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Giants can’t touch Aaron Nola, lose 4-2

The Giants generously helped Aaron Nola set a career-high for strikeouts while somehow managing to score two whole runs!

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Philadelphia Phillies
Andrew McCutchen doing his very best to hit a baseball.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Boy, it sure would have been nice if Gabe Kapler were still taking his starters out after a second time through the order, because the Giants haven’t been able to do a danged thing against Zach Eflin and Aaron Nola. They’ve scored one measly run against Philadelphia starters in the series.

They won the first two games of the season with the same splits, which I bring up only because it was against the Dodgers and lolDodgers. But this isn’t a recipe for success. Especially with a rotation where you’re crossing your fingers and hoping for five innings.

As such, the Giants’ five-series win streak has effectively ended. The best they can do now is split the series, which wouldn’t be a bad outcome at all.

Remember that this was a game the Giants were likely to lose. The Phillies were starting their ace and the Giants were starting a non-roster invitee who is only in the rotation because Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto got hurt and Tyler Beede fell into an open manhole.

This isn’t to drag Derek Holland, because he pitched fine. I’m glad the Giants have him. Without him, I might actually think getting Matt Harvey would be a good idea. Tonight, he did what he was supposed to do. He gave up three runs in five innings on two home runs. He kept the Giants in it, which is all you can really ask from the guy who is seventh or eighth on the depth chart.

But he was no match for Aaron Nola, baseball-throwing demigod. Nola got nine whiffs on the changeup, six on the curve, and nine on the four-seamer. If you want an idea of how good Aaron Nola was tonight, he struck out Buster Posey with nothing but fastballs, and he made him look silly doing it. Nola notched a career-high twelve strikeouts in the game. This was a tip your cap game. It’s a minor miracle the Giants managed to score against him at all.

Memory’s a weird thing. Like, I could have sworn a couple days ago the Giants offense was unstoppable. Up and down the lineup, they were ripping balls all over the field. They outscored the best offensive team in the majors 24-9.

And they had this smoldery shortstop who you couldn’t get a ball by. Even if he didn’t hit it hard he’d still manage to drop it in somewhere. This Brandon Crawford guy who went 0 for 4 and struck out twice can’t be the same guy, can it?

And I remember the Giants had called up this second baseman, Alen Hanson. He was good for a double a game. At least! But this Alen Hanson is 1 for 7 with two strikeouts in the first two games of the series.

The one hit was a double, so he hasn’t been completely ineffective. Two games isn’t enough to say that his hot start was a mirage just as his hot start wasn’t enough to say he’s for real. He is the Schrödinger’s hitter, both a breakout and a bust depending on what he’s doing.

I liked the Alen Hanson who hit dingers and scored runs with aggressive baserunning. Be that Alen Hanson, Alen Hanson.

Something that I definitely remember is Pablo Sandoval hitting big, long dingers. Sandoval continues to show signs of being above replacement level. His pinch-hit homer was the first of his career which is crazy because if you had asked me before the game I would have told you about six I definitely remember him hitting. Remember that one he hit off Mat Latos when Mat Latos was on the Padres? The one that was up above his eyes. That was a pinch-hit home run, wasn’t it?

Cory Gearrin might have a home run problem. In 13.2 innings, he’s given up three home runs. His HR/FB% is 30% compared to last year’s nice mark of 6.9%. He’s also inducing fewer ground balls than he has in recent years. This is still a very small sample size, but it’s something to keep an eye on. The Giants would be a much better team with an effective, dinger-suppressing Cory Gearrin.

Will Smith made his third start since coming back from Tommy John. He ran into a little bit of trouble after giving up a hit to Odubel Herrara and a walk. The hit to Herrara shouldn’t count against Smith’s stats. Herrara should just come up to the plate and roll a d4 to see how many bases he gets. Seriously, that pitch he singled on was a 93 MPH six-inches inside.

But Smith managed to pitch out of a two-on, nobody out situation with a little help from a nice play by Crawford. When someone comes back from Tommy John, there are obviously concerns over whether he’ll be the same pitcher. The early returns on Smith are encouraging even if he didn’t have control over his fastball tonight.

The Giants will now try to salvage a split and they’ll do it against pitchers who aren’t untouchable. They’ll also be starting pitchers who weren’t rushed back or a replacement’s replacement.

Remember when the Giants won games? That was fun. They should do that again.