These two Giants formed baseball's first Samoan battery

April 9th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- When free-agent signee and Rule 5 Draft pick joined the Giants this past offseason, they knew they might have the chance to do something special.

That moment came to be on Saturday afternoon, when Manaea and Sabol connected to form what is believed to be the first Samoan battery in Major League history in the Giants' 6-5 loss to the Royals.

For Manaea and Sabol, who are both half-Samoan, the moment felt bigger than baseball.

"We've been talking about this this whole offseason," Sabol said. "This is where it counts; this is where it matters."

Said Manaea: "It's amazing. There's not too many of us Samoan baseball players. To form a battery like that is incredible for all of us."

Beyond Sabol and Manaea's historic pairing, the two of them worked together to deliver a solid outing on Saturday afternoon. Manaea looked sharp in his first start for the Giants, allowing one run over six innings and striking out eight against one walk.

The Giants' surplus of starters has given manager Gabe Kapler the ability to get creative with how he manages his pitchers' workloads, which is why Manaea first appeared in relief this season. 

"I think I can definitely start, but I'm also here to help this team win," Manaea said. "Wherever that's going to be, I'm just going to do my best."

On Saturday afternoon, the 31-year-old lefty topped out at 96.7 mph on his sinker and saw an overall uptick in velocity compared with last year, which he's attributed to his offseason training at data-driven player development facility Driveline.

The interplay between Manaea's three pitches was able to stymie the Kansas City lineup; he induced 14 swing-and-misses and held Royals batters to three hits.

"He's just able to get that run with the fastball," Sabol said. "The slider comes off of that same tunnel, and then the changeup goes straight down off them. I think it just made it really tough for the Royals to figure him out."

Making his second start behind the plate, Sabol also had the perfect vantage point when things went south for the Giants.

Right-hander Ross Stripling, who entered in relief as part of the Giants' strategy to manage their veteran pitchers' workloads with tandem starts, had a rocky outing, allowing four runs over 1 2/3 innings. The biggest blow came when Royals catcher Salvador Perez went deep for a three-run shot that knotted the score at 5 in the top of the eighth.

“That’s Ross’ best pitch, he got beat on his best pitch, and that’s going to happen," Sabol said of Stripling's changeup to Perez. "More times than not when he makes his best pitch in that location, he’s going to come out OK.”

San Francisco had a golden opportunity to blow the game open with the bases loaded and nobody on in the bottom of the eighth, but Kansas City righty Taylor Clarke escaped his own jam by striking out Thairo Estrada, Brandon Crawford and Sabol in quick succession.

For Sabol, who has just eight big league games under his belt, every moment of disappointment is one that he can build on in the future. He's tinkering with his approach in critical moments, and he feels as if those adjustments are already beginning to pay off in his approach, even if the execution is not quite there yet.

Despite the outcome, Sabol was able to take some pride in the fact that he and Manaea had represented their Samoan heritage well earlier that afternoon.

"I'm sure there was a lot of people from the Polynesian community out in the stands today, and some watching on TV," Sabol said, "and hopefully there's some little boys or girls that are looking at that like, 'Wow, maybe I should play baseball. I want to do it. I want to try it.' … I'm happy that the outing went well, but at the end of the day, hopefully next time we can close the door and take a win home."