The San Francisco Giants dropped the first two games of their weekend series against the Chicago Cubs, mustering only 2 runs against starter Marcus Stroman on Friday before managing only a single hit against Kyle Hendricks on Saturday.
Two tough losses and Sunday’s Bark at the Park looked to be a dog day in more ways than one for the Giants. But their bats found their bite in the finale with a 13-3 win in which Joc Pederson and Thairo Estrada both doubled down on the long ball—the first time teammates in the orange-and-black had done so in 18 years.
After Estrada was HBP in the bottom of the 1st to lead-off the inning, Pederson scooped a 1-0 fastball from Hayden Wesneski over the wall in left, matching the team’s series run total with one swing.
The homer was Joc’s first extra-base hit in the month of June and 6th of the year. Looking back at last year, by the end of May, Pederson already slugged 12 home runs and was knocking a baseball over the fence every 10 at-bats. His HR-AB rate before Sunday’s game was nearly double his 2022 start.
I’ve been feeling worried about the perceived absence of Pederson’s power. On Friday, he went 4-for-4, all singles. Down two runs in the 7th with a runner on third, Pederson rolled a swinging bunt up the first base line beating the ball by half-step to the bag after a bobble and poor throw from Chicago’s pitcher. It was a hit and brought in another run in a close game—but it wasn’t the kind of contact that evokes awe. It wasn’t why Pederson is in the Giants lineup.
The second home run, on the other hand, was a doozy, no-doubter, rocket launch, hot potato, wet. Splash hit 101 was another 2-run shot for Pederson that broke up the 2-2 tie in the 3rd and put the Giants up for good.
Home run No. 2️⃣ on the day for Joc pic.twitter.com/sHv7qmIgvN— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) June 11, 2023
Home runs come in bunches for a lot of players, but Pederson seems especially susceptible to the ebbs and flows of the longball lifestyle. After his aforementioned explosive start in 2022, knocking out 17 HRs by the end of June, Joc only hit 5 more for the rest of the season. But in 2 at-bats on June 11th, Joc’s HR rate was 1.00000000000000. Maybe his period of dormancy is coming to an end. He’s off the IL, getting into a rhythm at the plate, smiling a lot, being a goof, having fun. Time to hit 20 home runs by Labor Day.
Thairo Estrada pulled his 8th homer of 2023 and first of the day on the 6th pitch offered from Jeremiah Estrada to lead off the 6th. His 9th homer of 2023 and second of the day came with 2 on in the 7th against Javier Assad, pinging a shin-high slider off the left field foul pole.
Note: Do not pitch Estrada inside.
Estrada went 2 for 4 with 3 runs scored and 4 RBIs. Pederson reached base 5 times, going 4 for 4 with 4 runs scored and 4 RBIs and 4 is now his favorite number. As a team, San Francisco scored runs in 7 of their 8 half-innings at the plate and tacked on runs in 5 consecutive innings. They collected 15 hits, going 5 for 13 with runners in scoring position, walked 5 times, and fanned only 6 times with Blake Sabol, Michael Conforto, and Wilmer Flores also contributing RBIs to the 13-run total.
Luckily, the offense was distractedly spectacular because the defense wasn’t.
A dropped underhand feed, botched glove-to-hand exchange, errant throw, tripped up by a fly ball in Tasmanian Devil winds—the Giants’ errors were so egregious they were laughable, and fans were able to laugh because of the sizable cushion provided by the offense.
Casey Schmitt collected his first and second errors of his career on one play in the 2nd that allowed Chicago’s first run to score.
Ryan Walker, after two solid innings of relief, dropped a routine underhand feed from Flores while covering first base to start the 6th. Three batters later, the wild afternoon winds turned a routine fly ball into a plummeting corkscrew that Mitch Haniger botched and loaded the bases. Nico Hoerner would knock in the Cubs’ third run on a fielder’s choice ground out (AKA a failed double play attempt…see next paragraph)
Laughable again was the seemingly impossibility of the defense to turn a double-play. There were a plethora of opportunities, at least six by my count, in which a grounder was offered off the bat of a Cubs hitter with a runner on first or first and second and less than two outs. Still the defense, especially the middle infield of Casey Schmitt and Estrada, couldn’t quite sync up and bag a two-fer.
Three occurred behind Tristan Beck in the 2nd and 3rd innings. Poor enough contact to be beneficial, speed on the base path, not covering the bag in time—all factors that spoiled the Giants attempts while forcing Beck to sweat through 62 pitches. Those were the most maddening because they felt consequential at the time—the Cubs able to chip away at an early 2-run deficit on the defense’s botched attempts.
Two more potential double-plays went unrealized in Ryan Walker’s 6th, and one again in the 9th.
Again, this all just ephemera, interesting tid-bits, inconsequential asides, game footnotes.
The defense was weird today…who cares? The San Francisco bullpen brigade stranded 11 Cubbies on base and goose-egged them with runners in scoring position—so what? Joc Pederson is recharged and possibly operating at full strength—not that interested.
Why? Because the greatest thing that happened in Sunday’s 13-3 blowout—by far—was Brandon Crawford, in his 13th year in the Majors, finally got to take the mound as a big league pitcher.
Up 10 runs at home, the veteran shortstop was given the greatest gift a manager could give an infielder—a chance to dig his cleats into the clay of the mound, rub up a baseball, toe rubber, shake off a heater, and throw a bad breaking ball.
Crawford did that with some additional spice. Velocity-wise he was where Kyle Hendricks was at on Saturday. Statcast registered 5 different movements on his pitches: a two-seam/sinker, curve ball, 4-seam fastball, change-up and slider. Were all of them intentional? Probably not—but you bet that the DJ was still mixing from the mound, working in his 15-year old Uncle Charlie, playing with some grips, letting his two-seamer get a little handsy on right-handers while testing both corners of the plate.
His sequence against Christopher Morel was especially nasty. Back-up curveball to inside sinker fouled off the back leg; another back-up curve to change-up/fastball on outside corner for a swing-and-miss strike-two.
Here is every Brandon Crawford pitch in his first pitching appearance pic.twitter.com/8Wz8eODyA2— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) June 11, 2023
20 pitches, 1 walk, 1 bloop single, 1 whiff, a ground out, fly out, and foul out to complete a scoreless 9th and preserve San Francisco’s 10-run lead.