Rookies, led by Bailey, power Giants to series-opening win

July 15th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- Rookie catcher continues to do it all for the Giants. 

Bailey drove in the go-ahead run with a seventh-inning single, caught a runner stealing second base and added his first career stolen base to help the Giants defeat the Pirates, 6-4, in Friday night’s second-half opener at PNC Park. 

“I think Pat is so calm and relaxed that sometimes you don’t realize how hard he plays,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “But he plays really hard. He’s real physical. He kind of takes a beating at the plate, hitting balls off of himself. ... But everything he does is with aggressiveness. We have a lot of respect for the way he’s playing.”

The Giants trailed, 4-3, before Bailey sparked the decisive rally against Pirates reliever Colin Holderman in the top of the seventh. Wilmer Flores led off with a double and J.D. Davis walked to bring up Bailey, who smoked a 103 mph single to right field that was mishandled by Henry Davis, allowing both runners to score to put San Francisco ahead for good. 

Bailey then helped the Giants generate an insurance run, swiping second base and scoring on fellow rookie Luis Matos’ single to extend his club’s lead to 6-4. The 24-year-old backstop said he joked about running on the first pitch with first-base coach Antoan Richardson and was surprised when he received the green light.  

“That was pretty cool,” Bailey said. “It was kind of funny. I looked at Antoan, and I was like, ‘So, I’m running on first pitch?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah.’ And I’m clearly joking. He’s like, ‘No, Kap wants you to run first pitch.’ I was like, ‘All right, here we go.’ It was cool to get in there and get that out of the way.”

Bailey, Matos and a third rookie, Casey Schmitt, combined to go 4-for-13 with two RBIs and two runs scored to help spark a Giants offense that had recorded a meager .623 OPS over the club’s final 16 games of the first half. The switch-hitting Bailey has emerged as the most impactful member of the Giants’ sizable rookie class thus far, developing into a stabilizing force behind the plate while batting .290 with an .803 OPS and five home runs over 41 games this year. 

San Francisco is now 15-1 when Bailey drives in a run and 24-13 when he starts behind the plate this season. 

“It’s amazing,” said right-hander Ross Stripling, who didn’t factor into the decision after allowing two runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings. “He’s wise beyond his years back there, which is a cheesy thing to say, but he really is. It’s getting more and more impressive every week.”

Bailey also continued to amaze with his arm on Friday night, as he nailed Tucupita Marcano trying to steal second for the final out of the third. He’s now thrown out 13 of 33 base stealers (39%), well above the league average rate of 20%. Bailey’s ability to control the running game stems largely from his elite pop time, as he entered Friday averaging 1.87 seconds on throws to second base, third-best in the Majors behind the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto (1.82) and Garrett Stubbs (1.86).    

“I could tell [Marcano] was probably trying there,” Stripling said. “I’m almost like, ‘Go. Try it.’ It ended up being a perfect pitch, it was like a backdoor slider that kind of stayed up, it was almost like a pitch-out. [Bailey] just hosed them like he always does.”

The Giants’ budding youth movement has been one of the most important developments for the organization this year, as their rookies have combined to produce 98 RBIs, second-most in the Majors behind the Reds. Those contributions bode well not only for the Giants’ chances of continuing their playoff push in the second half, but also for their ability to transform into the perennial contenders they expect themselves to be. 

“It’s really important to the organization because it shows that we can draft well, we can develop well, we can graduate young players,” Kapler said. “When those players begin to mature and produce on a regular basis, you start to build around them. I think that’s the thing that’s creating the most optimism. There’s a long way to go. They have to continue to perform. They have to continue to develop. The league’s going to make adjustments to them. They’re going to need to make adjustments back. But you can sort of see the beginnings of a foundation with several of these young players.”