It’s weird how the make-up of the Giants can change on any given night. For much of the season, they’ve been an offense-first team that lacks starting pitching, and they’ve depended on a league-average offense to overcome an early deficit. Tonight, they were a reproduction of the 2009 Giants, and you got the feeling that if they gave up a run, they were boned. The starting pitching was excellent; the offense was effective if you only look at the results.
The Giants only scored two runs, but one would have been enough as they got their second quality start in a row. This comes after nearly a month stretch where they could hardly get a starter to go six innings let alone give up fewer than four runs. This is a welcome change.
While Andrew Suarez carved through the Phillies order with knee-buckling curves and well-placed fastballs, the offense flailed at fastballs out of the zone and hanging breaking balls. Vince Velasquez didn’t look as if he knew where the ball was going but he still got swings and misses on 30% of the fastballs he threw.
Thus, the Giants found themselves in a good ole fashioned pitcher’s duel. Suarez came out of the gate strong, retiring the first seven batters in a row. He’d eventually retire the first eleven out of twelve.
In the fifth, it seemed as if the Giants would indeed be boned when the Phillies opened the inning by going:
· Swinging bunt
· Jam-shot single
· Double play ball that was hit too slowly to be a double play.
They had runners at the corners with one out, and you could see how it was going to go from there. A sac fly, a seeing-eye grounder, or a Texas Leaguer all would have been enough for the Phillies to go ahead and take the game from the Giants. And that’s before considering Jorge Alfaro was stepping into the batter’s box. In his first at bat, Alfaro drilled a triple that would have been a homer anywhere else.
But Suarez struck him out on three pitches, the last being a sharp curve down in the dirt. It may not have been the best pitch Suarez threw all night, but it was the most important and looked the most impressive.
After that, he struck out Velasquez, who Kruk and Kuip had been saying could swing the bat in some hella ominous foreshadowing that turned into a MacGuffin.
Suarez ended his night with 7 IP, the first time a Giants starter had gone through the seventh since Ty Blach’s start in Atlanta. He struck out five while only allowing three hits and he didn’t walk anyone. It was easily his best start as a big leaguer, and it might have been a classic Caining if not for a great defensive play by Andrew McCutchen following a triple from Jorge Alfaro.
It’s perhaps not the most visually appealing play you’ll ever see. McCutchen didn’t have to get his uniform dirty or even leave his feet. This play was made in the reaction and the route. If his first step isn’t perfect, he’s not making this play. If his subsequent thirty steps aren’t perfect, he’s not making this play. If he doesn’t catch it, the Phillies go ahead and they probably have another runner on third with two outs.
Those were the only two times the Phillies came close to scoring, though, and the Giants stopped them with great defense and great pitching. They didn’t have to get lucky with a ball ricocheting off an umpire or a batter tripping in the base paths or a blown call that went their way. They simply outplayed their opposition.
They were maybe a little lucky to get their runs, though.
The Giants got their first run when McCutchen hit a soft ground ball with Joe Panik on third. Off the bat, it looked like he would be out by ten feet, but Panik slid in just underneath the tag. All the replay angles that were initially shown on the broadcast indicated that Panik was safe. After they made the call, the broadcast showed the 4D angle, and it was… less convincing.
I still think Panik was safe, and even if he wasn’t, the Giants scored another run later in the game. And this time, they did it fair and square with a hit that maybe could have been an error with a spiteful scorekeeper.
Panik, who also scored the Giants second run, is 4-for-9 since coming back from the DL last night. Since Alen Hanson went on the DL, Giants second baseman have hit .220/.233/.254 good for a 32 wRC+. The only two teams to have worse offensive output from their second baseman over that period are the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, which I only mention because lol.
Panik tonight looked like the Panik that drew comparisons to Bill Mueller, which is great news considering Brandon Belt is taking his shift on the disabled list.
Those two runs Panik helped create were all the pitching staff needed, though. Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland closed out the eighth and ninth innings to extend the team’s scoreless inning streak to 25 innings.
Conspicuously absent from the series so far is Mark Melancon, who was activated yesterday. Bruce Bochy has said that he wants Melancon’s first few starts to be lower leverage outings, so it makes sense that we haven’t seen him yet.
If the Giants can jump on Jake Arrieta maybe Melancon will finally get a chance to get into his first game since September 5, 2017. That is unless Dereck Rodriguez throws a complete game shutout.