The first time? Last week.
The opponent? The Marlins.
Wood was more than strong in his debut, but for a pitcher with as much funk as he has, it was fair to wonder if that success was due primarily to hitters not being used to him. You might have wondered how he’d fare in a second game against the same team — effectively a third and fourth time through the order.
You might have thought of Tyler Anderson last year, who pitched a complete game shutout against the Arizona Diamondbacks, then faced them in his next two starts, and gave up 11 runs in 8.2 innings. His next start after that trio was against the Seattle Mariners. He gave up 0 runs in 6 innings, only to get hit for 4 runs in a mere 2 innings by the same team a few days later.
Perhaps I’m a cynic (spoiler: I’m not), but that was going through my head as Wood took the mound at Oracle Park for the first time as a Giant.
And then the first batter of the game, Jazz Chisholm Jr., did this to the third pitch of the game:
And your pessimism was rewarded.
But this is not a story about how bad Alex Wood was, as you can probably surmise from the headline. Quite the opposite, really. Pitchers give up home runs — it happens. Wood had done so 81 times in his career, and he damn sure didn’t seem fazed by it.
Wood would face 22 more hitters on the night. He would retire 21 of them. A two out walk in the fourth inning was the only other baserunner he would allow, as he struck out 7 in as many innings.
A lot of things have to go right if the Giants want to continue residing anywhere near the vicinity of what their record currently is — which, by the way, is tied for second in the league (hilariously with the Oakland A’s, who started the year 0-6). One of those things — perhaps the biggest thing of all those things — is having a few starting pitchers overperform.
Right now four-fifths of the Giants rotation — AKA the four pitchers you didn’t expect to be really good — have overperformed. And Wood has allowed just 4 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run in 12 innings, while striking out 11. The longer that continues, the better the Giants chances.
Another part of the Giants success has been their surprisingly strong defense and ... hey, how about that ... Wood is a part of that as well.
The hitter could not believe Alex Wood caught this ball pic.twitter.com/0PhjhULPce— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 24, 2021
For as strong as Wood was, that homer loomed for a few innings, until the Giants finally found the scoreboard in the form of a sweet oppo pop two-run dinger by Mike Yastrzemski.
Look, I love a well-drawn walk (Brandon Belt had three of them), or a good piece of situational hitting (Darin Ruf had a sacrifice fly). But there’s a reason home runs are so popular, and I, for one, am pretty happy to see the Giants getting in on that trend while they’re still young.
The Giants played solid baseball through and through, but they did briefly try and give the game up. One-run leads never feel safe, so when they put runners on the corners in the sixth inning with no outs — courtesy of Belt walking and perfectly reading an Alex Dickerson single — you were ready for them to add insurance runs.
And when they failed to do so — with a Buster Posey fielder’s choice, a Brandon Crawford stirkeout, and an Austin Slater ground out — you began to have a doubt or two.
But sometimes you just need a good old fashioned second try. Measure twice, cut once, my dad always told me.
So they put runners at the corners again an inning later, this time when Mauricio Dubón doubled (and took third on a Tommy La Stella fly ball), and Yastrzemski was intentionally walked. And this time they came through. Wilmer Flores made the intentional walk look silly by singling home Dubón, then Belt singled home Yastrzemski, and Ruf’s sac fly made it a three-spot.
That proved meaningful when Jake McGee gave up a two-run bomb in the ninth inning, just three pitches after a Flores error kept out No. 27 from being recorded. But it all looks the same in the standings, and a 5-3 win is a 5-3 win, no matter how you get there.
It just so happened that the Giants got there by using Anthony DeSclafani as a pinch hitter. He struck out. I don’t care. More of that please.