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Winn in the loss

Keaton Winn’s first MLB start was overwhelmingly positive in a tough loss against Toronto

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

In his first start in Major League Baseball and 4th appearance, 25 year old Keaton Winn spun a quality start, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits while only needing 67 pitches to complete 6 innings of work.

One inning spoiled yesterday’s outing for Logan Webb, one pitch may have spoiled Winn’s.

A splitter too many against Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with a runner on in the 6th hung Winn with the 2-1 loss, but his overall performance will raise some eyebrows, maybe even some intrigued murmurings from his coaches. Another start? A spot in a hobbled rotation? *rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb*

The Blue Jays certainly hit the ball hard against the rookie, but the defense performed admirably against their drives, including a vibe-y, way-to-chill, somersaulting left field mermaid Joc Pederson. Impressively Winn didn’t back down from the contact and continued to attack the zone and trust the 7 guys behind him.

Winn’s only blemish through his first five innings: 2 hit batsmen on wayward sinkers. Absolutely no intention behind them, nor direct damage from the inside mistakes—but the 95 MPH fastball to the ribs of Guerrero in the 4th definitely had indirect ramifications in the 6th.

The set-up was too perfect: Guerrero, who has been inexplicably struggling at home with only 2 home runs in Toronto this season (both coming in this past week), announced that he would participate in this year’s Home Run Derby.

With taters on the brain, the slugger certainly wanted to show off his cut and practice his strut in front of a home crowd. The HBP brought just the right enough sting to get him salty enough and focused for his next chance against Winn.

Before the pomp came the unheralded, unsexy but necessary circumstance.

With 2 outs in the 6th, Brandon Belt worked a patented quadruple-B (Brandon Belt Base on Balls). It was the first walk given up by San Francisco pitching in the season and it hurt.

After working the count full—Winn’s first 3-2 of the night—Belt took an elevated splitter that may have shaved the top of the zone but was deemed too high. He had already struck out twice on letter-fastballs and knew after those two at-bats and a decade of not being able to do much with pitches up in the zone, that he might as well take it and see what happens.

Winn made the pitch he wanted, but Belt got the walk, and Guerrero got his highlight on the 5th splitter of the at-bat—poorly located, down the heart of the plate and straight to the heart of the Giants’ hopes at a series win. Guerrero watched it. He waited until it landed 400 feet away before he tossed the bat away and decided to run the bases.

Bit showy for my taste—and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The 2-run shot was a blow, but the game ball and complimentary banana split from the snack-shack goes to Chris Bassitt.

He had given up 17 runs over 27.1 innings in June. 15 of those runs came in his last three starts. Over 93.2 IP on the season he had only K’ed 81 batters.

Bassitt must’ve found God since the 23rd because the pitcher the Giants faced was not a scuffling one. 8 strikeouts through the first three innings. His 9th to lead-off the 4th was his season high mark. The right-hander would go on to set a career high 12 strikeouts over 6 shut-out innings.

The 8-pitch repertoire may have had something to do with his successful night. He and backstop Alejandro Kirk had 4 varieties of fastballs, 3 breaking balls and a change-up to play with, and earned a strike with each one. His low-90s sinker mixed with a slooowww curveball was his best 1-2 punch of the night, and he generated 43 swings from San Francisco bats with only 9 of them successfully putting a ball in play.

Bassitt also coaxed 19 called strikes from home plate umpire John Tumpane—some of which elicited strongly worded sentiments from J.D. Davis and Gabe Kapler in the 3rd. Both were ejected promptly—zero tolerance from The Ripper!

The pitches in question were borderline, not egregious. In a close game—a “chess match” according to Davis—one could pull your hair out thinking about the opportunities missed by not getting the call on a pitch. But really, in that situation, you tip the cap to the pitcher for making not an offering he couldn’t refuse but an offering he couldn’t control. A tough pitch to hit but a tough pitch to take—that’s kind of the end-goal of pitching.

Overall, the San Francisco Giants were doe-eyed, frozen in the headlights against Bassitt’s oncoming selections. A wide range in velocity with a lot of different pitch shapes makes for an uncomfortable at-bat. Bassitt’s wildness too (3 walks and a HBP) worked in his favor. Batters were expecting one thing and got another, took pitches to hit and took cuts at duds, or recognized a pitch too late and weren’t able to make a missed location hurt.

In the early innings, Joc Pederson, Davis, and Patrick Bailey all had opportunities to hit with 2 runners on base. All of them struck out. In the first 3 innings, San Francisco had 5 ABs with runners in scoring position and each AB ended in an unproductive K.

What may have emboldened Bassitt even more was the bullet he dodged with the amount of injuries the Giants were dealing with. The starter sports some pretty ugly splits against lefties who have logged a .972 OPS against the righty this season.

But after Michael Conforto snagged a cleat on a play yesterday, strummin’ the ol’ hamstring, and with Mike Yastrzemski still on the IL, Kapler was limited in terms of southside power. Pederson was forced into left (and looked good doing it!) while righties Slater and Luis Matos had to cover right and center.

The Giants bats sparked in the 9th with Bailey doubling off the wall (missing another home run by inches) before Sabol singled him home, the Giants first base hit with a runner in scoring position since Tuesday.

Too little too late. The spark sputtered after Sabol was thrown out on a risky steal attempt as the tying run with no outs in the inning.

I didn’t send him? Did you? Did somebody send him? I think it’s highly unlikely the decision to run was Sabol’s alone—especially because he’s an effective runner in going from 1st to 3rd (not as experienced in stolen bases) and is probably a little gun shy about that last time he tried to get aggressive on the bases against the Diamondbacks. The call had to have come from the bench and had to have been the result of something they had seen from closer Jordan Romano. It was a gamble, and honestly it would’ve worked if not for the kind of ridiculous pick-and-tag made by second baseman Santiago Espinal.

Everything went wrong and then everything went right for the Jays in seconds. Kirk picked a ball in the dirt from Romano, threw a change-up to second that dove into the ground and away from the bag while leading Espinal into a 6’4’’, 225 LB catcher charging up the base path. Espinal improvised, charged forward, slides while snaring the ball and applying the tag—wild. Instead of the tying run at 3rd or at least in scoring position with no outs, the Giants’ late threat was eliminated.

The Toronto Blue Jays’ pitching had been excellent at home all season and there was nothing different in this series. The 5 runs scored by San Francisco were the lowest in a series—a previous mark set Opening Weekend against the Yankees.

The swing-and-miss none of us missed from those early season blues returned as well. There were 14 K’s across the first 2 innings of these 3 games alone, which is 14 of 18 potential outs by way of the strikeout, which is about 78% of the outs, which mathematically feels high and probably a habit the Giants want to kick before they meet the Mets!