At the same time the Giants have expressed interest in extending him, outfielder Hunter Pence has caught on fire at the plate. He entered this afternoon with homers in three consecutive games, and in four out of his last five. He drove in seven runs last night against the Dodgers and drove in six on Tuesday against the Rockies. Overall in September, he came into today’s action with seven homers, 22 RBI, a stolen base, and a .407/.476/.870 line.
Pence kept the hot streak going today, driving a solo shot to left-center against Dodgers starter Edinson Volquez. He added a two-run home run to left in the sixth, knotting the game at 3-3.
Starter Ryan Vogelsong kept the Giants in the game, allowing three runs over six innings. All three runs came on one mistake to Adrian Gonzalez as the Dodgers first baseman hit a bases-clearing double to right field in the bottom of the fifth.
Brett Pill put the Giants ahead 4-3 in the eighth inning with a solo shot to left. Giants relievers Jean Machi, Santiago Casilla, and Sergio Romo combined for three scoreless innings to complete the 4-3 victory. For Romo, it marks his 35th save of the season. The Dodgers’ magic number remains at four.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.