The Giants desperately needed one of their non-Bumgarner and non-Samardzija starters to prove they can throw major league innings, and Dereck Rodríguez did more than that tonight. Rodriguez went seven shutout innings without ever allowing a runner to reach second base. This wasn’t just his best start this season, this was his best start in over a year. On August 6, 2018, he threw seven shutout innings against the Astros. His next start on August 12, he gave up one run in seven innings against the Pirates. In his third start of the year, he went seven innings and gave up two runs against the Padres, but that’s the only time since we’ve seen him approach the dominance of tonight.
Dereck Rodríguez made it through three innings without giving up a hit. That’s just long enough to have your ears perk up. It would have been very funny if D-Rod had thrown a no-hitter after all the collective hand wringing over the rotation. It also might have further discouraged the Giants from rushing back Johnny Cueto from rehab which would be the biggest win. The back of the rotation has been rough to watch but Cueto should probably be allowed to rehab in an environment where he can throw his 45 pitches and come right out without anyone being temped to leave him in longer.
Rodríguez probably should have lost the no-hitter in the first, but Austin Slater bailed him out with a diving catch into the coconut-laden grass.
A diving catch? From our outfield? It's more common than you think.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 16, 2019
The D-Backs tagged D-Rod with a lot of hard contact, but it all found gloves early on. Naturally, the first hit he gave up was the softest batted ball he allowed until that point: a 75-mph looping liner.
The Diamondbacks only added two more hits as Rodríguez mostly kept them off-balance. As a whole, the Diamondbacks’ expected batting average against him was just .228. Rodríguez didn’t just pitch to contact though. Rodríguez attacked the strike zone all night with impeccable command He got nine whiffs on 95 pitches and 17 called strikes. That’s a 27.1 percent CSW (called strikes and whiffs) which is just about average.
Rodríguez more than earned another start when his turn comes up again. It wouldn’t have taken much considering the competition, but this was a convincing outing regardless of who else is gunning for the job.
In addition to saving a double, Austin Slater reached base five times. He worked two walks, barreled a double, and slashed two singles. Slater may not have homered since the first week he was called up, but after 114 plate appearances, Slater is hitting .284/.404/.516 for a 141 wRC+. He was at 126 before the game started, so that shows how quickly things can change.
Still, he’s had a very encouraging season. His ground ball rate is still high relative to the league, but it’s dropped by 47.5 percent. Christian Yelich survived for a long time with a ground ball rate around 50 percent. Yelich has always hit the ball extremely hard and often, but so has Slater this season. Slater’s rocking a 53.4 hard hit rate which ranks third in all of baseball among batters with at least 50 batted balls. Slater’s double was hit at 109.1 mph and while that doesn’t compare with MVP Yelich, it’s not far behind pre-breakout Yelich.
It’s not really a fair comparison. It’s just the first one I think of when I see the ground ball and hard-hit rates. I’m not saying that Slater is a future MVP—Yelich never struck out 28.9 percent of the time—but this formula can work.
The whole top half of the order looked great even with Buster Posey rolling into two double plays. Donovan Solano went 2-for-4. When Posey wasn’t hitting into a double play, he was doubling into the right-center gap. Really, I’ll take Slater being a Marlins-era Yelich.
Then there was Evan Longoria who went 3-for-4 while knocking in the first runs of the game and hitting a booming home run. It took a few games for Longoria to get back on track after his stint on the IL, but it looks like he’s getting there. Since returning, he’s 14-for-39 with four extra base hits and three of those have come in the last five games.
His home run tonight was impressive because he pulled a pitch on the outside part of the plate and put it about 10 rows up.
Longo used "Focus Blast."— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 16, 2019
It's super effective!
He really went with that pitch and drove it the other way, huh?
Only Brandon Belt can hit a ball 415 feet and have it (A) not go over the fence and (B) not be granted an RBI by the official scorekeeper because the outfielder bobbled the ball while the runner was rounding third. Belt already has to deal with a home ballpark designed to murder his power and a fanbase that calls for his release when he’s leading qualified Giants hitters in OBP despite a bum knee.
Belt eventually got his RBI after someone told the scorekeeper to not be a knuckle head, but that it was ever a question is just silly. Just give him in the meaningless stat.
At any rate, that was just Brandon Belt’s third barrel of August and his first that had fallen for a hit since July 18. Belt is only 2-for-his-last-8 barrels and none of those left the yard. Among the 102 hitters with at least 25 barrels, Belt had the largest difference between his wOBA and xwOBA on barrels (.863 wOBA, 1.259 xwOBA). The -.396 gap over 100 points larger than the next unluckiest hitter: Nicholas Castellanos.
Belt is helping his cause by having his barrels go so few and far between, but he’s due for them to start falling in or clearing the fence entirely.