Youth isn’t enough to win baseball games, but it’s a much better head start than experience. Tonight, the Giants played up to their opponent’s level in a way that might get you thinking they’ve figured out a way to turn back the clock. They hit for power, sprayed the ball all over the field, and both made and bungled plays on defense.
Coming into tonight, we all expected the Giants to simply chase hard hit balls all over SunTrust Park, and in the first inning, that’s exactly what happened.
#SFGiants are down 2-0 after one. Braves hit five balls in the bottom of the first, all had an exit velocity of at least 95 MPH.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) May 4, 2018
Freddie Freeman, the most underrated and beautiful player in baseball
That’s better. What I like most about him is that not only does he have this weird stabby-looking swing that still enables him to cover a lot of the strike zone, he’s able to kinda uppercut pitches and simply launch those suckers really, really far.
I’m always in awe when he puts this specific swing on a ball:
That pitch is rising and he’s still able to get under it with his swing and punch the ball with his bat. At least, that’s how my eyes see it. You might wonder why I’ve spent so much time on the beautiful Freddie Freeman, and you’d be right to question it, but here’s my segue: this came in the first inning off of Chris Stratton’s fastball, which has the second-highest spin rate on the Giants (behind Jeff Samardzija’s and ahead of Reyes Moronta’s) and the third-highest in all of Major League Baseball when confined to starters who’ve thrown their fastball a minimum of 300 times.
It was this fastball that was the key for Stratton tonight, because none of his other pitches were working against the aggressive, mind-boggling Atlanta lineup. 5 of his 6 strikeouts for the night came from the fastball (okay, this is me cheating the stat a little bit because 2 of his strikeouts total came from Mike Foltynewicz bunting foul with two strikes). Of course he had trouble with it in the first inning, as you can see in the above Freeman home run. But after that inning, he was able to get a better feel for it. He was able to get some swing and misses with his best pitch, the curve, but it ultimately came down to how he utilized his fastball.
Stratton’s fastball results were nearly in stark contrast to Foltynewicz’s, whose name I definitely did not have to look up several times throughout the game even though the back of his jersey stared me in the face for a couple of hours. He was pumping 98-100 mph fastballs at the Giants, but most of them weren’t in the strike zone. The Braves hadn’t allowed a run in 19+ innings and Foltynewicz has had a stellar start to the season, but he played really young tonight — not being able to work through trouble to settle in — and while Stratton nearly matched him in this regard, that extra calendar year might’ve been the edge.
It’s not that the Giants are so old that it’s embarrassing to watch them against a young team like the Braves, it’s that the fun of the Giants’ offense has the design of a jigsaw puzzle meant to be put together at a leisurely, one might even say retirement-aged pace. The Braves’ offense is made of water balloons. They run around chasing people lobbing water balloons and everyone has a good time. Meanwhile, after several hours of painstaking work, once the Giants’ jigsaw puzzle of an offense is completed, we find that the picture is of a white wall, and they’ve only scored 1 run.
So it was to their tremendous benefit that the park played very small for them tonight, especially given Foltynewicz’s difficulties. The humidity was 57% at game time and the home runs Crawford and Longoria hit to right field, definitely felt like they were aided by that, but so was Nick Markakis’s earlier in the game. Blanco and Belt both had hits that really played right into the park’s sort of large outfield dimensions and the Giants never looked like they were outclassed, despite all the fears
we I had coming into the series.
Austin Jackson and Gorkys Hernandez couldn’t catch the ball and set the Braves up for big innings. Alen Hanson’s speed gave the Giants a run, but he also got picked off first base. They played like a young team, for better or worse, and that was just a lot of fun.
Sam Dyson caused bile to erupt up my esophagus when he walked the leadoff hitter in the ninth inning. This, after Will Smith and Tony Watson went back to back in the 7th and 8th to give us our first look at the super lefties the Giants now have at their disposal late in the game. But Dyson recovered and nothing else bizarre happened in the end. I’m mentioning all this because of the bile incident and if Dyson really has turned a corner, I want a written record of an overreaction to a leadoff walk in the ninth inning of a 9-4 game... albeit against a team that had already had 7 come from behind wins in the first month of the season... and was playing in front of the largest crowd SunTrust Park has ever had... ack, the bile’s back.