A Sunday morning breakfast and baseball game seemed like pretty much the perfect end of summer day (especially as San Francisco weather acquiesced and it was mid-70s and sunny in the city that usually believes itself to be allergic to sun), but perhaps the end of summer lethargy got to the team as well. The San Francisco Giants fell to the Atlanta Braves, 9-0. This was one of those games where you half-watched through your fingers, never quite expecting the Giants to make a real run for it after falling behind early. Or maybe the kind of game that you want to crumple up into a little paper ball and aim into a trashcan while shouting “Kobe,” except you’ve gotten air resistance all wrong and the ball lands about seven feet out from where it was supposed to go.
Anthony DeSclafani had an excellent run first time through the order, but left after giving up three runs in the fourth and failing to record an out. Worryingly, he walked off with the trainer, eyeing his right ankle gingerly. We’ll await news, but hopefully it’s nothing too serious. The starting pitching, which was 5th in all of baseball in WAR in the first half, has struggled after the break, falling to 12th overall. Much of that has been due to injuries, but it’s a point of concern for a team that wants to play deep into October.
But, in exciting news, Slater made his first career pitching appearance! He threw exactly two warmup pitches before beginning his sequence to Ehire Adrianza, a great #FormerGiant. Slater has a slight sidearm delivery, and a 70 mph “turbo sinker,” as Javy Lopez decided to called it. He walked Adrianza on five pitches before getting Freddie Freeman to pop out to left.
Austin Slater channeling his inner Tyler Rogers? pic.twitter.com/PytClJXijs— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 29, 2021
The game didn’t start out poorly. After a very solid first three innings, allowing only one hit (a little bloop for Eddie Rosario), things began to unravel for Disco in the fourth. Leading off the bottom of the fourth inning, Jorge Soler, on his way to becoming a #CertifiedGiantKiller (he had the 3-run homer on Friday night to give the Braves the win), muscled a 2-1 slider from Disco over the left field fence. It was Disco’s first real mistake of the night, and it went 495 feet.
Freddie Freeman had an infield single and steal, and then Austin Riley hit a home run into the left field seats, turning on another slider and sending it 423 feet.
Joc Pederson then beat Belt in a footrace to the first base bag and stole second on a curve that broke about 30 feet in front of home plate. After Dansby Swanson got an infield hit, Gabe Kapler came out to collect Disco, who was looking down at his ankle — a worrisome sign for the Giants, if the injury has flared up again. This was just the third time in 25 starts DeSclafani has been unable to make it 4 innings, one the August 18th game against the Mets where he exited with an ankle injury, and the other two against the Dodgers.
Sammy Long entered in a highly precarious situation, with two runners on, nobody out, and three runs already in. He got Rosario to line out to Belt, struck out Steven Vogt, and got the pitcher Ian Anderson to ground out to LaStella. Long, already so impressive, continued to show his poise and mettle on the mound and managed to limit the initial damage.
Wade gave a ball a ride in the top of the fifth, but it died on the warning track. That was the story of the first half Giants offense: chances looming large (they had four hits in four innings), but unable to capitalize on anything.
In the bottom of the sixth, further trouble arose for the Giants as Long walked both Pederson and Swanson and Rosario turned on a 1-1 curveball and tripled into the right field corner. The ball got stuck under the right field wall cover, and the Giants attempted to challenge, but the officials on the field upheld the ruling and Rosario’s triple stood. It was 5-0 Braves after six.
The Giants offense remained unable to answer, as Richard Rodriguez got through the 7th in just 10 pitches.
In the bottom of the 7th, Albies doubled, Soler singled, and Freeman singled to extend the Braves lead to 6-0. An Austin Riley groundout advanced Soler, and then a Joc Pederson sac fly then made the score 7-0, but Gabe Kapler, wisely protecting his bullpen as they prepare to enter a 7-game stretch against the Brewers and then Dodgers, left Long in. Swanson struck out to end the inning.
The Giants threatened briefly in the 8th after a leadoff double by LaMonte Wade Jr., but the offense failed to advance Wade past second base as A.J. Minter sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a walk and a popout.
Long remained in for the bottom of the 8th, and got through the first two batters on 3 pitches before a Guillermo Heredia double slowed things down. Heredia advanced to third on a wild pitch, then came home on a second wild pitch. Casali thought he got Heredia at the plate, but the replay review allowed the call on the field to stand. Albies then hit a home run, making the score 9-0 Braves. Having seen enough, Kapler took Long out and allowed Slater to get the last out of the 8th, bringing a little light into what was otherwise a slog of a game. Slater’s sidearm, “turbo sinker,” and big smile on the mound was a spark of joy, for sure. Long’s final line was 4.2 IP, 6 R/ER, on 6 hits and 2 walks with 3 strikeouts. Not his best night, but he stepped up and ate some innings for a seriously depleted bullpen.
After this game, the Giants head back to San Francisco to begin a seven game homestand against the Brewers and Dodgers. They went 6-3 on this road trip, where they took 2 out of 3 from the Oakland Athletics, swept the New York Mets in New York, and then fell 2-1 to the Braves. The Giants will face the Braves again in mid-September at home, and got a good chance to see a team that they have a high likelihood of meeting in the postseason.