Wilmer Flores lifted a solo shot to deep left center to bag his fourth home run in as many games. The big fly came with 2 outs in the 9th inning down 5 runs and was only San Francisco’s second hit of the day—still, Flores made sure the series split ended on his terms.
After taking the first two barn-burners, the San Francisco Giants petered out against the Cincinnati Reds. They dropped a winnable one on Wednesday and in today’s 5-1 loss, winning never felt like an option against Reds rookie starter Andrew Abbott who dominated over 8 breezy innings.
Tired, hot, sweaty, beat-up, a little cranky—perhaps players were feeling like it was time to make tracks. Where are we going next? Even muggier Washington, D.C.!
Alex Cobb looked stressed from the get-go, pushing the bill of his cap up off the crown of his head, wiping his brow, rubbing each baseball down in desperate search of feel. To be fair he does this every start, but today’s results were far from the norm. Blame the mid-day sun, 91 degree heat, that mid-western stick—Cobb didn’t have it today.
Though his velocity was fine on his sinker, his splitter looked lost. It’s horizontal movement was below average and didn’t generate much in terms of chase. Of 15 swings made by Reds hitters at the pitch, only 2 whiffed.
Cobb’s final line: 4.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 0 K. 4 walks matched a season-high and the 9 knocks allowed set a season mark. It was the first outing in 2023 in which Cobb did not record a strikeout.
He walked two batters in the first inning, only to be bailed out by Patrick Bailey and Flores making a nice play at first base.
Patrick Bailey throws out Elly De La Cruz pic.twitter.com/xyRmTpKy9G— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 20, 2023
In the 3rd, Cobb had Will Benson, the hero from yesterday’s game, on-hook in a 1-2 count before the outfielder spat on 3 straight balls down-and-in for a lead-off walk. Catcher Luke Maile followed by launching a hanging slider over the center field wall to give the Reds an early lead they would never forfeit.
Up 2-0, Cincinnati broke open the game with 2 runs in the 4th and a run in the 5th to chase Cobb from the mound.
Jonathan India scooped a splitter below the zone down the left field line for a lead-off double and would score on a single by Christian Encarnacion-Strand. Benson then added an RBI double to his impressive series’ resume.
In the 5th, Jake Fraley lined another double off Cobb and India brought him in with a single. Cobb’s day was done after a walk to Joey Votto.
Jakob Junis struck out 4 over 2.2 scoreless of innings of relief and Mauricio Llovera k’ed 2 in the 8th, but the bullpen just prolonged the inevitable as San Francisco’s bats made zero headway against the Reds starter.
LHP Andrew Abbott came into the start with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP over 47.2 innings pitched. His secondary mix is equal parts curve ball, sweeper and change-up, there to complement a 4-seam fastball he throws about 50% of the time.
The fastball velocity is below average, and his 6 strikeouts certainly don’t qualify as “mowing Giants down”, but Abbott was able to tunnel his secondary pitches well off his fastball and keep hitters guessing in the box.
He gave up some loud contact at the beginning of the game but fly outs from Slater and Flores fell short of the inviting outfield walls. San Francisco’s first hit didn’t come until Luis Matos doubled with two outs in the 4th.
In a 2-0 hole with a runner on first, Matos’ hit seemed to be the spark the Giants might need to make up some lost ground. A 2-out jump, and with the left fielder Will Benson bobbling the carom of the wall, things looked promising as the play developed.
Then I remembered Wilmer Flores was the runner…
Then I realized shortstop Elly De La Cruz was the relay arm…
ELLY THREW THIS BALL 99.8 MPH pic.twitter.com/iAElcf3qZR— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 20, 2023
Did De La Cruz need to touch triple-digits on his throw home? With Flores rounding the bases in fishing waders—probably not. Was it cool—whatever, sure, fine, okay, it was really cool. The ball came in wide up the first base line but the sloth of the runner and velocity of the relay bought catcher Mailie plenty of time to secure the bounce and reach back towards home to tag out Flores and end the inning.
That was about the extent of the Giants offense against Abbott. Warning track power, a couple of walks, one 1 hit and a Hail Mary, why-the-hell-not send to home.
The lineup was already on its heels before a pitch was thrown with some core right-handed bats missing.
Obviously the team is not the same with Thairo Estrada out (especially against southpaws), but with J. D. Davis feeling under the weather, Brandon Crawford on the IL, and LaMonte Wade Jr. out with a hamstring cramp, Gabe Kapler had to send out Brett Wisely, Joc Pederson and the recent call-up David Villar to patch the gaping holes. Not to take away anything from Abbott’s performance today, but once he navigated the choppy seas of Slater and Flores, the rest of the order was relatively smooth sailing.
Absolutely a disappointing end to a promising series start. If you’re the kind of fan who wants to wallow a little bit in the muck of a loss, take a gander at these Giants offensive numbers.
#SFGiants since May 1 (day after Mexico City series) with MLB ranks:— Ben Kaspick (@BenKaspick) July 19, 2023
43-25 record (2nd)
3.55 ERA (2nd)
3.73 FIP (2nd)
4.9 Def* (5th)
97 wRC+ (20th)
.144 ISO (24th)
For the most part, it really has been pitching and defense carrying the Giants.
*Defensive Runs Above Average
Their offense is average at best and is maybe hurt more than other teams by injuries and slumps because of their reliance on platoon pieces. J.D. Davis has looked lost. Casey Schmitt has looked slighty less lost than he has been. Joc Pederson isn’t hitting for power.
Still, the team has been winning. A 5 - 2 start to a road trip going into a weekend series against a weak Washington team has got to feel promising, right? Right? I don’t know—I go back and forth between excitement and dread. Confidence and doubt. We’re setting the pace for the National League Wild Card while nipping at a division lead, but then I look ahead to an August spent playing Texas, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Atlanta again, then Cincinnati again.