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Bryce Harper destroys the Giants

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Fans who never liked him and fans who resented his offseason rejection of their favorite team were silenced by two massive home runs from the 26-year old talent.

Philadelphia Phillies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

You figured this was going to happen at some point and so the fact that it happened tonight doesn’t really mean anything important. The Giants have been bad since the calendar flipped to August and they were especially bad against the Phillies tonight. Not in every way, but in so many ways that it made it really easy for Philadelphia in the Giants’ 9-6 loss, but especially easy for Bryce Harper, who finally got some hits at Oracle Park.

Hits like these:

That’s Bonds territory. Easily. The sound, the distance, the fury —

Recognizable. And exactly what the Giants sought in the offseason. But Bryce Harper wasn’t picking up what they were putting down and tonight, he was obliterating most everything they served him.

It was the game he needed, the Phillies needed, and the Giants and their fans needed. The few people who still had lingering thoughts of “what if?” surely joined the group that wish he had never been born and find everything about him repugnant. Since he can’t be our New Bonds, he won’t ever register as a good ballplayer to the bulk of the fandom, even if that’s exactly what he is and will remind us all over the next dozen years.

As for the rest of the Giants, I think we all know the score with these guys. This recap was so close to being a celebration. Tyler Beede looked great until he looked terrible, but then he looked pretty good at the end there.

He gave up five runs in five innings, but he also struck out seven and walked just two. His fastball was at its very best, showing that late life and 95+ velocity that had disappeared over the past 4-5 starts. In his last start, it really looked like he had hit a wall, hovering around 92-93 with the fastball and showing nothing with his secondary pitches.

Tonight, a power fastball and a dominate changeup. He also had the confidence to throw all his pitches at any time. Again, it wasn’t a great start — the whole thing unraveled because he couldn’t throw a strike to former American Leaguer Drew Smyly, who had a total of 11 career plate appearances before tonight — but it was an August flash of a June/July guy I feared might’ve disappeared because of fatigue.

Madison Bumgarner worked really hard in between starts to sort out his issues and it would seem that Tyler Beede did the same thing. Another factor for his better than recent performance, though, might be a bit more straight forward. Tonight was Beede’s fifth start of the season where he struck out seven batters. In all five starts, Stephen Vogt was his catcher.

I really hate to do this (because Buster Posey has nothing to prove at this point and he’s not one of the team’s top concerns this year or even next), but the catching comparison is pretty stark. Including tonight’s start:

With Buster Posey

IP: 27.1 (six games)
ERA: 7.57
K: 20
BB: 12
K/BB: 1.67

With Stephen Vogt

IP: 44.1 (eight games)
ERA: 3.88
K: 49
BB: 17
K/BB: 2.88

I don’t know what this means beyond “Tyler Beede has better numbers when he pitches to Stephen Vogt”, but that still wouldn’t explain why his stuff looked so much better tonight, even if the results weren’t much better than his past couple of starts.

I would’ve much rather focused on Beede’s overall performance than Bryce Harper’s home runs and a staggering 9-6 loss. I would’ve much rather focused on all the contributions from the secondary players:

  • Austin Slater hit a standup triple by absolutely crushing a fastball to Triples Alley, and as a sign of his growing strength, that ball wasn’t even squarely hit. He’s slumped since his big performance after the callup, but at least the underlying changes appear to still be intact.
  • Vogt pitching whispered Beede despite turning a strike into a ball by blocking the home plate umpire from seeing him receive it just so that Vogt could make a poor throw to second to try and nab a baserunner. Before that, he got thrown out by JT Realmuto trying to advance to third on a wild pitch. But then he totally redeemed himself with a blast of his own. Here is the Giants’ first splash hit since May of last year:

It led to this beautiful display of camaraderie:

  • The Giants figured out their new nemesis, Drew Smyly. He pitched seven shutout innings against the Giants on July 30th, striking out five, walking one, and allowing just four hits. But he had an 8.42 ERA in 13 games with the Rangers earlier this season and missed all of the past two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. He shouldn’t have been quite so dominant against a then-hot team, and yet he was. Tonight, the Giants didn’t bite on his sharp slider, and as the highlight above showed, they weren’t overpowered by his fastball. Vogt’s was the third of three home runs he allowed, along with three walks and seven hits.
  • Madison Bumgarner pinch hit for Beede in the bottom of the fifth inning and carried over his strike zone judgment from last night to draw a walk. Madison Bumgarner pinch hit in the fifth inning and drew a walk. Madison Bumgarner drew a pinch hit walk. Madison Bumgarner pinch walked.
  • Kevin Pillar and call-up Joey Rickard both snapped home runs to left field off of Smyly, too, scoring more points for the Anyone But the Core Squad. Rickard also drew a walk in the bottom of the sixth that sparked a 2-out rally that gave the Giants the lead.

I don’t know why Tyler Beede’s better games haven’t come with Buster Posey behind the plate and I can’t confidently explain why the Giants’ heartbeat seems to be coming from everywhere else but the team’s heart.

Buster Posey, Evan Longoria, and Brandon Crawford were a combined 0-for-13 with a walk and two strikeouts. Evan Longoria left four on base and did it in impressive fashion, passing up fastballs to protect-swing at curveballs and sliders out of the zone. They were the only players not to drive the ball.

Even Pablo Sandoval, who recorded a franchise-tying 18th pinch hit of the season, was able to line a single fresh off the bench.

The game ended on this play, a good play from Jean Segura, but one that wasn’t quite that difficult based on who was running.

Maybe Buster Posey thought that was a sure thing hit up until the point that he saw Jean Segura field it cleanly. Maybe he knew it was always going to be caught. In any case, my perception of that jog down the first base line was not that he was running it out hard. It looked like an old, tired player just trying to jog off the field.

I would’ve much rather focused on the good things about this game. I would’ve much rather Tony Watson not had his worst inning as a Giant ever (zero outs recorded, four earned runs allowed) and the core of the Giants — the marquee names — not completely disappeared against the marquee face they so desperately wanted six months ago.

Heading into the ninth inning, here’s a sad split I generated:

POSEY BELT CRAW LONGORIA PANIK SANDOVAL = .242/.318/.394 (2,209 PA)

VOGT PILLAR SOLANO YASTRZEMSKI SLATER = .274/.321/.472 (1,119 PA)