As you might have read a time or two, everything about this baseball season will be different. The coronavirus has affected every walk of life, MLB far down the list, and no fans will enter Oracle Park, where the Giants finished up their brief exhibition schedule before Thursday’s opener.
Has the abbreviated season changed the Giants’ expectations, too?
A 60-game season allows the possibilities of variables beating constants, of randomness besting talent. The Giants will not be among the most talented teams in the league, but their tiny sample of preseason games provided a blueprint for how they could win.
A stable of pitchers enter, one after another, with enviable, if sometimes raw, stuff. And just enough hitting to make those arms count.
Mike Yastrzemski, who again knelt in protest during the national anthem, joined by manager Gabe Kapler and at least 10 other Giants, and Alex Dickerson were the offensive standouts, each homering en route to a 4-2 win over the A’s on Tuesday in front of zero fans, sweeping the meaningless pair of games and now needing to nail down a 30-man roster and head to Los Angeles for Thursday’s opener.
Yastrzemski, about 20 minutes after taking that knee, opened up the Giants’ bottom of the first with a blast off righty Mike Fiers to deep right on a night the ball was traveling surprisingly (suspiciously?) far. Yaz also walked and singled to center, a nice last push to be in the Opening Day lineup even against lefty Clayton Kershaw.
An inning later it was Dickerson’s turn, volleying a Fiers offering the other way and clearing the left-field fence.
The A’s scored twice in the second, Conner Menez getting into trouble that culminated with a Triples-Alley triple from Chad Pinder. Menez, a southpaw who has impressed all of camp, was an unfortunate victim of a Matt Olson bunt, the lefty laying down a beauty against a four-outfielder set. Menez faced primarily righties, the Giants doing an awful lot of testing with what their arms can handle.
But acing those tests was just about everyone else, starting with opener Tyler Rogers, who went 1-2-3 while striking out Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman.
Of the lengthy list of relievers who followed, Sam Coonrod, who buzzed at 99 mph and froze Khris Davis with a strike-three curveball, and Wandy Peralta, who had no trouble against three righties, were particularly impressive. After Menez’s frame, the A’s didn’t score again and finished with just two hits.
The Giants have said they don’t know their Opening Day catcher, suggesting it’s down to righty Chadwick Tromp and switch-hitter Tyler Heineman. Tromp went 2-for-3 with a double Monday, setting a bar Heineman virtually matched.
Heineman finished 1-for-1 with a pulled single into right, but sacrificed, was hit by a pitch and too active on the bases. He drifted too far toward third when Yastrzemski singled and got caught scrambling back to second. He made up for it, though, punching out Semien at second to end the fifth and walking off the field with a smile glued to his face. He was grinning after flying out in the sixth, too, sacrificing Alex Dickerson in to score.
The Giants aimed, in camps 1.0 and 2.0, for competition (the notable exception being Joey Bart). That competition brought out the best in Heineman and Tromp, and there’s more optimism with their Opening Day catcher.
Perhaps more optimism for the team as a whole.