The Giants got Tyler Austin to do one thing: mash dingers. He hasn’t gotten a ton of opportunities to do that. Before today’s game, Austin had received just 41 plate appearances, and most of those ended it a walk or a strikeout. Not only have we been waiting for Austin to get his first homer as a Giant, we’ve been waiting for him to do… something. Austin’s biggest play as a Giant by win probability added was a double of Hyun-jin Ryu that advanced Steven Duggar to third base.
Today, Austin got a rare start and he helped the Giants erase their second enormous deficit in a week. By the time Austin took his second at-bat in the third inning, the Giants trailed 7-0.
In his first at-bat, Austin struck out on three sliders below the zone. Freeland has had issues with location and by extension, the long ball. The way he pitched Austin in the first made it seems like he had figured things out just in time to pants the Giants, but Freeland made a mistake with a belt-high fastball and Austin didn’t miss it.
If that were all Austin did today, it would be noteworthy enough. That was his first homer in 18 games with the Giants. His homer made the game 7-2, so it wasn’t important in terms of winning a baseball game. But it would have been the sole silver lining in a game that would only be remembered because it snowed. At the very least, it was a necessary exorcism for Austin. Never before had he gone 17 games without putting at least one ball over the fence, so he was overdue for a dinger.
To make up for lost time, Austin added another, and this time, it swung the balance of the game if only for a moment.
That erased what was once a seven-run lead for the Rockies. It was the second time in a week that the Giants have come back from a deficit of seven or more. But when you consider the Giants’ offense, that shouldn’t be surprising. From Tyler Austin to Stephen Vogt, the Giants are chock full of dangerous dinger-mongers. No lead is safe from them.
I’m only being partially facetious. On this road trip, the Giants have averaged nearly 8 runs per game. They’ve hit 11 home runs in six games. All April, the Giants were one of the best teams in pitching and defense. If they could hit just a little bit, they might be pretty good.
So, it figures that as soon as the Giants start hitting, they stop pitching. They’ve given up 53 runs in a week, so well over 8 runs per game. This happened last May, too. The Giants had their best offensive month in May when they collectively posted a 113 wRC+. That was their best offensive month since May of 2015.
It just so happens that May was the pitching staff’s worst month. If history were going to repeat itself in such an obvious and frustrating way, then couldn’t Brandon Crawford at least go on a tear that puts him on the All-Star team?
Before the game, the Giants recalled Tyler Beede from Triple-A. With Derek Holland’s short start, Beede will not get another crack at the Reds as Bruce Bochy had to use him in long relief. If there’s one positive to take from his out, it’s that he lowered his ERA. He struck out two in two innings and he didn’t give up any homers.
He got 7 swinging strikes on 56 pitches which puts him at a 12.5 swinging strike rate for today. His biggest problem didn’t come from giving up hard contact, it came from the walks. One of the runs he gave up came as a result of back-to-back walks ahead of Nolan Arenado. The double he allowed to Raimel Tapia was a pure product of Coors’ enormous outfield.
Beede’s greatest contribution actually came at the plate. He managed to work a walk before Austin tied the game with a three-run homer. With that walk, he unfortunately reached base more times than Mac Williamson who went 0-for-5. One of those groundouts would have been a hit if Arenado’s body weren’t right in the way of the ball’s trajectory.
Despite the hitless day, I remain encouraged by Williamson’s approach. He only swung and missed at two pitches. He laid off on all the high fastballs that Kyle Freeland threw him. While it would have been rad for Williamson to hit another dinger today, baseball doesn’t always work that way.
Just as Williamson didn’t follow-up his debut with another 2-for-4 day, Stephen Vogt couldn’t come up with another dramatic ninth-inning homer. He did, however, add another double earlier in the game that hit off the wall. Instead of coming up with another hit when the Giants were down to their final out, Vogt swung over the top of a pitch in the dirt. Had he reached on the dropped third strike, it would have added to an already hilariously bad defensive showing by the Rockies.
In the fourth, the Rockies gifted the Giants four runs. Ian Desmond borked a fly ball that should have made things one-out, runner on second, but put Crawford on third with nobody out.
I don’t think anyone saw this coming when Ian Desmond was announced as the Rockies center fielder. In solidarity with Desmond, Raimel Tapia dropped a pop up to load the bases for Austin.
Seeing what happened to his fastball, Freeland threw Austin nothing but sliders. The strategy paid off because Austin grounded into what would have been an inning-ending double play, but Arenado, who otherwise could do no wrong today, assumed Donovan Solano would run straight into an out. But Solano, a professional baseball player, stopped and ran backwards instead of letting Arenado turn a 5-3 double play.
The dropped third strike is still among the dumbest rules in baseball, but I would have welcomed it with open arms if it allowed the Giants to pull off another nonsense comeback in the span of a week.