Game 2 flashbacks anyone?
Albeit we’re only in April, but tonight’s dramatic win feels like redemption for the infamous 10-inning loss to the Mets in the 2000 National League Division Series. With the score in tonight’s game hanging in the familiar balance of a 4-3 Giants lead in the 10th inning, with both the tying and winning runs for the Mets in scoring position with one out, the memory of that heartbreaking 5-4 loss on a fateful October night at Pac Bell Park loomed with the foreboding feeling of déjà vu.
Then emerged Clay Hensley to become the third Giants pitcher this season to nail down a save.
Hensley is the latest in what has become one of general manager Brian Sabean’s signature acquisitions – a free agent signed to a minor-league deal late in the offseason who emerges as a force to be reckoned with on the big-league pitching staff.
Of course, last year it was Ryan Vogelsong, who started the 2011 in Triple-A Fresno before debuting with the big club a year ago Wednesday. Vogelsong proceeded to scrap his way onto the All-Star team before finishing fourth in the National League with a 2.71 ERA.
In 2010, Santiago Casilla made his way across The Bay, likewise by signing a minor-league deal. Casilla also started the year in Fresno, and was virtually untouchable in a handful of appearances before having his contract purchased by the big club in late May. In that legendary World Series Championship season, Casilla loomed large. Of the 11 pitchers the Giants carried on their postseason roster, Casilla actually had the best winning percentage with a 7-2 record, and also paced all Giants relievers in wins. And, though he only pitched in four games that postseason, he hurled a key 1 2/3 innings in a 3-2 Game 4 win to clinch the NLDS.
Perhaps history remembers Brandon Medders as an underwhelming precursor to the Giants’ ultimate redemption of 2010. But, don’t overlook the hard-throwing middle man as a crucial pickup. Like Casilla, Medders was a master at earning relief wins by keeping the Giants in games. He led all ’09 Giants pitchers in win percentage with a 5-1 record, and contributed more relief innings than anyone for San Francisco with the exception of Brian Wilson.
It’s still early, of course, but Hensley already looks like he is on his way to becoming such a jewel plucked from the proverbial scrapheap. The 32-year old – that was originally drafted by the Giants in the same 2002 draft class as Matt Cain before being traded to San Diego a year later – has already earned a win and a save in six appearances this season.