Before the weird, altered, and abridged 2020 season began, I said this about starting pitching: “We very well may go a whole season without a single complete game.”
It took all of one day for Kyle Hendricks and the Chicago Cubs to make me look like I should get my “I write about baseball for a living” card revoked.
While I could have bought the idea of pitcher throwing a complete game in 2020, I couldn’t really buy the idea of a San Francisco Giants pitcher doing so.
And even if I could, I would steadfastly have refused to believe it would be Tyler Anderson.
Elections being held exclusively on the moon? Sure, OK, it’s kind of predictable. Fake meat perfectly mimicking steak tartare? I can see it. The discovery that Bigfoot is real, and has been procreating with the Loch Ness Monster? Whatever, it’s 2020.
But Tyler Anderson throwing a complete game?
Come on, y’all. Let’s not be ridiculous.
This is a roundabout way of me saying that I look clueless as can be right now. And you know what? I love it. Bring it on. I’ve never enjoyed looking bad more than when I predict the Giants will be miserable and end up being wrong.
Predicting the Giants to be bad is like ordering a breakfast sandwich: you want to end up with copious amounts of egg on your face.
But enough about me. Anderson was masterful on Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, setting down the opposition over and over and over, and generally making it look easy.
He wasn’t missing many bats — he had a mere 10 swing-throughs and 4 strikeouts — but he kept hard contact at bay, and never looked intimidated. He kept counts in his favor, and as a result never had to throw meatballs over the plate for DBacks hitters to wallop.
It wasn’t overpowering or even particularly exciting, but it was a masterclass in playing chess on the baseball diamond, with each pitch serving a purpose and setting up the next one.
He gave up just 3 hits and 1 unearned run. He walked no batters (though he hit one). He set down the side in order five times, and needed fewer than 10 pitches to get through an inning on four occasions.
And he became the first Giant since ... wait for it ... Chris Stratton in 2018 to throw a nine-inning complete game.
Just a special performance all the way around.
Offensively, the Giants put down their home run hitting bats and took a pacifistic approach to run scoring, using walk after walk after walk to score their five runs.
For the second day in a row, they loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning. This time it came on three straight walks, a rather shocking development since Arizona’s starter, Zac Gallen, had issued just 8 free passes in 30 innings coming into the game.
On Friday they got no runs out of the situation, and on Saturday they eked out just one. But for a long time, that was plenty enough.
But after the Diamondbacks tied the game in the top of the seventh inning, the Giants once again returned to the faithful and powerful bases on balls.
The bottom half of the seventh started with Brandon Crawford drawing a walk. Then in came Joey Bart for his first appearance of the day, after he started the game on the bench.
And what did he do, in his third MLB game? Oh nothing much, just have his third straight game with a loud double that exceeded 100 mph in exit velocity. This one sounded like a home run, looked like a home run, and ultimately fell a few inches short of his first career home run.
Crawford couldn’t score, as he had to play things carefully, but a four-pitch walk drawn by fellow pinch-hitter Mauricio Dubón again loaded the bases with no outs.
That’s when Arizona’s manager, Torey Lovullo, made a curious decision. With lefties Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson due up, Lovullo took out the only left-handed pitcher in his bullpen.
Sure, that pitcher (Matt Grace), had just given up two walks and a very hard double. And sure it was just his second appearance of the year. But putting in a righty to face two lefties, one of which is the team’s best hitter?
It could backfire.
Junior Guerra, who you might remember from such hits as “Walked Joey Bart with the bases loaded on Friday night” walked Yastrzemski with the bases loaded. And then he walked Dickerson with the bases loaded. That gave the Giants a 3-1 lead, and set the table for Donovan Solano (RBI fielder’s choice) and Brandon Belt (RBI single) to make the lead comfortable.
The Giants have now drawn a bases loaded walk a whopping six times this year, which is already three-quarters as many as they drew a year ago.
Guerra has issued three of them.
Yastrzemski’s walk was very nice, but it wasn’t nearly the nicest thing he did in this game. In the sixth inning he made the type of right field catch that we haven’t seen in San Francisco since the 2014 World Series.
It feels a tiny bit disingenuous to say that play is beautiful, but it’s...well I don’t know what it is. It’s something, and that something is exceptional, and I can’t take my eyes away.
And so, with one defensive highlight, eight walks, and a masterfully strategic approach by Anderson (and a very nice game called by Chadwick Tromp), the Giants won the game 5-1, secured a series victory, and now have a five-game winning streak.