It’s a common thing with starting pitchers. Prior to trotting out to the mound to start the inning, the manager pulls them aside and let’s them know: we’ll give you a chance, but if you allow a hit, it’s over. Sometimes it isn’t even said. If you’re sauntering out for the eighth inning of a 3-2 game and have thrown 107 pitches, you understand that the moment you dabble in non-outs, your night is over.
But it usually comes late. It usually comes when the pitch count is high, or the results have been questionable.
What I’ve never seen is that directive being given to a starting pitcher in the first inning.
But as Kruk and Kuip are fond of pointing out, baseball often shows us something we’ve never seen before, and that was the case when the San Francisco Giants played the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday, where ace Logan Webb apparently had a limit of one (1) hit.
And so he pitched a perfect first inning.
And then he pitched a perfect second inning.
And then he pitched a perfect third inning.
And then he had a brief fourth inning interlude to hit a batter, but retired the other three that he faced.
And then he pitched a perfect fifth inning.
And then, with one out in the sixth inning, Webb finally relented, ceding a one-out single to Sean Bouchard.
And that’s when Gabe Kapler marched out to the mound. Rules are rules. One hit and you’re done. It’s amazing Webb made his one allocated hit last as long as he did.
I’m joking, of course. Not about what happened, but about the one-hit limit. It was just hard not to have that feeling evoked when a pitcher takes a no-hitter into the sixth inning and then gets yanked the first time someone gets a hit.
But the Giants are meeting Webb in the middle. With the playoff hopes dead and the team looking towards 2023, they likely don’t want to play Webb at all. But with Webb being a competitor who wants to play baseball, show up for his team, and make his case for a few Cy Young votes, shutting him down doesn’t seem fair.
So they’re playing the compromise game. Webb never had to work through anything — he faced just one batter from the stretch, and none with runners in scoring position. He hurled only 66 pitches. And this came after the game was delayed for an hour and five minutes due to rain, which probably messed with Webb’s stamina a bit, too.
He was never going to last long, unless he threw a no-hitter of course, and once that became an option he got put on the “pitch until history’s off the table, then you’re done” diet.
If that upsets you — understandable, since you probably want to watch your favorite team’s best players — remember that Webb now sits at 187.1 innings thrown this year. His previous career high, including the Minors, was last year, when he threw 148.1 innings. The high before that? 2018, when he tossed 104.2 innings.
Going easy on him is smart. And to be clear, something he’s on board with.
"I would love to get to 200, but I think being smart would be great for me.— Sam Hustis (@SamHustis) September 22, 2022
I want to throw 200 innings for the next 10 years, not just this year." pic.twitter.com/jNKr5rAl2D
With pitching that strong, the Giants offense didn’t need to do much to gift their star a W.
They got the first run they needed early, and with help. LaMonte Wade Jr. led off the game with a double, and Wilmer Flores followed with a single to put runners at the corners. But Joc Pederson struck out, and David Villar hit what looked like an inning-ending double play.
Instead, it was an error, the Giants scored, and the gates were open (and don’t worry, Villar would hit into a double play later down the road, so he got what he came for).
They added another run in the fourth on an RBI triple from Jason Vosler, who was added to the roster just hours before the game, and he scored on a Luis González single.
A rally scored a fifth-inning run, and four singles — by Austin Wynns, Flores, Pederson, and Villar — tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the ninth.
It looked like the rare Coors Field shutout, but Thomas Szapucki, trying to find some rhythm in mop up duty, gave up a ninth inning homer, setting the final score at 6-1.
Still works. Still a win. Still a three-game winning streak.
Still good baseball, which we haven’t seen in some time.