For the eighth time in July, the Giants failed to score more than three runs. It’s the tenth. They’ve played ten games, and in 80% of them, they have scored three or fewer runs. The two times they didn’t they scored nine and thirteen runs, so they’re not about to threaten the Royals for worst offensive month of the season. At least I hope not. Still, this was the second time they’ve been shutout in less than a week.
This team just cannot get everything firing at once. If the pitching is on, the offense is off. If the offense is on, the pitching is off. If the pitching and offense are both magically on, the defense borks it. Imagine holding the Cubs to three runs in two games and losing one of them. I never thought I’d say this, Derek Holland deserves better than this.
Derek Holland was only starting today to ensure Cueto starts again just once before the All-Star break. He pitched like he wanted to get back into the rotation permanently. Even with a tight zone, Holland was a strike-throwing machine tonight. The first nine pitches of the game were all strikes; the first ball he threw was to Javier Báez. He struck out four batters in the first two innings, and he finished the night with eight.
Aside from nearly giving up to a dinger to Báez, Holland pitched the Cubs’ best hitter perfectly. He leads qualified hitters in swing rate and only inexplicable All-Star Salvador Perez has swung at more pitches outside the zone. Báez looks at Pablo Sandoval fouling off pitches that bounce in front of the plate, and he requests someone hold his beer. Holland threw him nine pitches, and only two were in the strike zone. Holland got him out twice. Don’t throw Báez anything in the strike zone.
It didn’t matter how well Holland pitched because the Giants couldn’t do anything against José Quintana. Holland pitched better, but the Giants are vastly inferior hitters to the Cubs. Admittedly, you could say that for just about any other team. The Cubs lead the majors in runs scored, and they don’t have a regular with a wRC+ under 100. It’s a small consolation to hold one of the best offenses in baseball to three runs over two games when your offense is held to two.
As well as Quintana pitched, there were moments where he looked beatable. The Giants wasted an opportunity in the fourth. Brandon Belt started off the inning beating the shift yet again. Andrew McCutchen drew a nice walk giving the Giants runners at first and second with no outs. Quintana’s command started to waver as he had more trouble locating his curve though the break looked sharp. Nick Hundley worked a 3-2 count and got a fastball in the lower third of the zone, but he rolled over the top of it for a double play.
That left things up to Brandon Crawford with Belt still at third. Quintana threw him three pitches well away from the strike zone and two pitches middle-middle. Quintana runs into trouble when he can’t throw his breaking balls for strikes because then he starts grooving fastballs. He was vulnerable, but Crawford wasn’t able to seize the opportunities he received. Quintana, to his credit, threw him a perfectly placed fastball and all Crawford could do was roll it to short.
I have never seen Carl Edwards Jr. throw so many curveballs. He threw twelve pitches to strike out Hundley, Crawford, and Hunter Pence. Seven of those pitches were curves. The Giants swung and missed at five of them. The other two they took. I guess if a pitch is that effective why throw anything else? Oh, because he can also throw 96. That’s right.
Sam Dyson was not as effective as Carl’s Jr. That’s in reference to Edwards’ nickname and the fast food restaurant chain. Dyson pitched worse than Carl’s Jr. makes edible things. Okay, maybe he didn’t pitch that bad. He did make Albert Almora and Báez look silly. But it was definitely jarring watching Holland command the strike zone all night and then have Dyson come in and have no idea where the ball was going.
We got a second screening of the Ray Black experience, and this was much, much better. He struck out Willson Contreras on a 79 MPH curveball at the knees. He struck out Addison Russell on a 99 MPH fastball. He got Kyle Schwarber to pop up on another 99 MPH fastball. He didn’t touch 100 MPH, but this was proof of concept for Ray Black. Fastball that bottoms out at 98 with a sharp curveball and an 85 MPH slider. That combo should work. How could that not work?
The Giants may have lost, but at least we got a glimpse of an effective Ray Black. The prospect of a dude throwing blazing fastballs and comparative eephuses is almost enough to counteract the slow poison of watching a dull loss.
Chase d’Arnaud got himself his first hit in a Giants uniform. Quintana threw him a sinker down and away, but d’Arnaud drove it into centerfield. His bat broke in half right above the handle, and ordinarily that signifies that the batter took a bad swing, d’Arnaud looked fine. That bat’s sacrifice will be honored in Valhalla.
The Giants can still win this series, but they’ll need Johnny Cueto to be his old, shimmying self. More importantly, they’ll need guys to get on base.
Even more importantly, you need to vote for Brandon Belt. Go vote.