The San Francisco Giants went into the season betting on a hodgepodge crew of decently high-ceiling, low-floor starting pitchers on one-year deals. They were banking on a coaching staff that has returned sterling results in a short time being able to maximize each player’s potential, and they were willing to live with the results either way.
No player exemplified the thought process quite like Alex Wood. At his best, Wood has been a more dynamic pitcher than players like Anthony DeSclafani and Aaron Sanchez. But at his worst — and most recent — he’s been a much bigger disaster.
Six weeks worth of games isn’t enough to declare victory on the results, but it is enough to reinforce how sound the process was.
Wood gave up just 1 earned run in 7 innings against the Texas Rangers on Monday. He allowed only 1 baserunner per inning (4 hits, 3 walks), and struck out 7.
He hasn’t given up more than 2 runs in any of his 5 starts, and he’s allowed just 6 runs on the year in 30 innings (while allowing just 17 hits and 8 walks, and striking out 29). Signing him was exactly the type of gamble the Giants wanted to take, and it’s paying off probably better than they had envisioned or even hoped for.
Wood was the most important part of the Giants 3-1 win on Monday. He kept the Rangers bats uncomfortable, and was stress-free most of the night. When he did get in trouble, he generally looked unfazed, and worked right through it. He walked two with one out in the sixth inning, then stared down the Rangers’ two best power hitters and struck them out swinging.
He remains funky, and it remains delightful.
On the other side of things, the Giants did just enough to reward Wood with his fourth win. Brandon Belt blasted his eighth homer of the year, and, similar to the other seven, it was a beauty.
But the Giants mostly missed opportunities other than that. They went down quietly in plenty of innings, and threatened with little finishing ability in others. They put runners at first and second with no outs in the fifth, but couldn’t score. Mike Yastrzemski had a one-out double in the sixth, but they couldn’t bring him home.
Finally they found some two-out magic in the bottom of the seventh. And just as Wood represented the team’s philosophy with acquiring pitching options, the seventh-inning offense represented their philosophy with in-game management and versatility.
With a lefty reliever replacing a righty starter, Austin Slater hit for Steven Duggar and drew a walk. Then Darin Ruf pinch hit for Wood and hit a single. That led to Mauricio Dubón, who hit for Mike Tauchman.
Dubón worked and worked, trying to leverage the count until he could get the right pitch. Finally, on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, he lined a single that not only scored the go-ahead run, but produced the best moment of the night on when Khris Davis, professional baseball player, attempted to throw a baseball for the first time in his life.
DUBON GIVES THE GIANTS THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/XeQrv7t9XC— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 11, 2021
Three pinch hitters, and all three got on base.
The Giants added an insurance run when Yastrzemski reached on an error, and that was the game. Tyler Rogers set down the side on 8 pitches the next inning, and Jake McGee allowed 2 hits before closing the door and earning the save.
San Francisco is now 11-3 in games following a loss, and still atop the NL West. For another night, it’s good to be a Giants fan.