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Young bats rescue dusty arms in 6-4 win

Patrick Bailey, Luis Matos came up with big hits late to secure see-saw win against Pittsburgh

San Francisco Giants v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants opened their 3-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, their 11-game, 4-city road trip, and their second half with a back-and-forth 6-4 win.

Part maddening and part invigorating, San Francisco’s pitching lost what the bats gained twice before RBI knocks from Patrick Bailey and Luis Matos in the 7th put the Giants in the lead for good.

Bailey came up to bat against reliever Colin Holderman with one out and runners at second and third. In a 4-3 hole, capitalizing on the scoring opportunity was paramount with Pittsburgh’s All-Star closer David Bednar looming in the 9th. These moments have had a nasty habit of singling this kid out, and the kid has a nastier habit of singling (or more) in them.

In 45 PA with runners in scoring position going into last night’s game, Bailey has a 1.137 OPS with 15 hits, 8 of those for extra bases. With the bases empty, his OPS is nearly halved at .682.

Bailey went just 1-for-5 last night, but when the Giants needed contact, the rookie delivered, pulling a Holderman cutter into right field that scored Wilmer Flores easily. J.D. Davis also came home on an error by right fielder Henry Davis to give the Giants their third lead of the night. But Bailey wasn’t finished yet. After Holderman was lifted for lefty Ryan Borucki and on the first pitch, the cement-shoed catcher dropped his head and scooted down to second for his first career stolen base (after nabbing his 13th base runner innings previous). He then scored when Luis Matos lined a 2-out single to left for an insurance run.

The offense didn’t hang 6-runs on the LHP Rich Hill in one inning like they did on May 29th, (eventually winning 14-4), but the bats showed some encouraging signs of life after their sluggish start to July with contributions from top-to-bottom of their lineup.

Matos collected 2-hits and scored a run. Flores’ double kick-started the 7th inning rally. Austin Slater and Casey Schmitt also had key 2-baggers that set up scoring opportunities for the Giants in the 5th and 6th. Michael Conforto collected two hits (and was HBP), his 2-RBI single against Hill in the 5th kicked off the game’s scoring. Giants runners also stole 3 bases, the third time they swiped at least 3 bags this season.

I suppose the maddening part of this one was—now this is going to shock some people—Ross Stripling.

Looking back at the box score, he actually pitched well. 4.2 innings pitched, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits with 0 walks and 6 strikeouts. His 12 o’clock change-up had more vertical bite to it getting some swing-and-miss early, notably Bryan Reynolds in the 1st and Austin Hedges in the 3rd. He was efficient, in the zone, and allowed only 2 singles to the Pirates over the first 4 innings—going tit-for-tat with his counterpart Hill.

But the outing turned on a dime in the 5th. Given a 2-run lead, Stripling immediately put it in jeopardy. The first three batters he faced in the inning reached base in 2-strike counts.

Ji Man Choi lifted an poorly located fastball over the center field fence. Jared Triolo found himself in an 0-2 hole but spoiled 3 more pitches before digging out a change-up for a single, and Tucuputia Marcano then singled in a 2-2 count to set-up runners at the corners with nobody out in a 2-1 ball game.

That last one wasn’t all Stripling’s fault. Home Plate Umpire Jordan Baker somehow missed a fastball that wasn’t painted, but fully inside the zone that would’ve K’ed Marcano. Next pitch he singled and slyly smirked from first.

Frustrating for an umpire to miss a strike-3 call, maddening when it leads to a hit and an eventual run—but Stripling certainly helped with some heavy lifting in the Pirates’ rally. An escape route out of the inning appeared after the Giants’ starter K’ed Nick Gonzales with another change-up dropping out of the zone and light-hitting catcher Austin Hedges, an excellent candidate for a double-play ball or strikeout, stepped up to the plate.

Again, with 2-strikes, Stripling continued to baffle. I’ve said before that balks are often in the eye of the beholder. When they’re called, everyone involved is perplexed, looking around confused, desperate to understand, to figure out what went wrong. A flare in the nostril, an extra blink, the wind shifted an arm hair—what?

But Stripling’s balk was as blatant as can be. He came set, started his wind-up, and then went back to set…which is, yeah, unequivocally a balk. The misfire allowed the tying run to score, then Stripling proceeded to strike out Hedges before Sean Manaea took over to retire the final out of the inning.

The penchant towards the home run ball obviously, but the trend of not closing out hitters in leverage counts, the inconsistency of feel for his change-up, his inability to go deep in games and his tendency to lose some command around the 60-pitch mark is undermining Stripling’s starting rotation candidacy.

Manaea, maybe to a lesser degree, is also strung between roles. He’s shown prowess as a long-reliever or bulk-innings man, but the extended break (he hadn’t pitched in 10 days) may have played into his weaknesses in this outing.

After the Giants regained the lead against Hill in the 6th with a Brandon Crawford RBI fielder’s choice, Manaea couldn’t locate his pitches, allowing the first three Pirates bats to reach base. Reynolds singled while both Davis and Carlos Santana walked and Choi skied a sacrifice fly to right to tie the game. Mauricio Llovera took the mound and gave up the lead with a sac fly from Marcano. One hit, three walks = two runs and a lead change.

The pitching dug themselves into a hole in consecutive innings, but the headline is the bats wasted no time in climbing out of it. Flores pulled the first pitch he saw in the 7th for a double. And the offense wasn’t too proud to take the help from Pittsburgh’s defense when offered. J.D. Davis followed the double with a walk, and both runners moved into scoring position by a passed ball by Hedges to set-up the consequential RBI opportunity for Bailey.

With the 2-run lead, Tyler Rogers and Camilo Doval calmed the turbulent air around the pitching mound. Rogers pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just 1 hit and 2 strike outs. Doval, in the afterglow of his All-Star win, induced a game-ending 4-6-3 double play for his 27th save of the season.

Game 2 match-up: Alex Cobb vs. RHP Johan Oviedo. 4:05 PT first pitch.