In the seventh inning, the Milwaukee Brewers had a 5-4 lead and Josh Hader lurking in the bullpen. After the All-Star break, Hader could go two innings if he needed to. After his breakout 2018, Hader has been even better this year. He’s striking out over half of the batters he faces and he’s walking fewer batters than before.
The only blemish you can find on his season is that he’s given up slightly more home runs this year, but that’s not something the Brewers needed to worry about against the Giants. San Francisco had already used up their daily allowance with the two they hit earlier.
Because you can’t predict baseball, Tyler Austin took an upper decker to the opposite field off Hader. Austin’s big boy dinger tied the game at five runs apiece.
That the Giants got even one run off Hader is remarkable, but in the ninth, another came from an unlikely source. Brandon Crawford, who has been lost at the plate and is supremely disadvantaged as a lefty facing Hader, scraped one over the right field wall to put the Giants ahead.
The Giants suddenly had a lead going into the bottom of the ninth, and Will Smith, who had not blown a save all year, took the mound.
I’m sure you can guess what happened next.
The Yelich triple notwithstanding, Smith was nails as always. He got out of the inning with a strikeout and two grounders, but Joe Panik couldn’t field a ball cleanly and that allowed Yelich to score.
Because Will Smith can do no wrong, his blown save led to something even greater than a 1-2-3 ninth. In the tenth, the Giants loaded the bases against Matt Albers. That brought Buster Posey up to the plate. Posey had hit the ball hard a few times earlier in the game, but only on the ground. All he had to show for the night was a single that got through the infield.
On a first-pitch sinker, Posey took a swing straight out of 2012 and put the Giants up for good.
This was the first time the Giants had hit at least five home runs since 2014.
This is the first time the #SFGiants have hit five homers in a game since they hit six on April 23, 2014 at Coors Field.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) July 13, 2019
That game: Mike Morse and Hector Sanchez each hit two and Brandon Belt and Brandon Hicks each hit one.
It was also the first time they’ve had at least five different hitters hit a home run since September 18, 2011. That game also took place in Colorado, and those hitters were Mike Fontenot, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Matt Cain.
In the battle of the Andersons, Shaun was better.
You need no more proof of Anderson’s dominance than him striking out Christian Yelich three times. This was only the second time Yelich has struck out three times in a game, and per Hank Schulman, Anderson is the first pitcher to pull a hat trick on Yelich.
Anderson has struggled to get swings and misses in the beginning of his big-league career. His 6.7 swinging strike rate was second-lowest among starting pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched.
Tonight, however, he set a career-high with eight strikeouts. (His previous high was six.) He got 13 swings and misses on 82 pitches which puts him at a 15.9 swinging strike rate.
Anderson was a little wilder than we’re accustomed to seeing. In the early goings, he missed with this fastball well above the zone, but that might have been a symptom of him trying something new. Anderson certainly looked like he was aiming up in the zone which makes sense with the spin rate on his fastball. Higher spin fastballs do a better job of resisting gravity and thus do a better job of staying off the plane of uppercut swings.
Until this point, Anderson has mostly kept his fastball lower in the zone. Here’s a heat map showing the location of his fastballs prior to this evening’s start.
Here were the fastballs he threw tonight.
Most of the fastballs he threw gloveside and down were in the last few innings, but the first two times through were all up or on the hands.
Ultimately, I think this start was a big step in the right direction for Anderson. The four runs attributed to him in the box score might indicate him spinning his tires, but he was a victim of some poor sequencing and he happened to catch Reyes Moronta on a bad night.
The first run against Anderson happened after a walk and a Texas Leaguer that fell in between Joe Panik and Austin Slater. If there aren’t two outs, Thames isn’t running on contact, and the best he can do is advance to second. If Panik and Slater both don’t overrun the ball, then Thames doesn’t get sent home from third. Even then, it was still a gamble that might not have been made without Orlando Arcia and his .281 xwOBA in the on-deck circle.
To open the sixth, Anderson got Yasmani Grandal down 0-2 but eventually walked him. Then he made his worst pitch of the night to Mike Moustakas, a fastball right down the middle.
It didn’t end the way Anderson wanted, but this was the kind of start that makes me excited for his next start. If Anderson keeps pitching like this, success will follow.
Austin Slater is hitting like he’s playing MLB The Show on Rookie. All he needs to do is mash square when the ball is anywhere near the plate and the ball is rocketing off his bat. The out he made in his first at-bat was arguably hit better than his home run in the fifth inning. If the ball doesn’t go right to Ryan Braun, that’s at least a double.
Slater’s home run was his third of the season and he did it in 17 plate appearances. It took him 91 plate appearances to hit his third homer in 2017. In 225 plate appearances last year, he hit just one.
There isn’t a Giant whose at-bats I look forward to more than Austin Slater’s right now. Usually, that’s not saying much, but the Giants have a lot of watchable players right now. Alex Dickerson is a wonder, and Evan Longoria moved into the team lead with his 13th home run tonight, but Slater has metamorphosed into something new and beautiful. We have yet to see everything he’s capable of.
There will never be a more perfect throw to catch a runner stealing.
Lorenzo Cain was understandably upset. He slammed his helmet down in frustration and remained at second for a moment to contemplate his misfortune. This was the basestealing equivalent of getting AT&T’d. Cain did everything right, but he still made an out. It was also a bit like taking a 3-2 pitch out of the strike zone and getting called out on strikes.