When a line drive struck the pinky of Madison Bumgarner’s left hand, there was some concern among the fan base that we’d be looking at another 2017. Even with the new additions via trade, San Francisco Giants fans were not sold that the 2018 club is a winning one.
On our season preview show, we laid out the possibility that if the Giants could just hang around .500 until Bumgarner returned, they’d have a shot at winning the NL West, and short of that a spot in the NL Wild Card crapshoot game.
Last week, with the Giants at exactly .500 (30-30), the great conquering hero Madison Bumgarner returned to the rotation against the DBacks at AT&T Park. He threw 6 innings and only allowed a pair of runs in the 2nd inning of 2 doubles and a single. During the recent 5-1 home stand the Giants put up, the lone loss was Bumgarner’s return. Go figure.
So that got me thinking. Since the Giants did manage to stay around .500 and in contention in the NL West, how did they get here? It can’t always be Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford leading the way, sometimes other players need to step up and fill those gaps.
Let’s take a look at 3 key guys who have helped the Giants to their current 33-32 record.
GORKYS HERNANDEZ- It’s been well documented on Giants broadcasts this season that Gorkys didn’t hit a single home run during 2017 over 348 plate appearances. The most in baseball last year without a homer. In 2018, Gorkys is making up for lost time. Hernandez has already set a career high with 7 home runs this season in just 156 plate appearances. Before 2018, Gorkys only had 5 TOTAL home runs in his career, spanning 583 plate appearances.
Gorkys has proven valuable in the outfield, starting games in both left and center field. When Hunter Pence went to the DL, Gorkys took over. Then the Giants called up Mac Williamson, so Gorkys wrestled away the CF job from Austin Jackson. The guy just wants to be on the field right now and there’s no way any of us thought Gorkys Hernandez would be the Giants best option in center field in the middle of June.
When Gorkys starts, he hits. In games he has started, Gorkys is hitting .306 with all 7 of his bombs coming in starts. Compare that to the .150 he’s hitting when he pinch hits or comes off the bench late as a defensive replacement. He’s also scored 18 runs and been a cog in a few of the big innings the Giants have put up this season. Gorkys has earned the CF starting job and if he keeps it up, there’s no reason to think the Giants will change that anytime soon.
ALEN HANSON- Mmmbop, ba duba dop, Ba du bop, ba duba dop, Ba du bop, ba duba dop, Ba du, yeah
There, now it’s in your head too. Had you ever heard of Alen Hanson before this year? The past month? Don’t worry, most people hadn’t heard of him either. I watch and follow everything about the Giants and all spring long I took Hanson to be a guy filling out the roster, taking innings when the Giants didn’t want anyone to get hurt. I was wrong.
Hanson signed as a minor league free agent this offseason after being with the Pirates and White Sox the last 2 seasons. The 25-year old switch hitting dynamo was originally signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic and now that he’s with the Giants, Hanson is under contract through the 2020 season.
When Joe Panik went down at the end of April, Hanson showed he could hang with the Giants offense before an injury of his own to his hamstring put him on the shelf for a couple of weeks. Now that Hanson is healthy, he’s forcing Bruce Bochy to find him playing time.
It doesn’t matter what role the Giants have given him, Hanson has succeeded. He’s 4-for-7 as a pinch hitter with 3 extra base hits. Hanson gave us one of the biggest moments of the season when he hit a pinch-hit 2-out, 2-run homer in the bottom 9th inning against Arizona.
Hanson has shown that he can hang with the Giants lineup when a regular needs a day off and he’s willing to provide a boost off the bench late in the game. He’s unlike any bench player the Giants have had the past few seasons, and that’s a good thing.
PABLO SANDOVAL- Not in a million years did I think when Pablo left for the Red Sox that he’d be an integral part of any future Giants team. Here we sit, in the bizarre world that is 2018, and Pablo Sandoval has been one of the key reasons the Giants are in contention. Still blows my mind.
Since Brandon Belt went down on June 1 with a burst appendix, Sandoval has been the everyday first baseman. He’s hitting .333 with 2 homers, 2 doubles, and 5 runs scored in that time and shown he can handle 1st base for a short amount of time. Playing different positions is kinda the Panda’s schtick this season.
Sandoval has started games at 3rd base, 1st base, and 2nd base. He also managed to be the first Giants position player to pitch in 27 years when he got an inning on the mound during a blowout loss to the Dodgers. Pablo had the only 1-2-3 inning in that game for a Giants pitcher, by the way. He has a splash hit, the 2nd longest homer by a Giant this season, and he’s second on the team, averaging 4.25 pitches per plate appearance. This is not the free swinging Pablo of old.
It’s taken a lot for many of us fans to get over the words Pablo had for the Giants when he left for the Red Sox a few years ago. Now, we see a more humble man and a player willing to do anything to help his team win. Whether it’s on the field, or in the clubhouse, Sandoval has fully accepted his role. Giants fans should embrace Pablo back with open arms, he knows what it takes to win and he loves the Giants almost as much as we do.
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