Sometimes the Giants face good pitchers. Sometimes the Giants face great pitchers. Sometimes the Giants face pitchers that have 5.9 fWAR through August with a 1.64 xFIP going into the game, and sometimes those pitchers have 99mph four seamers, 95mph cutters, and a plus curveball, plus changeup, and a plus slider, and they carve up the Giants lineup like a Thanksgiving turkey through six innings. But there’s a reason baseball games are nine innings, and it’s not so MLB can sell more peanuts (although that might be part of it) — the reason is because you can drive even the best pitcher out of the game eventually and get to the bullpen. The Giants did just that in the bottom of the seventh, eventually chasing Corbin Burnes on the heels of a Brandon Belt double and Kris Bryant single. Belt would come around to score on a Crawford single. So take that, Corbin Burnes, ye of the 2.30 ERA. You can fool the Giants once - twice - well, up to six innings - but you can’t survive seven!*
The real story of this game, though, was the amount of quality at-bats the Giants put on the board with nothing to show for it (and, on the flipside, the lackluster at-bats they had when there were runners on the bases). Here are some balls the Giants hit throughout the game and their xBAs. See if you can guess the outcomes:
- Darin Ruf, 108 mph, .720 xBA
- Wade Jr., 107mph, .720 xBA
- Wade Jr., 105mph, .580 xBA
- Flores, .610 xBA
- Belt, .760 xBA
Trick question! They were all outs. The Giants, despite facing a somehow more terrifying version of Jacob deGrom (and the many headed hydra of the Brewers bullpen), were putting up solid at-bats, hits that on other days would have fallen in, and we’d be having a very different discussion right now.
But like I said, there’s the flipside. The Giants had three leadoff doubles and here was the outcome of those innings:
Dickerson doubles to lead off the bottom of the 3rd:
- Vosler K
- Jarlin Garcia K on a missed bunt
- Wade Jr. lineout (one of the aforementioned unlucky ABs)
Belt doubles to lead off the bottom of the 7th:
- Bryant single
- Crawford single (the only Giants run in the game)
- Yastrzemski groundout (fielder’s choice)
- Dickerson popout
- Ruf lineout (one of the aforementioned unlucky ABs)
Bryant doubles to lead off the bottom of the 9th:
- Crawford flyout
- Yastrzemski groundout (Bryant to 3rd)
- Slater flyout
A leadoff double is supposed to portend a big inning, the kind of momentous game-changer that drives the game out from under the rug and into the sunlight and lets the Giants show off their skills. But despite three leadoff doubles, the Giants only mustered the one run to show for it. Granted, they were facing the hitter’s nightmare group of Corbin Burnes, Brad Boxberger, Devin Williams, and Josh Hader, but the Giants have also had trouble capitalizing on runners: despite having the 5th best BA with RISP for August 2021, the Giants are 23rd in RBIs.
Beyond that, the game did not start out in a particularly auspicious manner. Both Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto were placed on the COVID IL before the game started. Although Cueto has tested negative for COVID, he’s feeling under the weather; the Giants are hoping to start him as soon as he’s better. Wood does have COVID. With Solano still out from his COVID quarantine, the insidious virus that has spent much of the last year and a half worming its way throughout the globe seems to have breached the Giants clubhouse.
José Álvarez was chosen to be the “opener,” a great choice given that he hasn’t given up a run since July 9th. But that streak was doomed, as in the first inning Christian Yelich doubled and then came around to score on an Omar Narvaez single. More trouble arose in the second, as Álvarez walked the leadoff hitter Jace Peterson, who came around to score on a Corbin Burnes single. We hate the DH here, but it’s always unfortunate when the pitcher is the one making you pay. Jay Jackson limited the damage though, coming in for Álvarez and striking out Garcia to end the inning. The Brewers scored their third run in the top of the eighth inning off of Dominic Leone, with Narvaez coming home to score on a Urias sacrifice fly.*
*The Giants are 28th in baseball for sacrifice flies, another potential reason for their RBI woes
Overall, however, the bullpen held the line. Jarlin García was particularly impressive, going 3.2 innings with just 1 hit allowed, no walks, and 4 strikeouts. Despite a blatant mismatch on paper — an unexpected bullpen game vs. Corbin Burnes — the Giants kept it close, merely unable to come up with the big hit despite opportunities. This marks the second loss in a row and third loss in the last four games, just the eleventh time all season they’ve lost two games in a row. The Giants have three games remaining against the Brewers before facing the Los Angeles Dodgers at home for a three-game series, who loom large and horrifying in the rearview mirror.