In my series preview, I noted how the Giants are outmatched by the Braves’ offense, at least on paper. In practice, the Giants have scored six runs before the end of the third inning in each of the first two games. They’ve outscored the Braves 20-6. Meanwhile, Ronald Acuña is 0 for 8. The Braves are 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Ty Blach and Chris Stratton each threw quality starts while Mike Foltynewicz and Brandon McCarthy combined for 14 ER in 8.1 innings.
The Giants have won five straight series and they’ve scored nine runs or more in three straight games. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to watch a good baseball team. You know, because the Cubs have lost four in a row, and I’m such a huge Cubs fan. Go Cubs Go. Javy Baez is my co-pilot.
Tonight, many of the Giants early runs didn’t come in a completely sustainable way. Brandon Crawford had a broken bat single that Nick Markakis booted. Belt knocked in a run and immediately ran into an out. Evan Longoria had a bloop single that turned into a double after an ill-advised dive by Nick Markakis.
Innings like the third inning didn’t happen last year. We at McCovey Chronicles have pointed out a lot of things that seemed like they didn’t happen last year, the broken-bat hits and the run-scoring bloopers. This is a normal baseball team and they’re infinitely more fun to watch than last year’s iteration. Which is weird, because it’s mostly the same dudes.
But it wasn’t all taking advantage of BABIP-luck and Markakis borking balls in right. After a hit fell in or the Braves made a mistake, the Giants were able to capitalize. Andrew McCutchen had a nice read on a Buster Posey line drive and he took third when Ender Inciarte played back on it. Hanson bopped a double and a dinger.
Every position player in the starting lineup contributed. Well, every position player except for Gregor Blanco who went 0 for 5 with two strikeouts. He picked a good night to have his worst game of the year, and really, he could have had a hit in the first inning if he didn’t hit the ball as hard as he did.
Another thing the 2017 Giants never got is a breakout player. After a week, it looks like Alen Hanson might be that guy. In half a season’s worth of plate appearances for his career, he’s been worth -0.9 fWAR. So it’s too early to say he’s fixed or that he’s figured something out. He hasn’t exactly been patient at the plate. He has just one walk so far, though his chase rate is down.
Of course, all expectations regarding Hanson should be tempered with “It’s been a week.” But he’s hitting the ball hard and he’s hitting for power. Even the outs he made were loud. The news about Joe Panik may have caused… trepidation, but Alen Hanson has been a cure-all for those feelings of… dread. A Panik-cea if you will. You won’t? Okay, that’s fine.
Brandon Crawford is hot. He’s also been good at hitting baseballs as of late. He was 3-for-5 with a double tonight and he’s 9-for-19 in May. Crawford even being an average hitter would do wonders for the lineup. Stay hot, Brandon Crawford. Also, keep being good at hitting baseballs.
It’s unfair that Ty Blach is buried all the way down here, but the offense upstaged him. I was worried about how Ty Blach would match against the Braves’ offense especially Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna. A pitcher who lives mostly around the plate but doesn’t have swing-and-miss stuff seems like blood in the water for aggressive hitters who love to swing and who hit the ball hard.
Blach wasn’t perfect. He opened the game looking completely unimpressive against Ozzie Albies who doubled off a lifeless fastball at the top of the zone. But Blach settled in nicely. He may have only struck out two batters in 7.2 innings, but he didn’t walk anyone and one of those batters was Freddie Freeman. Blach got him swinging on a beautiful, sharp changeup, even if the location was higher than the lefty wanted it.
He didn’t quite finish the eighth inning because Hernandez dropped a line drive that hit the pocket of his glove. Yet here’s another difference between the 2017 and 2018 Giants. The 2018 Giants can afford to make a mistake. They had three errors tonight but nothing came unraveled.
The only thing wrong with tonight’s game was that Reyes Moronta left the game with an apparent back injury. Moronta didn’t look right, throwing two fastballs to the back stop and walking two batters on eight pitches. It figures that right after Will Smith comes back, the Giants would lose another one of their more reliable bullpen arms. We can be happy that at least he wasn’t carted off the field. Though we can be upset that he wasn’t carted onto the field.
We’re two days into the Braves’ Jose Bautista experiment at third base and so far, we haven’t seen any goofs or anything noteworthy. He made kind of a high throw and he missed a cutoff throw in the ninth. That was it. I was expecting/hoping the Giants would test him with drag bunts or the “Look out for the wheelbarrow!” gag would work on him. But he looks fine at third base. I would say I’m disappointed, but if Bautista being a proficient third baseman means more Bautista in baseball, that’s a win. Even if he’s in a Braves uniform.
I’m officially 0 for 1 on my series preview predictions. Raise your hand if you expected the Giants to outscore the Braves 20-6 in the first two games. I’m okay with being wrong if this is how it’s going to happen.