The ninth inning was more stressful than it needed to be, but the Giants beat the Diamondbacks at home for the first time since it was called AT&T Park. This is only their fifth game against Arizona in San Francisco this year and while the losing streak extends to last year, the Giants won the series it began. Still, the Giants won a baseball game. Regardless of the locale or the opponent, that’s worth celebrating.
There have been roughly seven times over the last two months that I’ve sat down to write a piece about how the Giants go to the opposite field too much. The trend these days is to pull everything and hit in the air, but the Giants have the fourth highest percentage of balls hit to the opposite field. What’s prevented me from writing about it is that I’m not convinced it’s a bad thing, but the three teams ahead of them, the White Sox, Rockies, and Marlins, are all bad at hitting, so surely, this is a problem, right?
Tonight’s game was a love letter to the opposite field hit. The Giants put together four separate one-to-two-run rallies powered by oppo knocks. Mike Yastrzemski, Brandon Crawford, and Buster Posey did most of the damage. Mike Krukow accused Yastrzemski of trying to yank after he hit a few dingers, but Yastrzemski took a few balls on the outer part of the plate to left field.
Brandon Crawford put together a three-hit night, and his third, a double to the left-center gap, was the 1,000th of his career.
The list of #SFGiants LHB with at least 1,000 hits with the team:— McCovey Chronicles (@McCoveyChron) June 29, 2019
1. Bill Terry - 2,193
2. Willie McCovey - 1,974
3. Barry Bonds - 1,951
4. Mike Tiernan - 1,838
5. George Van Haltren - 1,580
6. Roger Connor - 1,388
7. Will Clark - 1,278
8. J.T. Snow - 1,043
9. Crawford - 1,000
Crawford’s 2019 has been otherwise forgettable thus far, but moments like this remind us that he’s been among the best to wear the uniform.
Buster Posey came as close as he could to hitting an opposite field homer. The initial call on the field was that it hit the tin roof and it was therefore a home run. It certainly sounded like it hit the tin roof, but maybe that CLUNK was the sound of it hitting the sign right beneath it. Video replay showed it hitting right below the top of the wall. Maybe it grazed the roof which would make it a homer, but Buster Posey doesn’t need your charity. He’ll earn his opposite field homers thank you very much, even if it means he’ll finish the year with fewer dingers than Yonder Alonso.
Posey, who had driven in the third run of the game before being sent back to second base, eventually drove in the third run of the game in his next at-bat. Once again, he went to the opposite field, and again, the ball was about three inches from having a wildly different outcome. Posey’s single went off the glove of Ketel Marte, allowing Joe Panik to score from second.
Tonight, the Giants proved that going to the opposite field can still work in 2019 when everyone else is trying to yank. The Giants may be going oppo as much as the Marlins, but so are the Cubs and their offense is just fine. Spraying the ball is still, in fact, good. (Besides, the Giants still pull their fly balls like an average team, and that’s the important thing.)
In the second inning, Alex Dickerson murdered a ball dead. No one knows what that ball did to deserve such a fate, and frankly, maybe it should stay that way. Whatever transgression that ball committed must be unspeakably heinous to provoke such thorough flagellation. That ball has now fallen into its eternal slumber, the chill depths of McCovey Cove its final resting place. Requiescat in Pace, ball.
According to Statcast, Dickerson hit that ball at 109 mph and 26 degrees. It traveled 424 feet. The expected batting average was .990 which seemed low. I checked to see if there had ever been at ball hit in the same way that didn’t fall in for a hit, and there was not. Out of 70-odd balls hit at 109 mph and 26 degrees, only one didn’t go out of the park. Justin Upton hit a 430-foot double at Fenway in 2016.
I keep expecting Alex Dickerson to have a bad game. Nothing gold can stay especially if they’re a Giants left fielder in the post-Bonds era. After his debut with the Giants last Friday, I fully expected him to go 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in his next game, but he hasn’t done that just yet. He’s reached base at least once in every game he’s played for the Giants. Granted, it’s only been a week, but it’s hard to fake two 420+ foot dingers.
Shaun Anderson had a very Shaun Anderson start tonight. The 1-2-3 first inning was a little unusual, but everything else was what we’ve come to expect from Chris Hemsworth’s stunt double. He pitched through traffic, didn’t miss a lot of bats, but mostly limited the damage. If he could have made it through the fifth without allowing a run, this game would have had a case to be his best start of his young career.
Watching Anderson pitch and not getting missing bats highlights how hard it is to pitch at the major league level. Anderson throws a fastball that can touch 95 (though he averaged 91 mph tonight), and he has a slider with above average movement. With those tools, he ought to be able to get more swings and misses than he has in his first nine starts. He was striking out over a batter per nine innings before his call-up.
But there’s something missing about his game, something that’s preventing him from taking the next step. Maybe he’s not tunneling his pitches properly. Maybe he’s just catching too much of the plate with his fastball. Maybe he’s not extending the slider beyond the zone. Whatever it is, let’s hope he and the Giants find it.