The Giants have taken a four-game series from the Dodgers for the first time since... April 2016. They’ve won three series in a row for the first time since... last May? Okay, maybe contextualizing this weekend’s series in those terms doesn’t really help explain what happened here. Baseball’s random enough that some things shouldn’t seem that unusual. But the Giants also lost two games this week by a combined score of 30-8. Then again, those were their only two losses this week...
Damn. Are the Giants actually good?
Evan Longoria was so bad in the opening weeks of the season that you all freaked out and I commissioned Grant to right an article to stoke that very panic. In the past week and a half, he’s looked like the slightly patient hitter with the ability to smack the crap out of the ball that we’d all come to know over the years. He’s doing his thing for the Giants, finally, and it’s quite a sight. Right-handed power plays at AT&T Park, even when it doesn’t. The pitch he crushed for a three-run homer in the bottom of the 1st inning against Kenta Maeda was a mistake middle-in. Two weeks ago, he’s lunging at that pitch and missing it entirely. He stayed back with his stride-free swing and simply smacked the hell out of it.
The home run was all the more impressive because it came on the very next pitch after he missed a double by half an inch.
How he stepped back into the batter’s box and remained calm enough to simply take what the pitcher gave him is beyond my level of comprehension, and yet that is exactly why he’s paid to be a professional athlete. If that’s me, I’m chucking my bat into the stands and commissioning Grant to write an article to further justify my emotional apoplexy.
Later, in the sixth inning, Longoria hit the ball so hard I thought he had hit it out — but instead it landed at the warning track for an out. He’s on track and he’s one of the main reasons why. And the Giants didn’t hit many three-run home runs last year, either.
Damn. Are the Giants actually good?
Of course, nothing Longoria did in the first inning happens without some stellar two-out magic from Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. Posey hit a booming double and Brandon Belt worked a walk on some pitches that were definitely called strikes against him the last time the Dodgers were in town, all to setup a 20+-pitch first for Maeda. Once the first inning reaches the fifth hitter in the order, I have to imagine that hitter is less anxious than if he had led off the inning. And no starter would be nearly as sharp as the top of the inning for the same reason: it’s dragged on for too long. The Giants aren’t necessarily working walks — the organization isn’t designed to do that anyway — but they’re back to working counts, and that is where their singles offense can have some success. More pitches means a greater chance for mistakes.
That double by Buster Posey in the first to keep the inning alive for Longoria was the 229th of his career, which tied him with J.T. Snow for 8th all-time on the San Francisco franchise’s doubles leaderboard. He’s actually now tied with George Davis at #17 for the NY/SF Giants combined history. Rich Aurilia is up next at 232 doubles. Willie Mays is #1 at 504. Barry Bonds is 3rd with 381. I can see Buster getting to 270-280, which would put him 7th or 8th in combined history when he finally hangs it up. Buster Posey... is good.
Yasmani Grandal was 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts against Strickland heading into the ninth inning at bat. Strickland fell behind 3-0 thanks to his breaking pitches, but then he went to the fastball after finally realizing he had a two-run lead and managed to get Grandal to hit a hard fly out.
I don’t think Strickland’s takeaway should be that he needs to just attack with the fastball because it’s his best pitch — I think it’s fine to switch up his approach so that he doesn’t become predictable to the other teams — I think it should be that he recognizes that he needs to adjust his approach on the fly when the game plan isn’t working out and then actually making the adjustment in the moment.
That was a very promising appearance, especially considering that it was his third game in a row. His offspeeds were a mess but the fastball was still there, and because he adjusted his game he did finally manage to snap a great slider to strikeout Max Muncy.
Sam Dyson also had a strong appearance earlier in the game, coming in with a runner on base. It’s highly unlikely he’ll ever fully have a handle on his stuff over the course of a full season, but you have to acknowledge that Dyson and Curt Young tightened him up pretty quickly. His spring didn’t bleed into April for very long.
Are. The. Giants. Actually. Good...?
Ty Blach threw a great slider on 1-2 that Bellinger laid off of and then tried to throw a similar pitch (GameDay says the 1-2 was a changeup and the 2-2 was a curveball) and hung it and Cody Bellinger absolutely *muscled* a ball into Triples Alley... but didn’t run out of the box and so a surefire triple became a standup double.
Kyle Farmer — who I think the Giants should’ve walked with Bellinger at 2nd base and only one out because most of his career hits have been against the Giants — scorched a ball towards the 5.5 hole but Crawford lunged to make a diving catch, spun on his right knee, and fired to second base to get Bellinger for a double play.
Bellinger would be pulled from the game specifically because he didn’t run out of the box. The broadcasters were getting on him for not hustling and for not, as Tim Flannery would put it, “respecting the game”, and I think everything that happened should’ve happened, but I think what the broadcasters said about it nearly jinxed the Giants.
The very next inning after Bellinger’s mistake, Gregor Blanco hit a hustle leadoff triple. And then didn’t score. And the Ty Blach shutout was ended, and then my beloved Tony Watson gave up a hit to a left-handed hitter and the Dodgers were suddenly in a position to tie the game with the swing of the bat. In other words, don’t gloat.
Brandon Crawford might never get a hit again, but I’d like to believe he’ll still be valuable on defense *and* he’d at least work 3 pitches out of every pitcher he faced. His strikeout rate is right about 30% after today’s game and after a month into the season it’s 10% higher than his career average. I’m not sure if he’s lost at the plate, but he certainly doesn’t seem like he’s got both hands on the wheel when he’s stepping into the box, either.
Ty Blach made *too good* of a pitch against Max Muncy to lead off the 7th inning and it led to a broken bat single knocked him out of the game. Dyson would be the one to give up the hit that put another earned run on Blach’s ledger, but otherwise, Ty Blach is the Giants’ best counterpunch to the Dodgers and the best analysis I can provide to shed light on why that might be is because he’s fearless.
It’s almost the exact situation as Pablo Sandoval’s relief appearance: work quickly and throw all your pitches without getting too precious. Sandoval worked the corners out of necessity, but Blach mixes his pitches and location just enough to keep this particular group of hitters off balance. That’s the best any of us should even try to analyze the situation. We should all just enjoy the fact that in this storied rivalry, one player’s consistent success flummoxes both teams.
Damn. The Giants are actually good.