Remember this is what was supposed to happen. Gerrit Cole was supposed to tear through the Giants, and the Astros were supposed to tear through Andrew Suarez and whoever was sent in to mop up after him.
It’s rare a game turns out exactly how you expect it to. Usually, there’s some sort of variance or surprise even if the result is what you expected. Seemingly mismatched teams will beat or at least threaten to beat their more obviously skilled opponents because the worst major leaguers are still insanely good at their jobs, and the separation of talent is far less at the highest level of baseball. Yadiel Rivera of the Miami Marlins (and a name I had to look up) is about thirteen standard deviations better at baseball than the average person.
The unexpected part of tonight’s game came in the fifth inning when the Giants were able to make Gerrit Cole sweat. It was exactly one drop of sweat, but it was sweat nonetheless.
In the fifth inning, Evan Longoria worked a walk against Cole ahead of Brandon Crawford, the second-best hitting Brandon in baseball. Against his brother-in-law, Crawford poked a dinger into the appropriately named Crawford boxes. It probably would have been a double or an out anywhere else; it had just a 44% hit probability.
This isn’t to poo-poo Crawford’s dinger. It was a glorious dinger. It’s mostly to point out how stupid and fun the Crawford Boxes are.
It makes me wish there were some place at AT&T where one could hit cheap dingers. I’m thinking a hole in the Willie Mays wall, maybe just take out the chain link fencing above the padding in the third arch way. If a batter hits it through there on the fly, it’s a dinger. There would be three homers hit through it a year and Cody Bellinger would hit two of them. They could call it the Belt Loop. I don’t know, I’m just spitballin’ here. I want this mainly for the pitcher reaction gifs.
But I digress.
After Crawford’s homer, Austin Jackson worked a walk and Kelby Tomlinson pushed a bunt to second where Jose Altuve was playing deep to make it first and second with one out.
(I am very much in favor of Tomlinson and other Giants bunting for hits against aggressive shifting.)
This brought up Gorkys Hernandez, the outfield leader in home runs. Unfortunately, Gorkys didn’t gork one out, he gorked one to shortstop for a 6-4-3 double play which ended the inning and the Giants’ best opportunity to make a game of it.
The Astros tacked on four runs the next inning, taking it from “decisive victory” to “blowout.” In blowouts, the only thing you can do (if you can’t change the channel) is look for encouraging signs. Blowouts are great opportunities for back of the ‘pen arms to prove themselves, but Pierce Johnson, Reyes Moronta, and Josh Osich squandered their opportunities to do so.
I feel bad for Johnson. He’s been left it to wear multiple thrashings this season and he was asked to do so again tonight. Johnson was left in the game to pitch against Tony Kemp after walking the bases loaded because Bruce Bochy apparently wanted him to get through the inning and not waste the bullpen. He managed to get him on a sacrifice fly and Moronta came in and immediately let all his inherited runners score. Josh Osich, back from the minors, had a very Osich-like outing.
If you want some encouragement from the bullpen, tonight helps to show that carrying an eight-man bullpen is self-defeating. The Giants clearly don’t have eight capable bullpen arms, so they should just activate Mac Williamson already. Who knows? Maybe Mac Williamson learned a knuckleball in Sacramento.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign from this game happened before the game. The broadcast showed footage from the simulated game Madison Bumgarner pitched today. We got a glimpse of Bumgarner pitching against two (technically speaking) major league hitters: Gregor Blanco and Miguel Gomez. It’s a reminder that Madison Bumgarner is close to returning and the Giants will soon have a starter in their rotation that isn’t a huge question mark.
Andrew Suarez has shown glimmers of the pitcher the Giants think/hope he can become. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.60 coming into tonight was the best on the team. He had a great start in Atlanta where he went 5.1 innings without giving up a run.
Aside from that day, the results just haven’t been there. In his last three outings, including tonight, he’s given up 5 runs, 4 runs, and 5 runs giving him a 5.68 ERA. FIP and xFIP think he’s been average to good and the holistic DRA thinks he’ll be a run and a half better than he has been.
Suarez wasn’t fooling the Astros, though. Out of 68 pitches he got just three whiffs, two on the slider and one on the fastball. It’s hard to tempt hitters into swinging when a pitcher isn’t throwing in the strike zone, however. Suarez threw just 54% strikes and he would have walked more than two batters if the Astros weren’t destroying his pitches in the zone.
But hey, Suarez didn’t give up any dingers, so he made one step in the right direction despite takings two steps back.
The Giants will try again tomorrow with Jeff Samardzija against Justin Verlander. Somehow, Verlander has been even better and Samardzija has been even worse.