On Wednesday, the Giants completed a spectacular comeback, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-6 after trailing by as many as five runs to clinch a series split, at worst. Derek Law earned the win, his third of the year, while Jared Hughes took the loss for his first decision of the season. Santiago Casilla saved his 15th ballgame in his return to the mound.

The Los Angeles Dodgers keep on winning, walking off in the weirdest way against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday. They’ve won six straight, but have only been able to cut into the National League West lead by one game. The Giants are ahead by 5.5 games.

Here’s what went on Wednesday.

1 – The Bullpen Delivers a Huge Performance

“Bad Jeff Samardzija” made an appearance on Wednesday, giving up six runs on three home runs in three innings, but the offense was able to pick him up with a great comeback, scoring the final six runs of the game to come away with a thrilling victory. But that wouldn’t have been possible if not for a tremendous collective effort from five relief pitchers.

It started in the fourth inning, when hometown boy Derek Law made his Pittsburgh debut, pitching just miles from where he grew up. Law made quick work of the Pirates’ offense in the fourth, setting three batters down in order, but needed to work quite a bit harder in the fifth. After surrendering two singles to open the frame, Law began walking the high-wire. He struck out Jung-ho Kang and Matt Joyce before getting Josh Harrison to bounce out for the final out. Though the Giants still trailed by two runs at that point, that turned out to be one of the game’s biggest moments.

Hunter Strickland followed Law, but gave up a leadoff single to Sean Rodriguez after taking an 0-2 count to full. The big country boy settled in, coaxing a pop-up from Chris Stewart and striking out pinch-hitter David Freese before giving way to lefty Josh Osich. One night after Javier Lopez struggled to throw strikes to lefties, Osich retired four of the five hitters he faced, with the long exception being a reached-on-error. Osich struck out three, throwing 97-mile-per-hour fastballs with incredible downward bite.

Cory Gearrin worked a clean eighth inning, striking out one, before handing the ball to closer Santiago Casilla in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Jordy Mercer led off with an infield single, but Casilla got John Jaso to ground into a forceout.

The next batter was Gregory Polanco, who had three hits including a home run on the night, and the two did battle. The count went full, and on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Casilla threw a perfect 94 mile-per-hour fastball on the outside edge, getting Polanco to swing through. Jaso was going on the full count pitch, and Buster Posey decided another batter was not necessary. He gunned down Jaso to end the ballgame and preserve the team’s 7-6 victory.

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The Giants’ bullpen has had more than their fair share of growing pains, but this was as good as they’ve looked collectively in a long time. In particular, Osich had some of the best stuff he’s shown this season. The Giants have played in a lot of one-run games this season, and the bullpen firing on all cylinders like this will make those close games a little easier.

2 – An Unusual Night for Mac Williamson (in a Good Way!)

Mac Williamson is back with the Giants for his fourth stint already this season, and while his playing time has been inconsistent at best, he’s proven one thing: he can hit the ball really hard. He already owned the hardest hit ball by a Giant this season, a 115-mph lineout on June 12th, and he matched that exit speed with a second-inning single on Wednesday.

Things got a bit weird (in a good way) for Williamson from there. He entered the game with 66 career plate appearances, but had never seen ball four. In his next at-bat in the fourth inning, Pirates’ pitcher Francisco Liriano seemed reluctant to throw him anything over the plate after watching Williamson scorch a ball earlier (the ball was likely sobbing when it was thrown back in to the pitcher). Williamson saw four pitches, all out of the zone, taking the first walk of his young career.

Williamson entered the batter’s box three more times on Wednesday, and walked twice. So after walking exactly zero times in his first 67 plate appearances, Williamson took three walks in the next four. That should be seen as a good sign for the young man. There were a good share of pitches that were well out of the zone, but Williamson also laid off some good ones to earn walks. That’s something he hadn’t done with regularity in his big league career prior to that.

Next: Giants Morning Minute: Unusual Name Lead Onslaught

And that will do it for this edition of the Giants Morning Minute. Up next, the Giants and Pirates finish their four-game series with some morning baseball. Albert Suarez will face off with Jon Niese.