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.
The minor league season if off and running for the affiliates of the San Francisco Giants.
Three Giants prospects in the minors have more stolen bases this season than the entire Giants roster.
Leading the way is infielder Emmanuel Burriss, who has stolen 13 bases in his first nine games with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. He’s only be caught once. It’s a good sign for a player who has spent chunks of the past two seasons sidelined by a broken foot.
Burriss went 2 for 3 with two walks in Friday’s 11-7 win for Fresno at Las Vegas, improving the Grizzlies to 6-3 on the short season.
Burriss is hitting .323 with a .447 on-base percentage for Fresno. He’s scored a team-high 11 runs. Burriss is playing second base for Fresno, but can also manage shortstop.
Outfielder Darren Ford, who got called up to the big club Friday to replace the injured Andres Torres, had seven stolen bases in seven attempt in seven games before getting his call. He was hitting .323, a very good sign for a player who struggled with his average at Double-A last season.
And outfielder Gary Brown, a 2010 first-round pick by the Giants, has 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts in nine games with the Class A San Jose Giants. Brown is hitting .308 with a .413 OBP.
The San Francisco Giants have six stolen bases through 13 games this season, and that include two cheapy stolen bags Friday night. With one out in the fifth inning, Aubrey Huff was on second and Buster Posey was on first. Both runners were running on a 3-2 pitch to Pablo Sandoval, who struck out swinging. Huff would have been easily thrown out at third, but Arizona catcher Miguel Montero’s throw sailed into left field. Huff and Posey were both credited with a stolen base, with both advancing an extra bass on the throwing error.
So the speed in the farm system is clearly a good sign of things to come.
Other players of note
TRIPLE-A FRESNO: Not that the Giants need another hot-hitting first baseman, but Brett Pill is leading the Grizzlies in hitting. He has 2 home runs, 9 RBI and a .486 average through nine games. 3B Conor Gillaspie has 1 HR, 11 RBI and is batting .316. P Ryan Vogelsong is 2-0 with 1.59 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 11.1 innings. P Marc Kroon has allowed no earned runs in 4 innings of relief.
DOUBLE-A RICHMOND: 2B Charlie Culberson, who is projected as the heir-apparent to Freddy Sanchez, leads Richmond in hitting through nine games. He is hitting .270, but has 10 strikeouts in 37 at-bats. That’s something that will need to improve. P Justin Fitzgerald is 2-0 with an 0.90 ERA in two starts.
CLASS A SAN JOSE: P Zach Wheeler, a 2009 first-round selection, threw five hitless innings in his first start for the San Jose Giants. Wheeler walked three and struck out three in the outing.
SS Brandon Crawford is expected to miss most or all of April after suffering a broken finger. Crawford was expected to start the season at Triple-A Fresno.
OF Thomas Neal has missed the past week after suffering a bruised foot after being hit by a pitch in Fresno’s second game of the season.
SS Ehire Adrianza is expected to miss a couple of months after suffering torn ligament in his hand during Spring Training.
OF Francisco Peguero had knee surgery and is expected out until late May or early June.