Yonny Chirinos deserves some credit for pitching well, but the Giants didn’t make it hard for him. Through five innings, the Giants only had three hard-hit balls against him and all three went for outs.
Brandon Crawford nearly joined the very exclusive list of Giants with Dingers. In his first at-bat, he barreled a ball that would have gone out had there not been a strong wind blowing in from center field. According to Statcast, the ball had an expected batting average of .830 which is exactly what Yandy Díaz’s leadoff homer had.
The wind hurt Crawford’s numbers, but it helped the Giants’ odds of winning the game. In the next half-inning, Mike Zunino nearly hit a three-run homer, but the wind knocked it down. Statcast has track six other balls hit at 107 MPH and 41 degrees, and only one of them wasn’t a homer.
The cliché goes that in every baseball game, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. If you watch enough baseball there will be plenty of things you don’t see very often, a hovercraft designed like a DeLorean zipping around San Francisco Bay for example, but I don’t know if you’ll see something you’ve never seen before in every game.
But it took two pitches for me to witness something I had never seen in a baseball game before. Yandy Díaz’s leadoff homer was pretty clearly out, but the second base umpire Kerwin Danley didn’t make a call. He didn’t see it, and he admitted it. I’ve never seen an umpire be asked to make a call, and just shrug their shoulders saying, “I dunno.”
Umpires are stubborn, and they lack humility. It’s part of the job. If they revoked their judgments, they would lose their credibility. But here was an umpire openly admitting, “I don’t know, dude. I didn’t see what happened.” Wild.
That wasn’t even the only thing I had never seen before.
The Rays pulled a modified Waxahachie swap in the bottom of the seventh. Chaz Roe came in to relieve Adam Kolarek, but Kolarek went to play first base instead of left field, which is usually where a pitcher goes when this strategy is employed. It’s where Cory Gearrin went when Bruce Bochy made this maneuver a few years ago.
Last year, the Rays sent Sergio Romo to third base, but I’ve never seen a pitcher go to first. It seems like a risky move, but remember, the Rays were pulling this move against the Giants. For this to come up, the ball would have to be put in play.
I have also never seen a batter go up to the plate with a helmet that didn’t fit.
I have also also never seen Brandon Belt up at the plate, representing the final out, and getting a blown call in his favor.
Drew Pomeranz probably deserved better than he got today. The leadoff dinger notwithstanding, he looked like he’d have a nice outing in the first two innings. He located the fastball well, and the first time through the order, the curveball snapped in for strikes.
Things took a turn in Yandy Díaz’s second at-bat, though. Pomeranz should have had struck out on three pitches, but a missed call derailed the at-bat. Pomeranz never really recovered after that missed call. Hitters stopped chasing his curve, and his command wavered. It didn’t help that every little dink and doink fell in for a hit, or the defense failed to turn a double play or get an out.
Five strikeouts and three walks in four innings isn’t bad especially when it should have been six strikeouts and two walks. I don’t know what the rest of Pomeranz’s season is going to look like, but 11 strikeouts in 10 innings with improved velocity is a nice start.
I neglected to write about Trevor Gott’s outing on Friday, which is a failing on my part. He had a really impressive outing his last time out. He really did me a solid by looking just as good today. His fastball has a combination of velocity and movement that makes it easy to see why Farhan Zaidi wanted to pick him up. His knuckle curve has low spin, but it looks like it’s effective spin or efficient spin.
He gave up a couple hard hits, but neither of those pitches were grooved. The Giants didn’t need to pick up Gott and Vincent and Bergen, all of whom have been pretty good, but the Giants didn’t have to give up anything to pick them up.
If you’re feeling underwhelmed by Farhan Zaidi’s first offseason, just remember that he didn’t have to improve the bullpen depth, but he did anyway. Now imagine that Bryce Harper had agreed to sign in San Francisco instead of Philadelphia and his at bats replaced Connor Joe’s or Michael Reed’s. This team might actually look pretty good.
Even so, the bullpen moves on their own give me more confidence in Zaidi than Cubs fans have in Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer who looked at a smoldering crater of a bullpen and threw Brad Brach at it.
My only complaint about the bullpen so far is that Nick Vincent can’t stop throwing pick offs to unoccupied bases. He threw a ball away on Friday, and he nearly took off Evan Longoria’s head today. He wound up balking in a run because you can’t throw to an unoccupied base. Longoria wasn’t holding the runner on, so there was no purpose of making a play. This happened to the Brewers earlier in the year. The balk rules are pretty oblique and no one really knows what’s a balk and what isn’t, but throwing to an unoccupied base is the clearest balk you can balk.
With Mark Melancon’s scoreless inning, the bullpen went five innings, allowed one run, struck out five and didn’t walk anyone. Maybe that’s not the kind of performance that earns a beer and milk(?) bath, but it’s worth celebrating all the same.
It ultimately didn’t matter what the pitchers did. Vincent could have balked in six runs and it wouldn’t have altered the Giants’ chances of winning the game. The Giants have had one of the best pitching staffs in the majors since May of last year, and it hasn’t done them an ounce of good.