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No drone show

The late-inning power went dark against Marcus Stroman and Cubs in 3-2 loss

MLB: Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants’ descent from rocky mountain high Coors Field to sea-level was grounded abruptly by Marcus Stroman and the Chicago Cubs in a 3-2 loss on Friday.

The rally we all had grown accustomed to didn’t quite materialize, petering out after Joc Pederson’s 2-out infield dribbler somehow resulted in an RBI single that put San Francisco within 1-run in the 7th. A run is a run and a hit is a hit, I guess, but it’s hard to say if that kind of contact is worth 19 million dollars.

No late-inning power in more ways than one—the E-40 postgame salute to Bay Area Hip-Hop drone show got nixed for technical difficulties. What could possibly have gone wrong???

In the midst of a career year, Stroman was expected to be tough. In his previous two starts, he threw a 1-hit complete game shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 29th, then held the Padres to 1 run (unearned) over 6 innings on June 6th.

Stroman graces the top-10 or 15 in MLB in nearly every valuable statistical category for pitchers: ERA (2.42, 8th), WHIP (1.04, 10th), opponents BA (.191, 3rd), IP (85.2, currently tied for 1st). It goes on. He leads the National League with a 2.20 groundout-to-airout ratio—both Logan Webb (1.91) and Alex Cobb (1.88) are 2nd and 3rd on that list.

Watching the Giants try to hit against Stroman builds one’s empathy for teams facing Webb and Cobb. You can feel your hands buzz after each ball struck weakly off the end of the bat. My palms went vicariously numb, knees ached watching hitters trying to get under Stroman’s sinker. Everything was down with heavy moment. Grounder after weak grounder, inning after inning.

His low K/9 (7.67) and heightened BB/9 (3.26) would be cause for alarm, but the high ground ball rate negates many of the problems that would arise from those areas of weakness.

San Francisco felt that sting immediately after a leadoff walk by LaMonte Wade Jr. and single in the 1st. A double-play turned a 2-on, no out situation into a breezy non-starter for Stroman. A lead-off single by Yaz in the 2nd—same deal. His 12 double-plays are tied with Logan Webb and Atlanta’s Bryce Elder for 3rd in MLB.

The Giants knew they had their work cut out for them with Marcus Stroman on the mound. The riddle was how Anthony DeSclafani was going to counter, especially after a pretty rough month of starts and bottoming out with a nightmarish, 6-run 3rd inning against Baltimore.

Disco would end up going tit-for-tat with Chicago, holding them scoreless for 6 innings with only 2-hits. It wasn’t dominant—there was some loud line-drive contact just directed at defenders, too many walks (a season high of 4), barely any punch-outs, and Seiya Suzuki (3 for 3 with a walk) who’s lead-off single in the 7th put Disco in hot-water and initiated the Cubs’ 3-run inning.

An odd first foreshadowed an odd start. DeSclafani, who walked 3 and hit a batter in his last inning against Baltimore, walked two of the first three batters he faced in the top of the 1st, but was bailed out by Patrick Bailey’s arm, a baseball oddity, and instant replay.

Running on the 3-2 offering to Suzuki, Nick Madrigal slid into second as Bailey hurled the ball down to Estrada covering the bag. Initially it didn’t matter, the pitch was called a ball and Madrigal was entitled to the next base. But on the play, after Madrigal made initial contact his leg disengaged from the base—for a split-second his body “rounded” second and Estada’s glove grazed his arm while in no-man’s land. A major assist from frame-by-frame replay, and the Cubs fledgling rally was relegated to a non-issue.

To add to the fun of the issue, Bailey hosed Suzuki trying to steal second to close out the frame. The throw down was more reminiscent of a shortstop turning-two: sliding out from home plate as he received the pitch, side-arm sling down to second. Stylish. Slick.

DeScalani’s scoreless first: 2 walks and a 98.8 MPH line drive off the bat of Mike Tauchman (!) for 3 outs. Encouraging!

The Giants scratched their first run against Stroman with 2-outs in the 3rd.

Shockingly the opportunity was sparked by a full-count Wade walk. Pederson singled Wade to third and Estrada doubled him home, somehow turning on a Stroman’s sinker about a foot inside and letter-high, crowding the letters on Estrada’s jersey before he somehow got around on the ball and dropped it just inside the left-field line.

DeSclafani put the new lead in jeopardy by surrendering a 1-out double to Suzuki who advanced to third on a deep fly ball by Ian Happ. The scenario didn’t necessarily call for a strikeout, but that’s what he got facing Dansby Swanson to strand the tying run at third.

The 3-pitch punch-out was his second and final K of the day. I mention it because it stood out as going against the season’s norm.

Friday night, he was efficient and kept runs off the board which is the most important thing you can do as a pitcher, but he still didn’t look totally like himself. I don’t mean to be a downer, but Mr. Dansby jumping at an 0-2 slider a foot outside could be chalked up more to bad hitting than good pitching.

The disappearance of DeSclafani’s K totals this year might explain some of his troubles this year. He’s never been heavily reliant on it, but it has been more of a weapon. His K/9 rate of 6.25 is 4th lowest in MLB and down considerably from his 8.16 mark in 2021. With his faceball velo down and the run-value on his 4-seam and sinkers way off the ‘21 benchmarks, Disco seems to be searching for a worthy accompaniment to his slider.

Maybe it goes back to a lingering ankle issue that hobbled his 2022 season? The slider is a good one, but it loses its bite when the sinker and 4-seam stuff isn’t as compelling. I think a lot of Disco’s outings, especially this past month, have been plagued by that same problem—to fans or opposing hitters, he just hasn’t had a versatile arsenal, he just hasn’t been that compelling.

After a lead-off single by Suzuki followed up by a walk by Ian Happ, Gabe Kapler had seen enough. The manager has been pushing the right buttons as of late and was certainly right to pull DeSclafani at that point when less contact and punch-outs were needed in a 1-run game.

Relief option Ryan Walker has had a high K% while limiting walks and hard contact over 8.2 innings of work when he took the mound. Unfortunately, Walker didn’t snuff out the Chicago embers but fanned them—his delivery funk just got too funky trying to preserve DeSclafani’s scoreless night.

Both bequeathed runners advanced on a deep fly to center. He then hit Matt Mervis with a literal back-foot slider to load the bases before Nico Hoerner ambushed a first pitch sinker for a 2-RBI single, and a powerless DeSclafani could only watch from the dugout railing as his ERA ticked up.

Walker than walked the bases loaded again and allowed the decisive RBI single off number-9 hitter Tucker Barnhart. He fanned Madrigal on a wide slider that Madrigal somehow foul-tipped and Bailey somehow held onto before Tristan Beck closed out the frame.

Stroman got two-outs in the 7th but was pulled when Pederson came up to bat representing the tying run with Brandon Crawford on third.

Pederson already had 3 singles on the day and came into Friday’s match-up hitting .500 against the starter. Stroman doesn’t give up a lot of home runs, and Pederson hasn’t hit many of them as of late, but ownage is ownage.

Pederson legged out his 4th hit of the day against Al Leiter Jr., and the Giants were back within one, but that’s where the scoring stayed as the Cubs bullpen dropped the next 7 batters in order to close out the win.

Joc collected 4 of San Francisco’s 7 total hits. The 5 - 9 hitters went 2 for 18 with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. A similar lineup will look to turn the lights back on against another veteran right-hander in Kyle Hendricks on Saturday.

4:35 first pitch.