On Game of Thrones night, the Giants, like the show itself, turned out to be not that good. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the Giants, and I’m enjoying this year overall. I certainly appreciate all the good things they’ve done over the last decade. They’ve been responsible for some of my favorite moments, and I will always cherish those memories. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that with a few simple changes this season could have been 50 percent better.
Instead, the people running the show have tried to do too much in too little time. It was questionable to begin the season with two new characters, but the Connor Joe and Michael Reed story lines were never given the opportunity they needed to thrive. With as many people coming in and out, I’m starting to wonder if every player is going to have an opportunity to get the playing time they need.
The most recent example of this is Andrew Suárez who made his 2019 debut tonight. Suárez didn’t have the luck that Dereck Rodríguez had last year, but I’d argue that his rookie year was even more impressive. It’s a shame that we’ve had to wait this long to see Suárez in San Francisco, but I suppose it was worth the wait.
Ronald Acuña Jr. hit Andrew Suárez’s first pitch of 2019 campaign a good 20 rows up the left field bleachers. That was Acuña’s 10th leadoff homer of his career, and his career is about a year old. As a team the Giants have hit 10 leadoff homers since June of 2017. That’s not to pick on the Giants because they’re not that far behind the A’s or the Red Sox for example. It’s to point out how good Acuña is. Acuña doesn’t even lead off all the time, and he has still out leadoff-homered a bunch of teams in half a season’s worth of games.
Acuña is so good at hitting leadoff homers that José Ureña beaned him last year. That says as much about Ureña being a babyman as it does Acuña but it’s hard to incense even the babiest of professional baseball players just by being really good.
The pitch that Acuña punished was a pitch from Suárez that many right handers punished last season. 9 of Suárez’s 23 home runs allowed came off sliders thrown to righties. Against a righty-heavy Atlanta Braves lineup, Suárez eschewed the slider in favor of the changeup and curveball, and it paid off for him. After the leadoff dinger, and three walks in the first two innings, Suárez made quick work of the Braves. He reminded us that the biggest reason he didn’t make the major league roster is because he had options.
Suárez got 11 swinging strikes on 97 pitches. That pales in comparison to what Mike Soroka did, but if Suárez could have these results every time out, he’d be in the top half of starters at getting swings and misses. He struck out five in six innings, and his outing looks worse only because of a hanging 0-2 curveball to Austin Riley.
Because of the, uh, dynamic roster moves the Giants have made in the last few weeks, Suárez might not make his next start with the major league team, but from what we saw tonight, he’s certainly deserving of chance.
UPDATE: Suárez is staying in the rotation for now.
Bochy said Suarez will stay in rotation for now. Should be an interesting decision tomorrow. Giants don’t plan to stay with 14-man staff, would need to get rid of one to add another infielder.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) May 21, 2019
Suárez was upstaged by Mike Soroka whose only failings were that he didn’t throw a perfect game and a major league hitter finally hit a home run off him. It wasn’t until Brandon Crawford hit a home run to straightaway center in the sixth that the Giants got their first baserunner. The one run he allowed in eight innings actually made his ERA rise. The Giants had no chance of winning this game considering the only victory the Giants could muster against Soroka was getting his ERA from 0.98 to 1.01.
In addition to being the only player to homer off Soroka all year, Crawford was the only Giant to record a hit off Soroka tonight. Crawford went 2-for-3 tonight after saving the game with the play of the year yesterday.
More importantly, Crawford remained in the game all night. Donovan Solano was optioned to Triple A today, so the backup shortstop tonight was Evan Longoria. Longoria hasn’t played a major league inning at shortstop since 2009 and even then, he only lasted nine innings.
While it would have been extremely funny for the Giants to finally be embarrassed for ignoring a backup shortstop for years, I’m glad we didn’t have to watch Longoria play shortstop tonight.
Pablo Sandoval is playing like it’s 2011 again, and I don’t just mean at the plate. In the seventh inning, Sandoval sproinged into the air to snag what would have been a double down the line.
Did you know pandas can fly?#SFGiants pic.twitter.com/D83XLbGGub— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) May 21, 2019
The eye test has always been kinder to Sandoval than any advanced fielding metrics. He’s not going to range far to his left to get that sweet, sweet UZR but he’ll catch anything that’s within pouncing distance.
I didn’t catch what Will Smith said to Pablo Sandoval yesterday after the game, but they replayed the clip tonight and what he said was, “Hey, so you’re pretty good at baseball.” He sure is, Will Smith. He sure is.
Joe Panik’s 17-game on-base streak came to an end tonight. It began on April 28 and lived well until May 19. Over those 17 games, Panik hit .328/.429/.453. Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt, and Evan Longoria also saw their on-base streaks end tonight, so the only Giants who remain on the 25-man roster with an active on-base streak: Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, and Shaun Anderson, all tied at one.