One of these days, I’ll get a game that’s so good, everyone will be jealous of the fact I got a chance to recap it. It’ll have everything working: an ace starting pitcher that’s allergic to runs, a bullpen of nothing but prime Mariano Riveras, and an offense that hits every ball 115 mph to every corner of the field. They’ll call the lineup “Alcatraz Alley” or some other equally memeable reference to “Murderer’s Row,” but we’ll be so proud of having a superteam that we’ll recite the nickname with pride and plaster it all over t-shirts from San Franpsycho. That game will be such a good game, so clearly dominated by the Giants, that Manfred will come out after the fourth inning and call a mercy rule as the Giants already lead 107-0 and every batter on the other team struck out on three pitches. And of course it’ll be against the Dodgers, who by that time will be so comically inept they’ll make Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s On First” look like a deeply serious wartime skit in comparison.
Now, I could recap the first four innings, but instead I can just leave you with a gif –
wait, wrong gif.
Okay, it was this one, but if you think about it, is there really that much difference?
Through the first four innings, a Cueto that clearly was lacking his usual sharpness gave up 6 runs over 3.2 innings pitched. Now, there were some plays that were clearly not his fault, like the above, but perhaps still reeling from the effects of residual illness, he simply didn’t have the stuff to fool the Brewers lineup. We could get into the details of how the runs scored — three singles in the first and a soft groundout gave the Brewers their first run, and only one of those balls had an xBA over .500 and together they had an average exit velocity of 66.5 mph — or there was a Lorenzo Cain home run, or a Rowdy Tellez standup RBI triple, even though Tellez had hit two triples throughout his entire MLB career and six including the minor leagues — well, I could continue, but you get the point, don’t you?
Meanwhile, the Brewers sent out a pitcher that’s been worth 4.3 fWAR through August with a 0.93 WHIP out to face the Giants lineup, which has been scuffling over the last few games, scoring just one run over their last 18 innings. It’s basically Corbin Burnes in a slightly different font, and by “font” I mean Brandon Woodruff has only four plus pitches instead of five and his four-seamer tops out at 97 instead of 99. The first five innings went basically as you’d expect: 2 hits over 5.0 innings pitched, with 8 strikeouts and 3 walks.
Then, in the bottom of the sixth, Brandon Belt said THIS to Woodruff’s arsenal:
Brandon Belt has his first career 20 homer season pic.twitter.com/d0psuqF6Kf— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 1, 2021
Like the tweet says, it’s his first 20-homer season with the Giants; he’d hit marks of 18 home runs in both 2015 and 2017, but both seasons he missed time with injury. Despite also missing time this year, he reached that coveted 20-homer mark. Belt hit 23 home runs in his first minor league season with the Giants in 2010 (across A+, AA, and AAA), a career mark he looks likely to surpass now, with a month of the season left.
Given Cueto’s struggles, the Giants opted to bring in their new acquisition, José Quintana. Quintana was a superb and consistent pitcher with the White Sox, putting up four straight seasons from 2014-2017 with over 4 fWAR per season. He struggled with injury in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, pitching just 10 innings. The Angels signed him to a one-year “prove it” deal but waived him after he pitched to the tune of a 6.75 ERA in 53.1 innings. But the Giants saw potential in him — a 3.67 xFIP & 12.3 K/9 were some of the positive underlying metrics, suggesting Quintana has great stuff but has been unlucky. Quintana rewarded their optimism immediately, going 3.1 innings with 1 hit, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts, and calming down a game that was threatening to be completely derailed.
The Giants threatened multiple times in the later innings; the Belt home run was followed later in the inning by a Bryant single and then a Yastrzemski single, but Flores was unable to drive them home. The Giants are 0-for-6-trillion with runners in scoring position (actually, according to the broadcast, it’s 2-for-19 over the first two games of this series, but if you ask me, it certainly feels like 0-for-6-trillion). Flores did this to a baseball in the bottom of the ninth:
but it simply wasn’t enough to overcome the six-run deficit the Giants found them in early. Well, at least Quintana looked good. The Giants have now dropped the first two games of the series against the Brewers and have lost three games in a row for just the third time this season. Here’s to hoping they can pick it back up tomorrow.