SCOTTSDALE - The 162nd game of the 2017 season was momentous for a number of reasons. Pablo Sandoval's walk-off homer kept the Giants from clinching the No. 1 pick in the draft, or, if you're glass-half-full, kept them from having sole possession of the worst record in the majors. It also all but wrapped up the Panda's status as an important bench bat in 2018.
But there was another box checked off that day. In the eighth inning, with the Giants and Padres tied at four, Cory Gearrin entered with one out and Jabari Blash at the plate. On Gearrin's sixth pitch, Blash flied out to right.
As Gearrin walked off the mound, the scoreboard behind him went into action. The first number on his ERA changed from a two to a one. That last out dropped Gearrin's ERA to 1.99 for the season.
"It's only a .01 difference between 2.00 and 1.99, but that was something that I wanted to do," Gearrin said.
If you're at all tempted to whine about personal stats taking precedent, understand first that Gearrin didn't ask to chase 1.99. Gearrin and Hunter Strickland had set a sub-two ERA as a goal late in a season that went off the rails early, but it seemed unlikely as September started. Gearrin was at 2.24 after a September 6 game, but he ran off nine straight scoreless appearances to finish the month. When he struck out two on September 30, Gearrin was at 2.00 exactly. Bruce Bochy approached him after the game and said that if he wanted to take a crack at 1.99, he would use him the next day.
"You appreciate the work these guys do for you and that (ERA under two) makes for a great year," Bochy said. "This game is not about the numbers, I get that, but at the end of the year he can look back and he was under two and that's just not easy to do. He's done it now, and I wanted him to have that. I wanted him to have that opportunity and he went out and did it."
Gearrin had posted a 1.80 ERA in 22 appearances for the Braves in 2012 but otherwise his low was 3.77. The final appearance last season was Gearrin's 68th, easily a career-high. Lost in the 98 losses was a sneaky-good season for the snarling right-hander. Gearrin was seventh among NL relievers in ERA and tied for 18th in appearances.
Gearrin enters this season with a stranglehold on a relief role. The Giants are counting on him to get them out of jams in the sixth or seventh. On opening day, he'll start back at 0.00, and now he has a new threshold to chase.
"To have the opportunity to do something like that, it means a lot to me to say that I did it," he said. "It helps set a standard going forward for myself and the team, and that's something that I want to build on."