San Francisco Giants fans are close to witnessing the end of an era.
It may not have come yet, as manager Felipe Alou hinted, but it’s impending and it’ll be a difficult transition for some fans to make, yet others have been wanting it for years.
Time may very well be up for Kirk Rueter.
The shamrock in his pocket has fallen apart, the horseshoe got turned upside down and all the luck fell out, play with the metaphors all you want. The bottom line is that the Giant with the longest tenure other than Barry Bonds is reaching the end of his line as a starter for the San Francisco Giants. In Friday night’s start, his first after a demotion to the bullpen and some surprisingly scathing comments from the pitcher commonly known as ‘Woody’ that seemed to surprise Rueter himself, Rueter struggled again, unable to get the third out in the 4th inning, giving up a total of 5 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, and blowing a 2-0 lead.
"They couldn't get the last out in the eighth and I couldn't get the last out in the fourth," Rueter said after the game.
Sure enough, the Giants got Rueter off the hook with a 5 run inning of their own in the 8th inning off of the Brewer bullpen, started by a 2 run homer by Pedro Feliz, and continued by a pinch hit, 2 RBI double by Ray Durham. The thrills and relief of watching the Giants turn on someone else’s bullpen for once softened what was a rough night for Rueter.
"I'm just thankful the guys came back tonight and bailed me out…” Rueter said of the situation. Of course, the situation for him is much more complicated outside the box score. After some remarks earlier this week that implied he either wanted to start or be traded, he clarified his desire to start, but also made a big deal about how the Giants were handling their pitchers, particularly their young ones. "I want to stay, I don't want to go," was what he said after his last start before the trading deadline.
Kevin Correia, the pitcher whose spot in the rotation Rueter took and who came into the 4th inning to rescue Rueter also came to his support in the locker room. "Not a lot of people would stand up for guys like us. We're young. We're coming up. He knows what that's like. He knows how hard it is for us to have to pitch well almost every time. For him to say something like that shows how unselfish he is. He wants what's good for the team."
Felipe Alou, meanwhile, insisted that no changes are coming…unless changes are coming. "If we stay the way we are, he'll get another start," Alou said. "He's in the rotation." The caveat is, of course, that the Giants don’t make a change, be it for a new pitcher or trading away Rueter, by Sunday’s trade deadline.
This was overshadowed by the team’s 2nd win in a row, and moving to only 5.5 games behind the division leading San Diego Padres. The 2nd place Arizona Diamondbacks also lost, remaining 2 games back of San Diego. The third place Los Angeles Dodgers moved to 4 games back of the Padres with a win. The Padres are so bad that, perhaps accidentally, ESPN’s official standings listed them .5 games back in the NL West after Friday’s games, despite them being the division leaders. .5 games back would be how far behind they’d be against a .500 team, of course, as the Padres fell to 51-52 on Friday.
The Giants go again at 4:05 PM Pacific time with Jason Schmidt matched up against the Brewers’ young star Ben Sheets.
But as the Giants remain tantalizingly close to a playoff spot despite their worst season since 1996, much remains to be seen with the pitcher who’s been a rock in the rotation since those days.
SFDugout.com Player Of The Game: Ray Durham. Durham’s clutch pinch hit double in the 8th inning lifted Mike Matheny, who’d failed to score a runner from third with 1 out just before Durham’s at bat. Durham has missed his last three starts with an ubiquitous heel injury, but has still found ways to contribute from the bench, with Friday’s clutch hit just the biggest. Felipe Alou compared him with the great Dodger pinch hitter Manny Mota after the game, "Nah, that's not a comparison I want.” Durham replied.
With the excitement and jitters of opening day in the rear view mirror, it was time for the Giants…