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A sloppy game, but a 4-2 win

The spiritual sequel to last night’s game featured three Padres errors and a tense ninth for Will Smith.

MLB: San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants
Just as they drew it up in the offseason, Donovan Solano delivered a key hit late in the game.
Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants beat the Padres 4-2 because of Shaun Anderson. With only one out in the first inning, he loaded the bases ahead of Franmil Reyes, who is 6-5, 275 pounds, and was slugging .558 in 227 plate appearances heading into tonight.

A grand slam in that situation or a double to left field like the one Hunter Renfroe hit off of Will Smith in the ninth would’ve made sense. It would’ve fallen into the range of predictability. Instead, Anderson got him to hit into a double play to end the threat. That wouldn’t have happened last month.

Anderson struck out six in six innings of work, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks, and while it wasn’t a dominant start, it was an effective one, particularly after that first inning. That’s a tough spot for any pitcher, but the sheer tonnage of losing already might’ve actually helped him there. Last month, Giants pitching fell apart in the early innings when they got any pressure. Anderson never lost focus, and it allowed him to finish six innings for his third straight start, a feat shared by — as Henry Schulman noted in this tweet — only Madison Bumgarner this season.

The Giants don’t have a lot going for them, but after a punishing month where the starting pitching couldn’t even keep them in the game, adding back in that component to the game has really made them feel more competitive this month, regardless of the final score.

Again, Anderson wasn’t overpowering, but he was effective. Here’s the strike zone plot from the game:

I bring this up because 52 of his 88 pitches (59%) went for strikes and just by the looks of it, eight more of those pitches that were (correctly) called balls were close to the zone. Here’s a pitch analysis by a pitch analysis guru:

The MLB average spin rate on a four-seam fastball is between 2,200-2,300 rpm. Anderson’s is 2,459 rpm, which is 84th percentile. That explains why he’s in the 80th percentile for exit velocity while being 40th percentile in fastball velocity. Dude’s funky. Lots of movement, but not wild like Tyler Beede, whose stuff is much better.

Anderson’s slider also has one of the best horizontal breaks in baseball, according to this Baseball Savant/Statcast pitch measurement stat I barely understand.

Every pitch is affected by the forces of gravity, which means that every pitch drops on its way from the mound to the plate. These numbers are reported with gravity, which makes them larger and different than other pitch movement numbers you may have seen. Since gravity requires time, and slower pitches aren’t ‘better’ just because they have more time to move, the movement of a pitch is compared to ‘average’ movement by comparing it to other MLB pitch types within +/- 2 MPH and from within +/- 0.5 feet of extension and release.

In the case of Anderson’s slider, he has 3 extra inches of horizontal (side-to-side) movement versus the average of all the sliders Statcast has recorded this season. To put it another way, Shaun Anderson’s slider has 73% more break than the average major league slider. That’s great! Will Smith’s slider has 72% more break. Gerrit Cole’s has 66% more. The CubsDillon Maples has a slider has 332% more break than the major league average.

But back to this game. This one felt like a spiritual sequel to last night’s win. The Giants won thanks to key hits late in the game, but the starting pitcher managed to show his chops. Anderson’s started began to unravel in the fifth inning much as Beede’s did last night, only the Padres managed to get just one run out of their leadoff walk this time around.

It was encouraging. The Giants swept a two-game series. They’re 28-38. That’s not great, but it’s encouraging. Will Smith came in to close out the game and after a Brandon Crawford error put a runner on base, Hunter Renfroe doubled, and Wil Myers walked, Smith still managed to get Manuel Margot to pop up to end the game.

The Giants played to their strengths tonight and they won. That’s encouraging.

Donovan Solano is 4-for-7 with runners in scoring position. His RBI double in the seventh was a key hit —

Early in the game, Solano was the only hitter trying to handle Joey Lucchesi’s pitch sequencing — fastball away, “churve” anywhere else — by actually trying to hit the fastball the other way. Proved difficult for Giants hitters all night, so when Lucchesi actually threw him a fastball in, he was able to turn on it for a jam shot that landed softly between short and left field for an RBI single.

Solano reached second base thanks to the first of many throwing errors by the Padres. Fernando Tatis Jr. is so incredibly talented that cutting balls off as they shoot up the middle is going to be a thing for the next decade and we’re all going to hate him for taking away hits and runs, but for tonight, we got to see that talent needs to be guided by experience in order to make a player successful. Tatis Jr. was diving for balls, catching them, but then making wild, ill-advised throws.

Last night’s game felt like a showdown between two teams at opposite ends of their rebuilding processes while tonight’s game just felt like a good ol’ fashioned The Giants Are Okay versus The Padres Are Bad game. Like this recap, it was inelegant, but it happened.