Before the game, the ceremonies marked the ending of chapters and new beginnings in Giants baseball. They celebrated the lives of Willie McCovey, Peter McGowan, Hank Greenwald, and Frank Robinson. Fans gave Bruce Bochy a minute and a half ovation. They even christened a new scoreboard which is secondary to the people honored today, but another sign of the changing times.
Around the field, Giants baseball has been forever changed.
On the field? It’s going to be the same ole utter lack of feck.
The offense didn’t make any noise until seventh inning when the Rays brought in Wilmer Font to pitch. The last time Wilmer Font pitched against the Giants, Andrew McCutchen hit a three-run walk-off homer in the 14th.
Pablo Sandoval and Steven Duggar, who have been carrying the offense along with Belt, each doubled the opposite way. Duggar and Sandoval were fortunate in that they got good pitches to hit. The Giants are incapable of hitting good pitching. They rely on the pitcher making mistakes to location because they haven’t beat a good pitch all season.
The Rays brought in Adam Kolvarek in the eighth who looked lost on the mound. The Giants managed to load the bases against him in the eighth inning with nobody out. When it happened, you had to wonder how they were going to worm their way out without scoring any runs. They went with the classic.
Gerardo Parra took this pitch for strike three:
It wasn’t exactly an easy pitch to hit, but Homeplate umpire Kerwin Danley had been calling a wide strike zone all day. Parra’s decision to take a clear strike was a masterwork in wasting opportunities.
After Parra, Kevin Pillar came up and watched the new Rays pitcher, Diego Castilla, throw three pitches away from his target to set up a 2-1 advantage. Pillar then rolled an easy double play ball to short to end the inning and any semblance of a threat.
In the ninth, the Giants somehow brought the tying run to the plate against José Alvarado who gained notoriety this week for his witchy fastball.
José Alvarado, Obscene 99mph Two Seamer.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 3, 2019
TFW you think you're about to wear a 99mph fastball...
And it ends up outer third. pic.twitter.com/QtOtn3tbsc
Do you think anyone on the Giants is capable of hitting that?
Dereck Rodríguez came out firing strikes and getting swings and misses. He retired the first two batters quickly, and then gave up a weakly hit double to Ji-Man Choi. No biggy. He got Brandon Lowe to swing and miss at curveball and a changeup. Then he threw a fastball to Lowe, and it got absolutely clobbered. Then Yandy Díaz and Kevin Kiermaier hit back-to-back homers and suddenly the Giants were down 4-0 before they even had a chance to go down in order.
Aside from that four batter stretch, Rodríguez pitched really well. He got 15 swinging strikes on 87 pitches, most of them coming on changeups. He struck out five in 5 1/3 innings and didn’t walk anyone. Between the second and fifth innings, he allowed only one baserunner. When he made his pitches, the Rays couldn’t do anything against him.
He needed Travis Bergen to bail him out of trouble in the sixth. Bergen wasn’t especially fine with his command, but with his crossbody action, he seems like he’s an uncomfortable at bat for lefties.
But as Rodríguez needed help from Bergen, Bergen needed help from Joe Panik to get through the sixth.
The play was reminiscent of the double play Crawnik turned 37 years ago in the 2014 World Series. Life sure was different then. Statcast was but a twinkle in MLBAM’s eye, the Giants didn’t have to worry about selling out Opening Day, the Giants won baseball games most of the time. Those were the days.
In Brandon Belt’s first at bat at Oracle Park, he got AT&T’d. I know that technically it should be that he got Oracled, but AT&T’d feels more appropriate. AT&T has a history of screwing people over. If you remark to a casual fan, “Aw man, he got AT&T’d,” they’ll understand what you mean from cultural context.
If you say, “Dag nabbit, he got Oracled,” it sounds Oedipal. It sounds as if the batter had been told a prophecy that would be fulfilled 20 or 30 years from now. The meaning doesn’t match up nearly as well. Besides, if we’re going to change the word for “getting robbed of a home run,” we’re going to wind up saying he got Ameritraded or Smoothie Kinged in five years when the Giants rename the park.
The Rays employed a four-man outfield against Brandon Belt which I don’t recall seeing before, but it makes sense. Belt has a career fly ball percentage of 42.8, so putting an infielder in the outfield is more likely to help than putting one up the middle. Of course, Belt wound up singling on a ground ball up the middle in the sixth.
Christian Arroyo made his first plate appearance against the Giants since they traded him to the Rays for Evan Longoria. It would have been very on brand for the Giants for Arroyo to hit an opposite field homer, but no. Nick Vincent struck him out on three pitches.
Yandy Díaz’s nickname is Biceps. Remember, he works with professional athletes. It’s not as if he’s an accountant who can bench 150. He’s around baseball players who spend 25 percent of their existence lifting weights. Díaz has to have some massive guns to earn that nickname.
His immense strength didn’t translate into power last season. Over the last two seasons, he only hit one dinger in 299 plate appearances. His issue was that he hit the ball the other way too often, and that sapped his power. He’s basically the Rays’ Austin Slater except he’s still a good hitter if he’s not hitting for power.
Díaz was Bryan’s pick for hitter to watch in the series preview and for good reason. He’s changed his swing, and he’s starting to pull the ball more. When he pulls the ball, he does this:
That’s his second homer in eight games with the Rays, and he hit two in Spring Training. It doesn’t matter if he didn’t barrel the ball or that he broke his bat. He’s a strong boi, an absolute unit. If he’s figured out how to pull the ball in the air, everyone else is doomed. I’m just glad that after this weekend, the Giants won’t have to face him for another three years.