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Giants secure first sweep of 2023

An offense made up of singles? Record setting defensive plays? A stingy bullpen? 3-wins and a sweep? Who are these guys?

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at San Francisco Giants Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Much like a Curvier’s beaked whale on its record-breaking 4-hour underwater dive, the San Francisco Giants offense spent most of Wednesday’s finale against the Philadelphia Phillies underwater.

But two brief run-scoring breaches in the 1st and 8th innings were enough to secure the 7 - 4 win and the Giants first series sweep of 2023.

The afternoon got off to a hot start against Philly starter Taijuan Walker with 2 walks and four singles in the 1st inning. Three consecutive, 2-out slaps off the bats of Casey Schmitt, Blake Sabol, and Brandon Crawford knocked in 4 runs for an early crooked number lead.

Walker took the mound at Oracle with an ERA in the high-5’s and left the mound in the 1st with a bloated 6.53, good for one of the worst in the Majors. The burst was a welcome change in the narrative for a Giants team that had made a habit of getting hand-cuffed by middling starters.

Manager Rob Thomson had seen enough after Crawford’s RBI single. With an off day the next day, he elected to turn Walker’s start into a bullpen game to match San Francisco’s.

The move worked. Matt Strahm came in relief, and the southpaw worked 2.1 innings of scoreless relief, dodging potential damage in the 2nd by fanning Mike Yastrzemski with two runners on. Connor Brogdon then worked his way into trouble with consecutive walks in the 3rd and out of trouble with 3 consecutive pop-ups.

Philadelphia had ran out 3 pitchers and thrown 100 pitches by the time the second out in the 4th was recorded. San Francisco had recorded 6 hits and earned 5 free bags through the 4th, threatening with a runner in scoring position in each of those early innings.

Teetering on the brink of disaster, Philadelphia pitching maintained their composure kept their bats in the game long enough to see the Giants 4-run lead erased by the 5th.

Ross Stripling (who else?) had worked a terrific opening 3 innings against Philadelphia.

For a stretched bullpen who had tossed 10 ⅓ innings over the first two wins of the series, Gabe Kapler needed length out of Stripling. In the early goings, it looked like Kap might get it. Strip had retired 8 in a row (with some help from Schmitt at third) after allowing a 1-out single to Trea Turner in the 1st and looked sharp mechanically, throwing an absolutely beautiful change-up to retire Kody Clemens in the 3rd.

Delivering one pitch well isn’t usually worthy of a game recap shout-out—but I feel like I’ve covered a lot of Strip’s outings so far, and our relationship feels strained. It’s nice to mix things up and take some time to appreciate the little things he can do. His high, over-the-shoulder release sold heater to the hitter but delivered a lilting change-up that Clemens had no chance on. Subtle. Elegant. Graceful.

That bliss didn’t last long.

After getting Turner out to lead off the 4th, the Philly battery in Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, and Kyle Schwarber all reached to load the bases before J.T. Realmuto pulled a 2-RBI double to left. In the throes of a rough inning, Stripling was pulled with back stiffness, artfully handing a stick of ACME dynamite with a lit-fuse to Sean Manaea.

Stripling to Manaea, a lauded tandem by the front office brain trust, is now a gut-busting 1-2 punch a quarter through the season. A duo so dubious it’s comedic: The Bash(ed) Brothers.

Manaea immediately surrendered a sacrifice fly to Alec Bohm and gave up Bryson Stott’s game-tying solo shot to the arcade with one out in the 5th.

Once tied, and with an off-day for both teams on Thursday, it was a test to see which blinked first.

After Walker was yanked in the 1st, five Philly relievers pieced together 6.1 scoreless innings, keeping Giants hits and runs submerged in a tight ballgame.

San Francisco’s relievers were equally impressive. Jakob Junis struck out Castellanos, Schwarber, and Realmuto in the 6th.

Scott Alexander inherited a runner on first in the 7th. Brandon Marsh laid down a perfectly placed bunt on Alexander’s first pitch to set-up a two runners on, nobody out SNAFU. Alexander fanned Josh Harrison on 4 pitches and suckered Stott into a 4-6-3 inning ender.

John Brebbia helmed the 8th, and after a lead-off single to Trea Turner, struck out Harper before inducing weak contact from Castellanos and Schwarber to nullify the meat of the Philly’s lineup.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Giants bats finally resurfaced for air.

Facing lefty Gregory Soto, Kapler rolled out his right-handed platoons. J.D. Davis stroked a single to right and Mitch Haniger rolled a single up the middle before Joey Bart loaded the bases with a bunt that bounced 20 feet in the air before landing on the grass and dying like a chip shot in front of Soto’s open glove. Thairo Estrada came up with the tie-breaking single with one out, and with two outs, Wilmer Flores laced an 2-RBI single to push the lead to 3 runs.

With the gift of a late and somewhat cushion-y lead, Camilo Doval, making his 3rd appearance in as many games, secured the save not without some Olympic-level hand-wringing brought on by a single, a loud line drive out to right, a wild pitch, a warning track flyout to right, a hit a batter, a walk, a mound meeting with Andrew Bailey, some Pitchcom issues, followed by 3 absolutely painted pitches against Trea Turner to seal the final out—so it goes in the life of the Iceman.

The Giants knocked four 2-out RBI hits in Wednesday’s game and collected 10 total in the series. 14 of their 17 runs over the three games came when putting the ball in play with two outs. Conversely, San Francisco arms limited the Phillies to just a 2 for 25 mark with runners in scoring position and allowed only one 2-out RBI in the series.

With 11 singles, the 7 - 4 win was San Francisco’s first without an extra base hit this season. Of the team’s last 21 hits, only one has landed for extra-bases. Where was this against the Royals? Tigers?

An excellent bullpen display, contact in high-leverage situations, a catalyst defensive play maker lifting up the whole team, diversifying their offense portfolio, the Bashed Brothers not getting too bashed—is this what good baseball is like?

I’ll end with this.

Prettier than a change-up.