The old baseball adage says “speed never goes on a slump.” That’s good, because as Giants fans know all too well free-swinging hitters often go on a slump.
The Giants snapped a four-game losing streak Tuesday by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 in 10 innings despite failing to deliver a run-scoring hit.
The Giants scored their three runs on two sacrifice flies and fielder’s choice — although a baserunner’s choice might be a better description.
And that baserunner was Darren Ford.
Ford entered Sunday’s game in the top of the eighth inning when manager Bruce Bochy put him in as a pinch-runner for Aaron Rowand, after Rowand opened the eighth with a single to left.
Ford was looking to steal a base. And he was breaking to second when Freddy Sanchez hit a slow grounder to shortstop. However, with Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno covering second base, the ball was hit into the space vacated by Cedeno and into the outifeld, allowing Ford to race to third base. One out later, Ford scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Buster Posey.
In the bottom of the eighth, Ford potentially saved a run when he ran down a ball hit into the right-center field gap by Matt Diaz. Off the crack of the bat, the hit looked like a sure double until Ford caught it … and made it look routine.
In the top of the 10th, with Nate Schierholtz on second and no outs, Ford was asked to bunt Schierholtz to third. However, there were two problems with Ford’s bunt. First, it was bunted too firmly; secondly, it was bunted to first baseman Lyle Overbay. When bunting a runner over to third, the bunter should make the third baseman field the ball. But Ford bunted to Overbay, who threw Schierholtz out at third.
Now, Ford was one first base with one out and looking to redeem himself with a stolen base. Pirates pitcher Joel Hanrahan was aware of that, but his pickoff throw was wide of the mark. It sailed up the right field line, and Ford was able to advance all the way to third base.
That forced the Pirates to bring the infield in. Sanchez then rolled a grounder to second baseman Neil Walker, who froze Ford at third before throwing softly to first. Seeing that, Ford seized on the opportunity and raced home. A startled Overbay threw home, but his throw was late (and off the mark), and Ford scored the go-ahead run.
Bochy called the play “one of the most impressive displays of speed I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.”
We don’t know if Bochy’s comment was simply hyberbole, or it’s been simply too long since the manager has seen any displays of speed from his team.
The Giants stole 55 bases last season, tied for 15th (i.e. last) in the National League. Andres Torres stole 26 of those 55 bases.
TRIVIA TIME: Which Giant ranked second on the team in stolen bases last season?
This season, the Giants are 9 of 15 in stolen base attempts and rank 14th in the NL.
With the Giants severe lack of speed, Ford’s display Tuesday will leave many Giants fans calling for the team to find a way to keep Ford on the team for the rest of the season.
To that MoreSplashHits says: Slow Down!
Ford’s speed is definitely a weapon. But remember, he still has not collected his first big-league hit. He did have a single plate appearance during his September call-up last year. He is 0 for 5 with one walk this season.
Speed is great, but it doesn’t do you much good if you can’t get on base. The Giants need Ford to develop as a hitter. He was off to solid start at Triple-A Fresno this season before he got called up to the bigs.
This stint with the Giants could stunt Ford’s development at the plate. With Torres “a longshot” to rejoin the team the during this road trip, Ford will remain with the club at least until May 6.
Until then, we hope to see more displays of speed from Ford. Because it was surely a sight for sore eyes of Giants fans.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Aubrey Huff was 7 for 7 in stolen base attempts in 2010.