Saturday’s slate of Major League games featured a number of hideous blowouts. The White Sox crushed the Royals by eight runs in Kansas City. The Rays scored 12 runs on 18 hits against the Red Sox. The Dodgers scored 15 runs and beat the Giants by nine. The Mariners beat the Indians by eight. The Astros pounded the bejeezus out of the A’s, 11-0. Franchy Cordero and the Padres hammered Mets starter Jason Vargas and won by 10 runs. The Yankees rang up a 10-run margin on the Shohei Ohtani-less Angels. Lot of lopsided ball out there Saturday.
Blowouts mostly, um, blow, but one wonderful possibility occasionally produced in blowouts is the rare and hilarious use of a position player as a relief pitcher. Last night, with his team down nine runs, Giants manager Bruce Bochy inserted Pablo Sandoval—the Panda himself—as a pitcher, to work the ninth inning. For Sandoval, it was his first ever appearance as a pitcher in the majors. For sports fans, it was a goddamn delight:
Sandoval induced three grounders and got out of the inning without allowing a run. His fastball topped out at about 87 miles per hour, but he threw two absolutely fucking beautiful, super-slow curves: one 69-mph job that caught the outside corner for a called strike, against Yasmani Grandal; and a loopy, 70-mph, 12-6 beauty that earned a committed swinging strike from Chris Taylor. I want you to read these quotes, from the San Francisco Chronicle, and tell me this isn’t the coolest thing in the universe:
“I knew he had a pretty good delivery, I didn’t know it was quite this clean or had a breaking ball like that,” Bochy said. “It was legit.”
“He was hitting corners,” Brandon Crawford said. “You do that, it’s tough to hit, tough to drive a ball if you’re hitting the corners, even if it’s 87.”
“Couple miles an hour more,” Jeff Samardzija said, “and he might be serviceable.”
Asked where he learned his curve, Sandoval said, “You don’t learn that. You’re born with that.”
It’s a shame that this kind of thing only happens in blowouts and marathon extra innings games, and baseball is actively exploring ways to get rid of the latter. Yes, the Giants had to give up 15 runs and run their chances of winning down to zero in order for this to happen, but I can imagine Sandoval working that half-inning with his team up a run in, like, the 17th inning, in September, and I honestly can’t think of anything more thrilling. Give me more of this, baseball!