This potential game-saving call won't show in Bart's stats

June 1st, 2022

This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado's Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

There was plenty to digest following the Giants’ marathon 7-4 win over the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, but manager Gabe Kapler felt it was important to highlight a key contribution from rookie catcher Joey Bart.

Bart went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, dropping his batting average to an unsightly .153 over 33 games this year. The final punchout came in the 10th inning, when the Phillies intentionally walked Brandon Crawford to load the bases with two outs for Bart, who took a 3-2 pitch that appeared to be off the plate but was called a strike by home-plate umpire David Rackley.

Bart vented his frustration in the dugout, but he didn’t allow his emotions to spill over into his catching duties, and ultimately, he helped the Giants navigate a perilous situation with the game on the line.

The Giants scored three runs in the top of the 11th to pull ahead, but the Phillies threatened in the home half when they had reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper due to hit with a pair of runners on and two outs. Kapler came out for a mound visit and suggested intentionally walking Harper to bring up Roman Quinn with the bases loaded.

It was a bit unconventional, as the Giants would not only be giving up the left-on-left matchup between José Álvarez and Harper, but also bringing the potential winning run to the plate, but Kapler was thrilled to see Bart come out strongly in favor of the move.

“Joe had strong conviction: ‘Walk him. Let’s just walk him,’” Kapler said. “I thought that was really impressive. That’s not something that you hear from a young catcher often. He inspired conviction from the other people on the mound. I think that mattered. Sometimes we’re pretty singularly focused on offense and defense, but there’s some leadership characteristics there that really came out today.”

The move paid off, as Quinn subsequently struck out to end the four-hour, 52-minute game. Kapler called Bart’s assertiveness in that situation “one of the better moments of his career,” though the 25-year-old backstop said he thought it was a fairly easy call to make.

“I don’t want to pitch to the MVP,” Bart said. “If there’s one guy that can do it across the league, it’s him in his home ballpark. The ball was flying pretty good. I was like, ‘You know what, I’m with you. Let’s go to Quinn.’ I know we’re putting the winning run on there, but it just felt like the best way to win was staying away from Harper.”

It’s been a difficult stretch for Bart, who appeared poised to succeed Buster Posey as the Giants’ next franchise catcher but has now lost the starting job to veteran Curt Casali. Bart is 1-for-20 (.050) over his last 11 games and has struck out 46 times in 102 plate appearances this year, but he recognizes that it would be selfish to let his offensive woes affect his focus behind the plate.

“It’s been a tough spot for me, no doubt,” Bart said. “Really nothing to say other than I’m going to show up every day and work my [butt] off. It’s all I’m going to do and keep bringing it defensively. I know what kind of player I am and I can be. Obviously, I haven’t been that player so far. It’s super frustrating. But I can’t take it to defense. I’ve got to show up behind the plate and handle the staff and make plays and try to put the best game together behind the plate.”