The opening game of the San Francisco Giants - Cincinnati Reds series was immediately as advertised. The Great American Bandbox couldn’t contain a flyball, rookie sensation Elly De La Cruz unloaded multiple 95+ infield assists, the bats got shy with a new face in Reds starter Brandon Williamson, giving Logan Webb little support as the starter pitched beautifully through the 7th.
Both Williamson and Webb limited opponents to just 4 hits, the offenses fueled by four solo home runs.
Slater ties it up with a solo shot pic.twitter.com/HId896ns0R— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 17, 2023
Matt McClain kicked off the scoring with a home run in the 1st. Austin Slater tied the game up with a 440 foot home run in the 3rd, and Wilmer Flores nosed the Giants ahead leading off the 6th. Jonathan India’s line drive shot in the 7th knotted the game up again at 2-runs a piece.
Though Cincinnati's park plays small, especially on hot summer nights, McClain’s and India’s shots would’ve cleared 22 and 25 of the 30 ballparks around the league. Slater’s was gone in all of them and Flores’ all but Camden Yards. Both of the Reds’ home runs came with 2 outs in the inning.
Where there's a Wil(mer), there's a way pic.twitter.com/BTx6biJSgD— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 18, 2023
8 days after his first complete game shutout, with a ostensibly restful break spent in Tahoe enjoying his All-Star snub, Logan Webb picked up where he left off.
He attacked the zone with an effective mix of his sinker and change-up, garnished with his slider. 25 called strikes matched his season high (obviously some credit goes to Patrick Bailey here). He K’ed 7 (4 looking, 3 swinging) with 0 walks. His groundout-to-flyout ratio was 10 to 3.
Absolutely elite pitch framing from Patrick Bailey pic.twitter.com/RMU4uSzjIg— KNBR (@KNBR) July 18, 2023
The home runs obviously stung, but as they were his 14th & 15th allowed on the season, fans have grown accustomed to this side effect of Webb’s otherwise fantastic pitching this season.
Webb needed only 86 pitches through 7 complete innings. It was the 11th time this season that he pitched through 7 innings, and it seemed like only an act of god would keep the Giants starter from taking the mound in the 8th.
The delay and eventual postponement to the following evening couldn’t have come at a more exciting and consequential point in the game with the Giants threatening to take the lead with runners in scoring position and one out.
LHP Alex Young was swapped for Fernando Cruz in the top of the 8th when it was announced Joc Pederson would pinch hit for Slater. The left-handed pitcher who sports reverse splits on the season, walked Pederson before Flores doubled (3 for 4 with 3 XBH) to set the table for Michael Conforto.
Coming off an excellent series in Pittsburgh, Conforto couldn’t come up with a decisive hit before the Midwestern skies opened above them. The grounds crew rolled out the tarp, losing only one man, as the teams sought cover in their respective clubhouses from the typical summer deluge. J.D. Davis burdened with an extra 20 hours to mull over his next AB.
As you might expect, a lot happened very quickly in this long-awaited sequel.
I sat down in front of the TV and my heart was already pounding: 8th inning, tie game, runners at second and third—no time to pop some popcorn or go to the bathroom, baseball was happening! Hopefully Rob Manfred didn’t tune in or the 2025 MLB season might consist of 324 3-inning games in which runners start in scoring position and the defense only has to record two outs.
Reds manager David Bell elected to call in RHP Lucas Sims to replace Alex Young. J.D. Davis, who warmed up in the on-deck circle for his long-awaited at-bat, stutter-stepped and turned back to the dugout to be replaced by LaMonte Wade Jr.
In a strikeout situation, Sims can get the K. With 36 innings pitched he had struck out 46 so Gabe Kapler opted for Wade over the whiff-prone Davis. Sims has owned hitters from both sides of the plate and didn’t seem fazed by the managerial trickery.
Wade waved over an inside slider after fouling off two sliders in the zone. Bailey, who is hitting above .400 with RISP, ripped a high fastball that landed two feet wide of fair territory before getting pegged in the hip to load the bases. With no room for error, Sims trusted his stuff, throwing 5 pitches to Mike Yastrzemski nowhere near the zone, but the typically regulated outfielder couldn’t hold up on three knee-biting sliders.
A day’s build up of tension cut in less than 5 minutes.
Ryan Walker pitched a clean bottom of the 8th, and Reds closer Alexis Diaz returned the favor in the top of the 9th.
Then the slight lull in action (baseball can be sooo boring) ratcheted right back up when Tyler Rogers did the dumbest thing ever and walked Elly de la Cruz to lead off the bottom of the 9th.
Twenty minutes into play and one of the most exciting base runners in recent history a week and a half removed from stealing 2nd, 3rd and home in two pitches was just handed a free trip to first base as the winning run.
Did Elly De La Cruz really just hit a single, steal second, steal third, and then steal home? This is officially ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/AM1dTc3hB5— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) July 8, 2023
With Bailey behind the dish as the young lawmen and De La Cruz as the self-assured outlaw—the showdown between cop and robber was what fans wanted from the start.
Bailey had the cuffs on De La Cruz for about three minutes before the runner gave ‘em the slip and was ruled safe after New York overturned the call.
Now, with the winning run now in scoring position with nobody out, the game felt as good as done. Fine. Who cares. This one was cursed anyway. You can have it.
But one way or another, Bailey gets his man.
And by Bailey, I mean, Tyler Rogers always gets his man. A real Butch-and-Sundance: “I’m better when I move.” The submariner chose to unveil his apparently elite pick-off move to second and caught the giddy De La Cruz dreaming of third while dozing off second.
The Giants nab Elly De La Cruz pic.twitter.com/E8rtR8icDJ— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 18, 2023
Rogers cruised through the rest of the inning, and the Giants better-late-than-never offense again went to work in the 10th.
Joc Pederson lined an opposite field double to score Brett Wisely easily, and then proceeded to put on a clinic of understated flawless base running in front of the Reds third baseman.
Joc gives the Giants the lead pic.twitter.com/ZAo4ErexlY— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 18, 2023
An 0-2 fastball rode up on Flores who tried to bail away from the pitch. At first it looked like it hit him, but somehow the ball cued off the knob of his bat and into fair territory up the first base line. In the confusion, Pederson didn’t ask questions and took a consequential 90-feet to make it an inadvertent, but productive out.
Michael Conforto then ripped a grounder to the hole between second and first that Jonathan India kept in the infield with a diving snare. Pederson got a great secondary lead and read the play perfectly, hustling home the moment he saw India on the ground. The second baseman got a throw off to the plate, but it was up the line and well behind the Giants’ fourth run.
“Slow and, most importantly, steady,” droned the tortoise to the hare.
Camilo Doval preserved San Francisco’s 4-2 lead, bagging his 29th save on a strikeout of Joey Votto.
Game duration: 23 hours and 24 minutes.