For a while, this was a close game. The Dodgers jumped out to an early lead, and even though Shaun Anderson was outclassed by the Dodger offense, he held the deficit at a point where the Giants could conceivably come back. Sometime around the fourth or fifth inning, you could have tricked yourself into thinking that this could be a game where all the Giants had to do was get a run or two against Clayton Kershaw and take advantage of the Dodger bullpen.
But the Giants never had a chance of winning this game. The game began at 7:10 and the winning run came across home plate at around 7:15. At that point, you could have turned the game off and done anything else with your evening. If you stuck around long enough to watch Anderson worm his way out of the first with just the two runs allowed, perhaps you were tricked into thinking that this could be a game the Giants could steal away. If that was true, you probably watched long enough to see Kiké Hernández completely ruin Trevor Gott’s ERA and trade value. If you watched that, you probably just finished the game because whatever, it was almost over.
With the way things began for Shaun Anderson, he should consider himself lucky that he only gave up the two runs in the first inning. For the second time this year, he gave up a home run to the first batter he faced. That batter, of course, is Joc Pederson, a hitter whose home runs can only be described as pornographic.
Anderson managed to keep the ball in the yard, but the contact wasn’t much softer. Justin Turner hit a double down the left field line to bring home Alex Verdugo, and Cody Bellinger barreled a ball that mercifully went straight to Kevin Pillar. Through the first four batters he faced, three hit the ball at 102 mph or more, and the lowest expected batting average on the four batted balls was .730.
Anderson didn’t get a single swinging strike the first time through the order. He didn’t get a whiff until his 59th pitch which came in the fourth inning against Chris Taylor. He didn’t get his second and third until the sixth inning. That was it. He threw 99 pitches and got three swinging strikes. Without the high strike, Anderson only racked up 11 called strikes.
Alex Fast at Pitcher List has been keeping track of called strikes and whiffs out of total pitches or CSW Rate. An average outing generally has around a 28 percent CSW rate. Tonight, Anderson had just a 14.1 percent CSW. No wonder he only had two strikeouts.
Despite his inability to miss bats, and the loud contact made against him in the first, Anderson grinded through the rest of his outing. He got into trouble, but he never panicked. It’s hard to quantify or even comment on things like composure because usually, it’s unobservable. But when you have a rookie pitcher going up against the Dodgers offense and that rookie knows that he can’t miss their bats, and he doesn’t throw up on the mound like that pitcher in The Scout that isn’t Brendan Frasier, that’s composure.
Anderson was overmatched, but he still did his best to keep the Giants within striking distance. At least theoretically. In practice, the game was over as soon as Joc jammed one over the left field wall. The Dodgers had Clayton Kershaw on the mound and the closest the Giants got to scoring against him was a deep fly ball off the bat of Tyler Austin. But all that did was give Cody Bellinger an excuse to take a bad route and make an unnecessary leaping catch against the wall which made the crowd go absolutely bazonkers.
Every so often, I’ll see or hear something saying that Kershaw isn’t the same pitcher as he used to be, and that he probably isn’t a top-25 starter in baseball anymore. His velocity is way down, and his DRA coming into today was 3.70. This all makes sense. Objectively speaking, it’s probably true that Kershaw is just very good now, but I will never accept that as truth until a day comes where I don’t feel unequivocally giddy when the Giants manage to score one lousy run off the dude.
Things really came unraveled in the seventh when the Dodgers opened the inning with an unstoppable ground attack. Bellinger and Muncy both punched ground balls through the shift, and that brought in Trevor Gott to face David Freese. Gott induced a ground ball, a soft line drive, and another ground ball. All of them reached base.
After the walk, there was no realistic outcome that didn’t involve Kiké Hernández hitting a grand slam. We should consider ourselves lucky Gott didn’t yell at Hernández provoking a sick burn that doesn’t make any sense like, “If you don’t want me hitting a grand slam, go get it out of the parking lot.” In that scenario, there would have been t-shirts made, and we’d have to relive this game three days from now.
At least there won’t be t-shirts.