The majority feel-good series against the St. Louis Cardinals ended on a sour note for our San Francisco Giants with a 6-0 loss that snapped a 5-game rebranding, spirit-lifting win streak and soured a solid 6.2 innings pitched, 2 run, 7 strikeout day from Logan Webb.
The problem, as always, is the other team gets to have a pitcher too, and St. Louis’s Miles Mikolas was excellent, pulled with one-out in the 7th with the bases empty and no runs allowed.
Going into today’s game, Mikolas looked like an easy target for Giants hitters. The veteran throws right-handed—S.F. leads the National League in OPS vs RHP—and labored under an ERA in the 7’s before first pitch. In 22 innings, he had allowed 31 hits and 16 earned runs.
Whoever that pitcher was coming into San Francisco, it wasn’t the same guy that took the mound on Thursday afternoon. Mikolas mixed his pitches, limited damage contact and cruised through the early innings. After a first inning single, the next batter to reach was David Villar in the 5th. The Giants first extra base hit was a Mike Yastrzemski double with 2-outs in the 6th.
The 6-0 “blow-out” doesn’t reflect the true character of the game.
For six innings, it was like Webb and Mikolas were locked in a private conversation. Mikolas worked a sinker-slider-curve spread delivering each a hitchy windup—a brief pause right before release, while Webb rebutted with a sinker-changeup combo accented with his slider. The first run and extra base-hit of the game didn’t come until the top of the 7th. Pitches were thrown. Strikes were called. Ineffectual contact made. Batters came and went. Zeroes traded.
Both navigated 1-out bases loaded situations. Webb in the 3rd and Mikolas in the 5th.
The Cards loaded the bases with 2 singles and a walk before Logan Webb fanned Nolan Gorman (the other Nolan) with a gutsy inside change-up in a full count.
In the 5th, the Giants threatened after David Villar slapped a single with one out and proceeded to third on Brandon Crawford’s subsequent base hit.
Crawford took scoring position by stealing second without a throw, forcing Mikolas to pitch around LaMonte Wade Jr. with the open base.
The bit of baseball gamesmanship set up a force-out situation which paid dividends against Estrada. The infielder tapped a ball that forced catcher Andrew Knizner to scramble out of the crouch, pick the ball from the grass, and dive back to the plate knocking the reaching hand of Villar off course. It was an athletic play, probably made unnecessarily so by the back-up catcher leaving the plate uncovered with the force-out on.
Joc Pederson lined out to end the inning.
Thairo Estrada is tough as nails— KNBR (@KNBR) April 27, 2023
( : @NBCSGiants) pic.twitter.com/n85AcE5SzN
The Cardinals finally cracked the egg in the 7th with a solo shot off the bat of right fielder Alec Burleson.
In 6 starts, it was the 7th home run allowed by Webb already this year. He only allowed 11 in nearly 200 innings in 2022, and 9 in 148 IP. In ‘22, the rate was roughly a home run every 18 innings. In ‘21, around 1 every 16. Right now, it’s about a long ball every 5 1/3 innings.
The Burleson shot was frustrating on multiple fronts.
1: It was a decent pitch. Elevated above the letters that Burleson’s quick hands somehow got the barrel to and lifted over the arcade.
2: Logan Webb had been in the strike zone all game: nearly 70% of his 102 pitches thrown registering as a strike. He had earned 17 called strikes: 12 on his sinker and 5 on his changeup—but, in an 0-2 count, Webb dropped a slider that Burleson had given up on on the outside third of the plate that umpire Chad Fairchild just whiffed on.
It’s not exactly clear how someone misses a call like that—especially from someone who’s been calling strikes all afternoon. Maybe he blinked? Maybe he wasn’t seeing the slider and had given up on the pitch too?
Maybe…Chad Fairchild is a robot?
I have some bad news for you, Ben. Robo umps have been questionable too.— Giant Prospective (@giantprospectiv) April 27, 2023
These are the pitches that are called balls by the robo ump in Harrison's latest start (full robo ump game). pic.twitter.com/iFYLUoUr1z
They are already among us. The takeover has begun.
There are few direct correlations in sports. But a missed strike-3 call that leads to a shutout-shattering home run is pretty apparent. Still, that doesn’t excuse what happened after the home run. A solo shot is a solo shot. One bad pitch. One great swing. It doesn’t have to send an inning spinning.
The missed call and the Burleson drive clearly got to Webb. The next two Cardinals lifted soft singles into right field, and a second run scored from third when Tommy Edman beat Estrada’s off-balance throw to first. John Brebbia had to come in and close out the 7th.
It’s not the first time a late-inning launch has pantsed a solid game by Logan Webb this season. It would’ve been nice to see Webb buckle down after the shot and limit the damage.
Still, Webb needs more run support. The Giants are 1-5 behind their ace.
Gabe Kapler is confident Logan Webb’s issues giving up home runs simply is “random” pic.twitter.com/8lrrscywMr— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 27, 2023
What can also send an inning spinning? Try a botched double-play.
John Brebbia induced a tailor-made one-out grounder in the 8th that Estrada fielded at second, pitched to Brandon Crawford running across the bag, before sailing the relay to first.
The play was slow in developing and Crawford, pulled towards third with a righty up, had a stretch to go to get to second. Covering that distance, taking the feed from Estrada, being careful to toe the bag with the crackdown on “neighborhood” plays, the timing was off. Craw wasn’t rushed, he knows more than anyone how much time he has with Nolan Arenado running up the line, the play just lagged and his momentum carried him away from first.
As a statistician you can’t assume a double-play—but by golly, this really should’ve been one, no matter what the math junkies say. The play should’ve been made. The inning should’ve ended. Instead, it continued.
Not-fast Nolan Arenado scored from first on a double from Dylan Carlson. Gabe Kapler pulled Brebbia for Tristan Beck who hung a breaking ball to Paul DeJong who lifted it just over the wall in left to pad St. Louis’s lead to 5.
Extended at-bats, extended innings—no team thrives in these situations. The Cardinals cashed in their extra looks for crooked numbers, and so goes the game.
It’s never fun to see a winning streak end, but it’s tough to watch the Giants spoil their 5-gamer on a performance like Webb’s today.
Day off tomorrow. Mexico City against the Padres this weekend.