Analyst Mike Krukow, beamed in from the Bay, closed out Sunday’s broadcast with a reminder for all baseball fans who’ve never stepped into the box and tried to hit a spinning rock coming in at 95 MPH with a flimsy stick: “When asked ‘Who’s the toughest pitcher to face?’ Willie Mays responded: ‘The guy I don’t know.’”
Good general wisdom—though it doesn’t always explain the specifics. A day removed from a feel-good win full of runs and loud contact (against Clarke Schmidt and Michael King, two strangers), the San Francisco Giants bats were stymied by a slew of unfamiliar arms—shut-out 6-0 to bookend the opening series against the New York Yankees.
25-year old starter Jhony Brito authored a memorable MLB debut of 5 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, and 6 K. The fresh face Brito dodged bats all afternoon with a gassy 97 MPH fastball and a baffling change-up that earned 11 whiffs on 22 swings. After a 27 pitch first inning, the rookie dropped the Giants in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in order. The single by J.D. Davis in the 1st was the only hit to clear the infield for San Francisco.
Conversely, familiarity often breeds contact.
Veteran RHP Ross Stripling had spent the last three seasons in the American League East with the Toronto Blue Jays. Aaron Judge had 10 ABs against; Giancarl Stanton 10; Anthony Rizzo 16—the heart of the Yankees line-up were accustomed to Stripling’s game plan of attacking the zone with a moderate fastball paired with a slider and change-up.
Over 5 winless starts in ‘20, ‘21 & ‘22 combined against the New York, he threw 25 innings, allowing 11 runs on 26 hits and 3 homers. The Yankees doubled that homer total this afternoon, with blasts from Judge, Stanton, and light-hitting catcher Kyle Higashioka joining the party in the 4th with a solo shot to left.
Ross Stripling reflects on his first start as a Giant pic.twitter.com/a4lMQWTAzy— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 2, 2023
The 33 year old’s San Francisco debut veered sharply off course in the 3rd. After retiring Judge and Stanton in the 1st, Judge’s 2nd AB ended with a “bad slider” (Stripling’s words) converted into a souvenir in the left field bleacher, and about 45 seconds later (the time it takes for me to switch from radio broadcast to MLB TV) Giancarlo Stanton had launched a 2-run monstrosity to center.
New York City is cramped enough, Yankee Stadium unnecessarily tight, and jeeze, it plays like a little league field for players who are 6’7’’. The House that Ruth Built has been torn down and is being heavily renovated by Aaron Judge. In the series, the emboldened Captain hit .462 with 2 home runs and 4 RBIs. Something about the display felt personal—did something happen over the offseason? I don’t remember…
San Francisco’s best scoring opportunity came in the 6th against relievers Jimmy Cordero and Ron Marinaccio.
Thairo Estrada legged out an infield single and LaMonte Wade Jr. was hit by a pitch, both advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch with one out and J.D. Davis at the plate.
Davis, getting his debut start of the season at first base, was called out on a pretty generous strike-call by the previously stingy home plate umpire Erich Bacchus.
The threat ended with Joc Pederson getting under a belly-high fastball from Marinaccio, letting loose an amplified and salty “Gosh darn it!” as the ball floated benignly into Judge’s glove in right.
Joc Pederson was, uh, not pleased with this fly out— KNBR (@KNBR) April 2, 2023
After striking out 16 times in the season opener, the Giants whiffed 12 times in the rubber match. Ironically, they struck out 13 times yesterday—a sin blanketed over by scoring more runs than the opponent. Out of 81 outs, the Giants whiffed 41 times, which is more than 50% of the outs in a 3-game series, which is more than we want to see, which is actually something we’ve only ten times before. History! Or... the new normal?
Giants strike out at historic rate in season-opening series (via @DannyEmerman)https://t.co/ZvBUoAI7Al pic.twitter.com/HhXPHWJagt— KNBR (@KNBR) April 2, 2023
Series book-ended by pretty-identical losses. Heading to Chicago to face the White Sox. First pitch 11:10 AM PT.
Battle of the Giants:
Sean Hjelle made his season debut for SF, pitching a clean 6th and a pretty rocky 7th.
The 6’11’’ RHP faced the similarly giant non-Giant Judge. With two runners on by way of the walk, Hjelle K’ed Judge on a sinker in on the hands.
That is all Hjelle will want to remember from the 7th—allowing 2-runs on 3 walks, a sac fly, and 2 wild pitches.
Sean Hjelle paying his rookie dues by rocking the Chewbacca backpack pic.twitter.com/PnnGKxkD97— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 2, 2023
Sabol behind the dish:
Blake Sabol made his backstop debut in the midst of some juicy catcher gossip with Joey Bart scratched and heading to the IL, Roberto Perez getting the first two starts of the season, and Gary Sanchez signed to a Minor League deal on Friday. Rumors abound!
Managing three different pitchers over 8 innings, Sabol appeared competent, if not jerked around a bit by a wild Hjelle in the 7th.
I understand that Hjelle has been erratic, but I don't think those three wild pitches are all on him. Sabol has got to do more on those. Innings like that are a reason why a lot of evaluators didn't consider Sabol a MLB option behind the plate.— Marc Delucchi (@maddelucchi) April 2, 2023
Could he have done more on some of those back-handed picks? Possibly—but Hjelle was pretty wide of the glove in the 7th and expecting a catcher to pick, or block, a spiked ball that far from the target, especially from the in-vogue one knee position of receiving pitches, is a tad unfair.
Maybe the most important thing is that Sabol seemed frustrated by how that inning was going—that fact that a young player in his MLB catching debut holds himself to a higher standard is the justified takeaway from that half-inning.
J.D. Davis at 1B:
First base was a question mark in the off-season after losing Brandon Belt, but both LaMonte Wade Jr. in the first two games, and Davis this afternoon, made some notable plays that might ease some trepidation around the age-old, slightly modified Q: Who (can) play first?
Yesterday, Wade made the all-important first out in the 6th by laying out for a grounder destined for right field that kept the lead-off man from reaching in a tight game. He also secured the double-play and the win by scooping-while-stretching Estrada’s wide throw from second.
Davis snagged an Isiah Kiner-Falefa liner in the 3rd, while also fielding an odd hop on a cross-diamond throw from David Villar.
Broadcast Quote of the day:
Mike Krukow: “You can throw a dead turnip on top of a tater tot and I’d jump on it.”