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Drew Pomeranz strikes out 11 but isn’t perfect; Giants lose, 2-0

The pitching was “Hum Baby!” while the offense was numb, baby.

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

This game was probably over when David Dahl slapped a 2-run home run over the left field wall in the top of the 3rd, but it was definitely over after the Giants stranded a leadoff runner at second base who got there to lead off the bottom of the fifth on this misplay:

Donovan Solano couldn’t advance Panik on a groundout. Brandon Belt pinch hit for Drew Pomeranz and walked. Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson struck out to end the Giants’ threat. In the next inning, Kevin Pillar hit a two-out triple, but Evan Longoria struck out to end the Giants’ threat. In the next inning, Joe Panik singled, and after two outs, Mike Yastrzemski doubled, but then...

And that was the last time the Giants had any offensive activity the rest of the game. I’d say it was one of those nights, but those nights are every night, so this is your typical episode Giants Baseball in 2019. What was the wrinkle the writers threw in there to keep the die hards even remotely interested?

Drew Pomeranz struck out six of the first nine batters he faced on the way to tying his career high with 11 strikeouts. He’s the first starter to reach double digit strikeouts in a start this season and he’s the first Giants pitcher to record 11 strikeouts in a start since Jeff Samardzija struck out 11 Dodgers across eight innings in a 4-1 extra innings win.

Tonight was the 47th time since 2008 that a Giants starter struck out at least 11. That list, of course, is heavily front-loaded with the early parts of Tim Lincecum’s, Matt Cain’s, Madison Bumgarner’s and Jonathan Sanchez’s careers. Here’s the list of every 11+ strikeout game over just the past five years:

Baseball Reference

That’s certainly a list. Seeing Drew Pomeranz suddenly on it, though, isn’t a stunner. If I’d told you this would’ve happened when they signed him in the offseason, you would’ve seen it as a great portent of things to come. The year hasn’t quite worked out for Pomeranz, but he certainly did the best he could in his five innings of work tonight and looked sharp with his power fastball-curveball combo.

The telecast threw out this odd trivia:

11 strikeouts tonight were the most by a Giants pitcher in an outing of 5 innings or less since the current mound distance was established in 1893

The 1893 Giants finished 68-64, 19.5 games out of first place.

Anyway, Pomeranz got 13 swinging strikes on 59 strikes thrown (93 pitches total). He threw 12 fastballs of 93+, getting three swinging strikes on those. Like the RockiesJon Gray, the fastball-breaking ball combo worked beautifully tonight because of sharp command and control with a fastball that featured above average velocity.

Dahl’s home run came on one of the three two-seam fastballs thrown by Pomeranz. It was at 91 mph and right in the middle of the plate. That’s all the Rockies needed because the Giants’ offense is so bad.

But do you know why the offense is so bad? They can’t hit fastballs, which makes them more susceptible to a power fastball-breaking ball combo than most league average teams. To wit, Jon Gray got 15 swinging strikes of his 60 strikes thrown tonight and threw 57 pitches with a velocity of 95 mph or more. Coming into tonight, here’s the primary Giants’ batting average against fastballs of 95+:

SFG BA vs. 95 mph+

Player Hits / ABs BA
Player Hits / ABs BA
Donovan Solano 1 for 2 0.500
Buster Posey 9 for 20 0.450
Tyler Austin 3 for 11 0.273
Yangervis Solarte 5 for 14 0.357
Joe Panik 7 for 28 0.250
Stephen Vogt 3 for 13 0.231
Brandon Belt 5 for 25 0.200
Evan Longoria 6 for 27 0.222
Mac Williamson 1 for 5 0.200
Kevin Pillar 7 for 34 0.206
Steven Duggar 4 for 25 0.160
Brandon Crawford 6 for 30 0.200
Gerardo Parra 2 for 14 0.143
Mike Yastrzemski 3 for 18 0.167
Pablo Sandoval 2 for 22 0.091
Alex Dickerson 0 for 1 0.000
Aramis Garcia 0 for 1 0.000
Connor Joe 0 for 2 0.000
Erik Kratz 0 for 4 0.000
Mike Gerber 0 for 4 0.000
Total 0.213

Gray certainly didn’t stifle the Giants’ offense completely with this velocity — he allowed four hits — but he, Jairo Díaz, and Scott Oberg certainly made it difficult for the Giants to build moment in an inning. Díaz and Oberg followed Gray ahead of Wade Davis, who closed out the night, and while they didn’t throw the hardest pitches of the night, they were still in the 94-97 mph range, and f you drop the search parameters down to 94+ you get this:

For contrast, the Rockies’ top 15 against 94+? .263.

The Giants had to honor those fastballs, which means they were sped up for breaking balls and less able to protect. That’s why Dickerson, Posey, and Sandoval mostly were swinging and missing on breaking balls well out of the zone — their bats were geared to swing at high velocity fastballs.

A contact franchise with no strike zone discipline is going to have these problems, and a franchise that has built this sort of culture over a 20-year period isn’t going to remake itself into a disciplined bunch of power fastball launch angle uppercutters overnight.

It’s not that the Giants were doomed before this game even started, it’s that the odds — which were already against them — were even lower than usual.

Move in the fences.

Over the weekend, we published “The Giants are 2-18 when Derek Holland makes an appearance”, which Derek Holland read and rightly got miffed by. The previous Saturday, we published “Two possible reasons why Derek Holland is one of the five worst pitchers in baseball”, which for my money is a far meaner headline. But both were simply pointing out the startling position last year’s best starter now finds himself in.

After tonight, the Giants are 2-19 when Derek Holland makes an appearance, but after tonight, we’re probably going to see Derek Holland back in the rotation soon. He pitched three quiet innings, walking one and striking out one and getting a lot of soft contact. When he missed location, it still teased the zone. His stuff looked sharp and it didn’t look like he was just trying to blow a fastball by hitters. He pitched, and pitched very well.

I’m a huge proponent of people sticking it to bloggers. Whatever motivates you.

The Giants won’t ever hit this season, but if they can avoid any more pitching fiascoes like the month of May, then the rest of the year seems like it could be a little more fun than boring. That’s a new wrinkle the writers haven’t given us in three years.