I never liked third innings. The third inning and I have beef. My wife left me for a third inning and I never got over it. The Giants probably had no chance to win this game because they don’t know how to score baseball runs anymore, but the entire game still somehow managed to swing from being ever so slightly in their favor to wholly against them because of that punk-ass third inning.
It was the inning where Joe Panik smashed a Zack Greinke slider into the right center field gap of Chase Field — right out there near the Dodgers’ swimming pool — and I was thinking, “that’s gone or it’s a double off the base off the wall”. But then I remembered that the Diamondbacks now use a humidor... and this realization occurred just as A.J. Pollock and Chris Owings converged on the dying line drive and collided with each other.
Owings got cracked in the head by A.J. Pollock’s knee and left the game to undergo concussion examination. His health is obviously way more important than the rally killing he was a part of in that moment; it was this moment that swung the game so completely against the Giants that I wasn’t even mad. I was actually laughing. Again, not about Owings, but because it was so obvious the Giants were doomed from that very moment. I hate third innings.
After the Diamdondbacks took the lead, the only other bright spot for the Giants was that they managed to win Round 1 of the (Sam) Dyson vs. (Jarrod) Dyson matchup. All Sam really had to do to win was not give up a massive home run, and under that criteria, he won easily. Dyson vs. Dyson is not a marquee matchup, but it’s like a solid short film you see in between premieres at some film festival.
Brandon Crawford’s barehanded grab to throw out Deven Marrero in the bottom of the 8th inning gets an honorable mention here because the game wasn’t on the line. He also made a great snare of a Goldschmidt liner a few innings earlier. In both cases, there was an effortlessness to it all that had been missing last season. The return of that Crawford polish is an underrated story.
Actually... okay, fine. Crawford’s defense was another bright spot. So there were two bright spots after the Diamondbacks took the lead. Well, wait... that’s not true. There was a third, dammit.
First homer off Blach this year. Pollock was Blach's 111th hitter of the year. #SFGiants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) April 20, 2018
Ty Blach showed up against a team that wasn’t the Dodgers and this feels important. Who knows if the Chase Field radar gun is hot (it probably is), but I saw 92 mph on some of those pitches, dammit, and I saw some really effective breaking pitches to keep hitters off balance. He’s done everything asked of him and for all the rightful crap we’ve given the organization for being hilariously inept at building depth in the farm system, the scary scouting paperwork the Giants have shuffled into a starting rotation hasn’t been a farce!
There is no 4-game stretch in A.J. Pollock’s career where he’s struck out 8 times. The worst it ever got for him before this week involved a couple of 6-strikeout stretches over 4 games only once or twice in his 5+ years as a major leaguer. Giants pitching did that. Of course, he broke that streak of bad luck with a booming home run off of Ty Blach, but still, the Giants had done some work. As this guy said (in response to the above Schulman tweet):
That's just the 4th home run given up by a Giants starter. They have up 23 last April.— Nate Walter (@mrnatewalter) April 20, 2018
Thanks, Nate Walter!
This ragtag bunch of pitchers held the Diamondbacks to 7 runs over 3 games. They put A.J. Pollock into the worst strikeout stretch of his career. But the Giants lost the series anyway and it still somehow wasn’t even close. The Giants simply need to pitch better...
Brandon Belt homered for the second straight night (in the second inning), but the momentum swing of the third inning completely erased the lift his shot gave the team (and, quite frankly, me). He’s an important player, of course, as he’s one of the few hitters who can with any consistency 1) get on base without the aid of a hit and 2) hit baseballs over the wall. But after the sobering swing of the third inning, I was finally able to find the common ground with the Belt Bashers out there.
I know, I know.
But look... here’s his final at bat against Greinke.
2-1 fastball, 89 mph. He’s going to watch that one because it’s too far inside. Let’s both ignore and acknowledge NBC Sports’ strike zone box there. That’s very likely a hittable pitch. That’s a pitch that would be a called strike in the 9th inning against the Dodgers with Jansen on the mound and reality bending demon Yasmani Grandal catching. That looks like a pitch the fans want to see him crush.
We kinda-sorta know that Belt has holes in his swing and, if memory serves, it’s up in that area where it exists -- or at least used to exist. This pitch gets called a ball when maybe it didn’t half to, but at that point most people watched, shrugged, and felt he either got lucky or acknowledged he knows the strike zone.
And then on the very next pitch this happens...
AND IT MAKES TOTAL SENSE.
The people who already don’t like Belt get to say, “What?! He swings at a pitch like that! It’s not even a strike!” without even thinking for a second of what the pitch looks like coming in to him, etc. But I’m going to give these people more fuel to use in later Belt War battles: What does Belt think he can do with a pitch down there that he couldn’t do with the borderline pitch he took literally seconds before?
Because here’s that home run he hit in the previous inning —
That’s not the same pitch as the 2-1 pitch, but that’s definitely on his side of the plate versus the 3-1 pitch he flailed at. We’ll never know what Brandon Belt thinks when he steps into a batter’s box, but my goodness, we’ll know what everyone else thinks.
Anyway, Brandon Belt was the only Giants hitter to score a run tonight and was the main reason they won the game last night.
The Giants have scored exactly 1 run 7 times this season and we’re only 18 games in... they’ve scored 1 or 0 runs a combined 10 out of 18 games. They are not better than the Diamondbacks or the Padres, even, but they’re not going to be better than anybody if they can’t score more than 1 run in the majority of their games.
As of exactly one week ago, Buster Posey had not swung at and missed a single pitch in the strike zone. Only a few days later, heading into the first game of this series, he had fallen to #7 overall in MLB, but after this series his standing will clearly take a massive tumble. Tonight, he swung through an 89 mph Greinke fastball to strike out in the third inning and was late on 88 from Greinke later in the game, and then flied out weakly in his final at bat against the mercurial pitcher. He stopped driving the ball the instant he set foot in Arizona, which shows just how bad the Giants’ luck has been so far this season.
But ultimately, the front office had us exactly where they wanted us: Andrew McCutchen up in the ninth inning with a chance to tie the game ... only to be followed by Buster Posey up in the ninth inning with a chance to tie the game. Somehow, someway, they were competitive right up until the very end. That’s a terrific recipe for generating revenue but not necessarily for generating wins.
Tomorrow, there will be new players on the roster, but expect more of the same. There are too many hitters having too much trouble for this to turn around on a dime. Plenty of minor leaguers have torn it up in AAA only to scuffle when called up. And Jeff Samardzija will be coming back right into the fire to face an American League team, so the offense will probably need to score a lot of runs.