SAN FRANCISCO — Before Wednesday’s win, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he intends to rest catcher Buster Posey a bit more often this season. The game, a 13-9 sweep-clinching victory over the Padres, was already the fifth in which Trevor Brown started with the other seven regular position players.
That’s a sign of just how different this season already is from 2015. Bochy used 99 different lineups last season when you exclude the pitcher, with injuries wiping away any chance of having an “everyday lineup.”
Through 23 games Bochy has already used two lineups at least five times. The Opening Day lineup has been together nine times, more than any single lineup from 2015. Last year’s most common lineup took the field eight times in 162 games. The Brown Lineup should get to that mark soon.
"It's definitely nice," third baseman Matt Duffy said. "There's not a lot of guesswork when you come to the field about who we're going to run out there today. It's definitely a little bit of peace of mind coming to the field, knowing who you're going to be battling with that day."
Bochy is hoping the synergy can help the Giants get through a tough Mets series. The defending league champs are throwing Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard this weekend.
“It’s a great staff,” Bochy said. “You’ve got your work cut out once we get there and we’d better play well and pitch well. You’re going against a staff like that, you better pitch well.”
The Giants head to New York with a 12-11 record, but it should be better. They haven’t fully taken advantage of the healthy lineup, and a look at last year’s different groups shows how things can spiral out of control once a few key players go down. Bochy used 10 different left fielders last season and eight right fielders. He had seven different players at first, including Ehire Adrianza, Nick Noonan and Kevin Frandsen. Even Duffy started a game at first.
A year later, Duffy has been part of the only major lineup change in April. He was shifted to the No. 3 spot before the Marlins series and stayed hot, finishing the homestand with 13 hits in 36 at-bats. Duffy had an interesting take on his move back to the third spot.
“I feel like I can almost hide there,” he said. “It sounds funny, but Joe (Panik) is always on base and they don’t want to put me on base for Buster.”
--- From yesterday, my game story on a big day for the lineup. Jeff Samardzija lasted just 5 2/3 innings, but that's still a big change from last season's rotation. A year ago Bochy might see a pitcher give up four runs in the third and get Yusmeiro Petit and George Kontos loose. He trusts Samardzija and Johnny Cueto (who gave up five in the first earlier this month) to get deep no matter what kind of stuff they have.
During a series when Cueto was Peak Cueto but Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner were a bit off, Bochy still got 21 1/3 innings out of his three starts.
"That's going to be, I think, really critical for us," he said. "We're missing a couple of pieces in the bullpen. We got Cueto and we got Samardzija for that reason, because they're consistent in getting deep into games. They can log those innings."
Through Wednesday's game, Cueto, Samardzija and Bumgarner ranked first, fourth and 10th in the National League in innings pitched.
"It's really exciting just watching those two guys and their demeanor and how they pitch at 90, 100, 110 pitches," Samardzija said. "You've got to have those guys. You've got to have horses."
--- Since getting that start off last Monday, Duffy has raised his average by 91 points and his on-base percentage by 105 points.
--- The Giants are off Thursday, but if you need content, the podcasts I've been doing are evergreen. Derek Law was the latest one. You can find all seven of them here.