Sometimes it’s important to move the goalposts in. The Giants probably won’t have a winning record against the Dodgers this year, but that doesn’t mean that every victory can’t be savored. Personally, I’m not rooting for the Giants to Beat LA, I’m rooting for them to not completely embarrass themselves. They managed to do both tonight, and that’s worth celebrating.
Not playing like they had their head stuck in a bucket was going to be important tonight considering baseball fans around the country were tuning in to see Julio Urías’s first start in two years.
Julio Urias is making his first start in nearly two years and he's still three years younger than anyone on the Giants roster.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 2, 2019
Urías had missed most of the 2017 and 2018 seasons after undergoing anterior capsule surgery, and he wasn’t even supposed to be starting this early. The plan with Urías was supposed to be keep him in the bullpen for the first part of the year and move him into the rotation to get him ready for the playoffs. From the Dodgers’ perspective, he was wasted making a start against the Giants.
Even when it was clear Clayton Kershaw wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day, Ross Stripling took his spot. But then Rich Hill got hurt, and the Dodgers had to break the glass and bust out Urías. Urías would probably be the number one or number two starter on most other teams. Even so, when Hill or Kershaw returns, he’ll probably go back to the ‘pen to conserve his innings for when they matter. That the Dodgers felt confident enough to rest their pitching phenom and start six other pitchers ahead of him should give you an idea of how deep this team is.
It took until the third inning to get a baserunner against Urías and that came when Joe Panik got grazed by an inside fastball. The Giants might have been able to score a run there if their pitchers were capable of bunting.
The Giants didn’t score any runs against Urías, but they did manage to hit the ball hard against him a few times. Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik both doubled, lending some credence to Urías’s reverse splits. If this were three years ago and teams were still leaving pitchers in to face a batting order a third time through, the Giants could have broken through against Urías.
If the Dodgers have one weakness, it’s their bullpen. It nearly cost them last season, and it hasn’t instilled much confidence in the early goings this year. They’re not quite Cubs-level of collar-tuggingly bad, but if there’s any hope of a Dodgers’ collapse this year, it lies in the middle relievers. The Giants were all over Joe Kelly and Scott Alexander, and if the Giants were all over them, imagine what a good offensive team will do to them.
Meanwhile, the Giants’ bullpen was effective if not convincing. Mark Melancon had the best outing of anyone, getting through the seventh on 12 pitches. Tony Watson got helped out by Brandon Belt being 6’5”, and Trevor Gott gave up this bomb to Max Muncy, that we all knew off the bat was gone.
Nine years ago today, in his second major league game, Brandon Belt hit his first career home run. It was a three-run shot that went over the center field wall at Dodger Stadium. Tonight, Brandon Belt hit the first home run of his 2019 season, that kind of went to the same spot.
Belt backed up that dinger with a go-ahead double in the seventh. This double, and Crawford’s double earlier in the game were both their 200th doubles of their career.
Belt’s double in particular was highly unusual since the Giants had already scored a run in that inning off a Pablo Sandoval RBI single. Turns out that it’s within the rules of baseball to score multiple runs in the same inning. Maybe the Giants could do that more often. Don’t know for sure. I’d have to run the numbers on it.
Last year, Evan Longoria committed a career-high 15 errors, and there was some disagreement among the advanced metrics on his defense. Tonight, though, Longoria made two nice plays that everyone could agree on. One was a barehanded charging play, and another where he was backed up on the edge of the grass to nab AJ Pollock by a step. Longoria isn’t going to hit 30 bombs again. He might not even hit 20, but if he’s a good defender again he’ll be fun to watch.
On the other side of the ball, Drew Pomeranz made his Giants debut, and aside from two awful pitches he grooved to Chris Taylor and Alex Verdugo, he looked… good? He didn’t have pinpoint command with the fastball, but he generally managed to put it where he wanted. More importantly he was hitting 93 regularly which is above where he was at this time last year.
His curve, which was a problem for him last season, looked sharp tonight. He got Kiké Hernández looking on five straight curves. Of his six strikeouts, Pomeranz only recorded one with the curve. The rest came on fastballs, but the curve was instrumental in setting up his four-seam and two-seam.
This was on display when he made Corey Seager look silly by opening up the at-bat with a curve below the zone and two straight fastballs at the shoulders that Seager swung through. It was the last batter Pomeranz faced in his five innings of work, and it was good to see him finish strong after allowing the two homers to Taylor and Verdugo earlier in the inning.
Connor Joe did not get a hit meaning that he is 0-for-10 to begin the 2019 season and his major league career. The longest hitless streak to begin a season is held by none other than Eugenio Velez who went 0-for-37 in 2011. The longest such streak to begin a career was an 0-for-35 streak set by Vic Harris in 1972.
As far as Giants records go, there are still some familiar faces ahead of Joe on the 0-fer to begin a season. Last year, Evan Longoria went hitless through his first 15 at-bats. Ryder Jones went 0-for-16 in 2017. High Pockets Kelly, which incidentally was my nickname in Junior High, had two streaks as long or longer than Joe’s.
Because Joe still carries Rule 5 provisions, he’s a good candidate to break either Harris’s or Velez’s streak. They have to stick with him or else he returns to the Dodgers where he’ll undoubtedly become the next Max Muncy because the Max Muncy will bequeath to him the spirit orb necessary to achieve Maximum Muncy.
Get a hit, Connor Joe.