The original headline began, “Shaun Anderson strikes out Adam Jones, leading to 2-1 loss” after Shaun Anderson struck out Adam Jones in the bottom of the fourth inning, but because of MLB Official Rule 5.09, Jones was able to score after reaching first base when Stephen Vogt couldn’t catch the ball in the dirt.
But then Kevin PIllar led off the seventh inning with a home run to tie the game 2-2 and I had to scramble to come up with something else. Thankfully, the Giants did what they’ve done a lot — failed to generate much offense after an initial outburst. Pillar’s seventh inning dinger, his team-leading tenth (and making the Tigers now the only team without a 10-home run hitter), was the only hit the Giants had after the fourth inning.
That fourth inning followed a bottom of the third inning that saw the Diamondbacks take a 1-0 lead. Backup outfielder Tim Locastro had a 52.% pulled ball contact rate coming into today’s game and for his career it’s 51%. He’s a “pure” pull hitter. So, in that bottom of the third and a runner on second base, the Giants overshifted so that Joe Panik was literally behind the second base bag. The strategy was to get Anderson to pitch Locastro away thinking he’d pull it right into the shift.
Instead, Locastro hit the pitch away into Panik’s vacated, traditional spot at second base easily driving in catcher Caleb Joseph, who had walked and been sacrificed over earlier. In the bottom of the 10th inning, with the bases loaded and just one out, Mark Melancon went after Locastro with fastballs up and in... a very questionable strategy given that Tim Locastro already has 12 hit by pitches this season in 36 games.
Rather than lean into the second fastball as he tried to do on the first one, Locastro instead turned on it and shot it over Evan Longoria to drive in the winning run. That’s how the Giants lost the game.
You could argue that they lost the game because they couldn’t generate any offense, and that’s just as accurate an argument. The offense could not get anything going, and the Diamondbacks, after two nights of being Dickerson’d to death, might’ve finally figured out an effective pitch mix against the Giants’ de facto best hitter until the next 28-year old outfielder gets calledup.
On the other hand, Tim Locastro simply outplayed their scouting report in both scoring instances. He saw that the defense was dramatically overshifted and he adjusted his swing accordingly. One thing I noted about him in the series preview is that his swing looks unbalanced at the plate. He doesn’t seem to “settle in” so much as stay light on his feet. That might actually make him nimble enough to adjust and not be pull happy.
But this isn’t about what I saw in the series preview. The Giants got beat because they couldn’t hit and the guy they thought they had figured out beat their strategy. They also failed to sweep another team when they had the opportunity. That’s not really too surprising. This wasn’t a bad loss, though. We definitely learned a few things.
For a rebuilding team, a “game to learn from” is just as good as a “win”... and might be even better than a “win” since “wins” (I’m putting them in quotes because what does it matter if a team goes 70-92? Nobody cares) actually hurt the draft standing, and we should all be craven about losing right now. The Giants are only going to go somewhere once they stop trying to go anywhere. So, what did we learn that had value?
- Shaun Anderson can be an effective major league starter. He went six innings for the third time this month. Despite just two strikeouts, he was able to hit his spots fairly often and with enough movement on his pitches to disrupt timing and hinder solid contact. The lack of strikeout stuff is definitely of concern, but in a high offense park, he didn’t give up any cheap home runs on bad location and he walked just one batter — Caleb Joseph, who wound up scoring.
- Stephen Vogt not only might be the best catcher for Beede and Anderson right now, he might be the best catcher on the Giants roster at this very moment. Buster’s already had a rough season of injury, and to simply have someone back there who doesn’t look tired for half the game and doesn’t seem to get too flustered when a rookie is wild is encouraging. We learned he’s not a fluke. We also learned he’s a ball magnet, after needing to take a time out after a ball was fouled off his knee pad. He was 0-for-4 with an RBI and a strikeout, but beyond calling a great game with Anderson, he had a key defensive play in the 7th: Reyes Moronta threw a wild pitch that send Eduardo Escobar running in from third base. Vogt recovered the ball and ran back to home plate and up the third base line to tag out Escobar. A high energy play that might’ve been enough of a boost to get the Giants back into the dugout without allowing a run to score.
- Brandon Crawford made this excellent play in the bottom of the fourth:
This play is the definition of efficiency. Brandon Crawford caught the ball mid crow hop and barely had to cock his arm back to fire it to first. No wasted movement like you read about. pic.twitter.com/MGu9q5QWAU— Ben Porter (@Ben13Porter) June 23, 2019
He also dropped a pop up that he tried to catch over his shoulder in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was indeed a tough play, but it’s hard not to imagine a younger Crawford making that play with ease. He was hitting .346/.333/.577 in the seven games prior to today, but he went 0-for-4 in this one, including a strikeout after the Diamondbacks intentionally walked Alex Dickerson ahead of him with Brandon Belt on third base.
- Reyes Moronta did not have an easy seventh inning, but after Vogt was able to scramble to collect the wild pitch and tag out the runner, he managed to get a groundout and then a strikeout in consecutive batters, but he threw his fastball just once: on the wild pitch. His fastball command is something to keep an eye on.