Ah yes, of course. Drew Smyly was the answer all along. Who was going to end the Giants’ playoff hopes? Drew Smyly. Should’ve known.
A win tonight would’ve give the Giants as many wins as the Phillies. Think about that: the Phillies were supposed to be contenders this year, and here they are actually sort of righting their ship to do exactly that after a really rough June, but the Giants could’ve equaled their win total through July just by winning tonight.
Nobody expected the Giants to do anything other than embarrass themselves for six months. For the first two months of the season, they definitely soiled themselves and tripped on cracks in the concrete every chance they got. But then the calendar flipped to June and, suddenly, remembered to go to the bathroom before they left the house and look down at the ground every once and a while.
They put themselves in a position to add talent at the deadline and create problems for the cartel of good, but not quite good enough to be division-leading teams contending for the Wild Card Game. And then, after five innings of tonight’s game, that all came to an end.
Too dramatic? Maybe. One game at the end of July really shouldn’t decide the season — there’s still plenty of baseball left — but as fun as it’s been, the mounting problems of Alex Dickerson’s back injury, Brandon Belt’s undisclosed injury, Buster Posey’s replacement-level offense, Evan Longoria’s absence, Austin Slater’s regression to the mean, and Brandon Crawford’s sub-replacement performance — to say nothing of the tiring and inexperienced rotation — might have become too much to overcome and the Phillies, after all their struggles, sent the Giants a powerful reminder that they still have a long, long way to go.
Coming into tonight’s game, the Giants were one of the worst teams in baseball against left-handed pitching on the season:
- .231 batting average - 30th in MLB (15th in NL)
- .298 on base percentage - 28th in MLB (13th in NL)
- .284 wOBA - 29th in MLB (14th in NL)
- 76 wRC+ - 29th in MLB (14th in NL)
- 287 strikeouts - 23rd in MLB (13th in NL)
- .136 ISO - 29th in MLB (14th in NL)
But as Dave Flemming mentioned a couple of times, over the past month, they’ve had the second-highest hard hit rate against left-handed pitching. And tonight, they were facing Drew Smyly, a 30-year old who had missed all of 2017 and 2018 due to elbow problems and Tommy John surgery and in 51.1 innings with the Rangers this year had an 8.42 ERA. Texas released him, then the Brewers signed him. Then the Brewers released him before he ever got to make a start for their major league team. And then Phillies added him.
In two starts for Philadelphia, all he’s done is strike out 13 in 13 innings, walk three, allow eight hits and just a single run. He’s been a top of the rotation starter in just two starts.
Last Phillies LHP before Drew Smyly to go 7+ innings & not allow a run:— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 31, 2019
Cole Hamels in his no-hitter on 7/25/15 https://t.co/gwrLg63mP4
He wasn’t overpowering tonight, but he was virtually unhittable. He took care of Donovan Solano and Mike Yastrzemski very quickly in the first inning and basically kept the rest of the lineup off balance all night long, pounding the strike zone and throwing a sharp curveball to get a lot of weak contact and swing-throughs.
The Giants’ lefty-mashing lineup looked flummoxed. It was dispiriting, but I’m probably making too much of it. There’s no way the Giants are going to win 78% of their games the rest of the way. I just, you know, really wanted them to.
It was a really easy night for a pitcher who hasn’t had many of those over the last three calendar years and it was a very easy, perhaps sweat-free win overall for the Phillies, despite the two home runs the Giants hit in the eighth inning. It’s the seventh consecutive loss for the Giants in Citizens Bank Park, which isn’t some sort of karmic retribution for 2010, it’s just tough to win on the road, even for a team that was 29-24 away from Oracle Park heading into tonight’s game.
So, yeah. The Drew Smyly start is what caused the good times to end. Possibly.
Now let’s talk about the Giants bullpen. If the front office really feels that the team’s overall Wild Card Game chances are totally cooked, then they’ve got to sell off this most valuable piece of team “real estate” for as much as they can get.
I say this because the secondary arms in the stellar ‘pen were the primaries’ equal tonight. If Drew Pomeranz is really drawing interest, he showed up again tonight with another dominant relief performance. He struck out Maikel Franco and them Adam Haseley to end the seventh inning, hitting 95 mph a couple of times.
Maybe they keep Watson and trade Pomeranz?
Mark Melancon struck out the first two batters he faced in the eighth inning and while his contract and no trade clause would appear to make him untradeable, his recent run of success (11 K in his last 11.2 innings pitched, just three runs allowed) demonstrates that he can slot into that seventh or eighth inning hold-dude role.
And then there’s Sam Coonrod. He had a shaky sixth inning that saw him walk one, allow a hit, and throw a wild pitch with runners at first and second, but he recovered to prevent those baserunners from scoring.
It’s the sort of performance you’d expect from a rookie reliever and the kind we can reliably expect over the next few weeks if the Giants go ahead and purge the bullpen at the deadline. But there were flashes of why it’ll be worth riding out the shakiness — 97 mph two-seam fastballs and an 87 mph changeup that had me thinking it was a backup slider — and even if we start to lose the fun of a playoff chase, we might still have left in reserve the ceiling of simply watching rookies figure things out for next year.
Seriously, I thought Rhys Hoskins struck out on a backup slider for the second out of the inning, but it was a changeup.
The bullpen will be in good shape regardless of who stays and who goes.
Tyler Beede didn’t have a great night — 5 IP, 10 H, 2 BB, 4 ER, 4 K — but it didn’t become the calamity it threatened to become throughout those five innings. He looked both like a rookie and a tired pitcher. His fastball just didn’t have that overpowering movement to it that it had earlier in the season, but again, he didn’t fall apart as he had earlier in the year and last year. If nothing else, he’s gained some confidence, even when he hasn’t been able to control or command his pitches.
He would’ve had the start of a lifetime to keep the Giants in this game.
Brandon Belt’s pinch hit home run in the eighth broke an 0-for-17 on his part and gave the Giants their 10th pinch hit home run of the season. It also suggested that he reads this site. Two batters later, Stephen Vogt added to the Giants’ league-leading pinch hit home run with his fifth home run of the season, as many as Buster Posey has.
Finally, tonight wasn’t all bad, even if it’s very easy to think about the state of the Giants’ farm system after reading this tweet:
Mike Yastrzemski's 51 hits this season are the most by a #SFGiants rookie outfielder (majority of games in OF) since Jason Ellison had 93 in 2005.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) July 31, 2019
The past two months have answered a lot of questions: can the Zaidi Churn be effective? Can the Giants’ old dogs learn new tricks? Will we ever know the thrill of winning baseball again? Can the Giants get Bruce Bochy to 2,000 career wins in his final season?
With tonight’s loss, we probably also got our answer(s) on the buy/sell debate ahead of tomorrow’s deadline.