Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he wanted to have a left-handed hitter batting second Monday night against the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke. He considered shortstop Brandon Crawford, who has 20 home runs this season. But he ultimately settled on Jarrett Parker, the rookie outfielder playing in his 16th major-league game.
One silver lining of the Giants’ injury woes in the second half has been the opportunities created for a handful of rookie players, who have handled themselves well in the absence of players like Joe Panik, Nori Aoki, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt. In the Giants’ last series against the A’s, rookie hitters combined to go 26-for-62 (.419), with 16 runs scored and 16 RBIs, accounting for most of the offense in a rare road series win.
Parker had a big hand in that, hitting four home runs in the series and becoming the first Giants rookie ever with a three-homer game. But the Giants’ lineup Sunday in Oakland featured five rookies -- six, if you include starting pitcher Chris Heston -- and four are in the lineup again Monday night as the Giants try to stave off playoff elimination against the Dodgers.
Third baseman Matt Duffy has had a breakout season that should earn him consideration for N.L. Rookie of the Year. But Kelby Tomlinson is hitting .295 since being called up in early August. Parker is 11-for-21 with six homers in 11 games since arriving Sept. 11. Trevor Brown has made seven starts at catcher and batted .273. Mac Williamson is 5-for-12 in his first four games in the majors.
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“They’re not playing like rookies,” Bochy said. “That’s what you hope, is that they come up here and they play like they belong. And these guys have. They’ve all been a shot in the arm.”
Bochy had little news on the injured Giants before Monday’s game -- other than that Aoki has resumed some baseball activities -- and it’s not expected any will return to play before this homestand and season are over. That means the rookies should have the next week to fortify their impressions on Bochy and the Giants’ front office heading into the winter. They’ve already given the Giants’ brass something to think about.
“They’ve all done such a good job with how they’ve handled themselves, and with their contributions,” Bochy said. “It certainly is going to make for a lot of conversations this offseason when we decide what we need and the holes we’ve got to fill, and the options next year.”
On the pitching side, Bochy added Heston (who has 12 wins in his first full season in the Giants’ rotation), and relievers Josh Osich and Michael Broadway as rookies who have staked early claims for jobs next season.
Another discussion the Giants figure to have will concern Marlon Byrd, the right fielder who was acquired Aug. 20 to replace Pence. Byrd entered Monday hitting .285 with 30 RBIs in 34 games with the Giants, and he needed just 23 plate appearances in the Giants’ final seven games for a contract option for next season to automatically vest.
Pence is the Giants’ right fielder when he’s healthy. But Bochy was asked whether Byrd might have a spot on the Giants’ roster next season and didn’t rule out the possibility.
“All this is being discussed here soon when the season’s over,” Bochy said. “But Byrd’s done a great job for us. I love the way he plays. For a guy that’s 38, he plays like he’s 28. He comes ready to go every day, he’s got his routine, takes care of himself, he’s a threat at the plate.
“These are things that will be discussed with (Brian Sabean), Bobby Evans, myself, and baseball ops, our staff. But he’s been a joy to have, he really has.”
Byrd, who’s batting sixth Monday night, has the most career experience of any Giants player against Greinke, though the numbers aren’t great. Byrd is 5-for-29 lifetime against the Dodgers right-hander, a .172 average, with two extra-base hits and 11 strikeouts.
The Giants enter this series six games back of the Dodgers with seven to play, meaning the Dodgers can clinch the N.L. West -- and celebrate on the Giants’ home turf -- with just one win. That makes for a bleak picture, but Bochy said the Giants will try to remain relevant as long as possible.
“We’ll do all we can to keep going here, stay alive,” Bochy said. “That’s all we can do. To still be alive at this point, I’ll be honest, I’m proud of these guys. And we’ll come out and fight tonight.”
For now, the Giants’ rotation remains unchanged, though Bochy indicated he and coach Dave Righetti could reassess things if the Giants are eliminated. It’s still a matchup of Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday, though, which promises intrigue regardless of the standings.
The Giants’ full lineup against Greinke:
And the Dodgers’ lineup against Jake Peavy: