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One bad apple (inning) can rot the whole bunch (game)

A famous saying.

Anthony DeSclafani getting ready to throw a pitch John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

If I told you before Monday’s series opener between the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals that Anthony DeSclafani would pitch six scoreless innings and allow only three hits, you’d happily believe me. DeSclafani has been stellar this year. In his last outing he pitched eight scoreless innings with three hits, and that was against the Houston Astros, who are many things, chief among them being that they are not the Washington Nationals. The Nationals who are, you know, 27th in the Majors in runs per game.

There is, however, a but. And if this hypothetical had been true — that I told you DeSclafani would pitch six scoreless innings with just three hits allowed — before telling you the ‘but,’ you would slap me when you did hear the ‘but.’ And I would deserve that slap.

For legal purposes I would like to state that you should not slap anyone.

The ‘but’ is the first inning, which was one of the weirder innings I can recall seeing.

On the second pitch of the game, Lane Thomas hit a single.

On the third pitch of the game, Luis García hit a single.

On the fifth pitch of the game, Keibert Ruiz hit a single that probably should have been a double, but Thomas stopped at third base and Ruiz didn’t realize it and the Nationals ended up with two runners at second for one easy out. What a weird gift.

On the ninth pitch of the game Joey Meneses hit a single to score a run.

On the 10th pitch of the game, Jeimer Candelario flew out.

On the 14th pitch of the game, Dominic Smith hit a single to score a run.

On the 16th pitch of the game, Alex Call hit a double to score two runs.

On the 18th pitch of the game, CJ Abrams hit a single to score a run.

On the 21st pitch of the game, Stone Garrett struck out to end the inning.

21 pitches is a long inning, but it’s not a long inning. We routinely see pitchers have fairly straightforward, stress-free innings that last 21 pitches. Sometimes we see 1-2-3 innings last 21 pitches. Brandon Belt once had an at-bat last 21 pitches.

On 21 pitches, against one of the worst offenses in baseball, DeSclafani gave up as many hits as he had in any start this year, more runs than he had in any start, and got out of the inning.

So yeah. It’s one helluva ‘but’ that follows the exciting tidbit about DeSclafani throwing six scoreless innings with just three hits.

And while DeSclafani is the biggest reason the Giants lost, he still deserves credit. It’s easy to slump your shoulders and mope when you’ve kicked your ERA between the legs before the first inning is over.

But DeSclafani didn’t. He buckled down and pitched six delightful innings, aided by a tremendous defensive highlight from Mitch Haniger.

It gave the Giants a chance to get back in the game, even if they didn’t do anything with that chance. And it gave them a chance to enter the rest of the series with a fully rested bullpen, as he only needed to hand two innings off to Tristan Beck before the game was over.

If you’re feeling extra generous to DeSclafani, you can even just say he got plum unlucky. In seven innings he gave up 10 hits, nine of which were singles, and one walk. If you prescribe to the laws of sequencing, he really pitched well enough to probably end up with a two or three-run game.

But then again, it’s hard to give him that benefit of the doubt given the pitches he was throwing in the first.


I doubt DeSclafani can take any solace in this, but he was only bad for one inning, whereas the Giants offense was bad for eight!

Not just bad, but frustrating. They got the leadoff batter on base in the first inning when LaMonte Wade Jr. bunted for a single, but Joc Pederson hit into a double play.

They got the leadoff batter on base in the second inning when J.D. Davis walked, but Michael Conforto hit into a double play.

They got the leadoff batter on base in the fourth inning when Thairo Estrada reached on an infield single, and Pederson backed it up with a walk, but Davis hit into a double play.

They got the leadoff batter on base in the eighth inning when Brett Wisely singled, and Wade would make it a rally by getting hit by a pitch, but Estrada hit into a double play.

Rookie Jake Irvin, making just the second appearance of his career, completely neutralized the Giants, but they wouldn’t be shutout. In the ninth inning, with the outcome all but decided, Pederson broke out of a slump to get the Giants on the board.

It was a 5-1 loss. It was over in the first inning, and then nothing happened.

It was a rough day for Bay Area sports.

Tomorrow’s a new day, I guess. Or something.