The San Francisco Giants started their game against the Oakland A’s in style. With a look of both calmness and determination on his face, Alex Cobb took the mound and struck out the first batter he faced, Tony Kemp. Then he struck out the second batter he faced, Zack Gelof. And then he struck out the third batter he faced, JJ Bleday.
The San Francisco Giants ended their game against the Oakland A’s in style. With a look of both calmness and determination on his face, Camilo Doval took the mound and struck out the first batter he faced, Ramon Laureano. Then he struck out the second batter he faced, Jace Peterson. And then he struck out the third batter he faced, Shea Langeliers.
What happened in between wasn’t nearly as good as those exciting start and end points (minus the packed Oracle Park crowd erupting into “sell the team” chants in response to the A’s being in town), but it was just good enough for the Giants to wrap a tourniquet around their six-game losing streak and eke out a 2-1 win over their lowly cross-town neighbors (I refuse to use the phrase “rivals” here, no matter what the teams’ marketing departments push for).
Cobb was as good as the Giants asked him to be, and, it turns out, as good as the Giants needed him to be. He was electric to start, striking out seven of the first eight batters he faced, before settling into his standard routine of forcing week contact into the ground and trusting his defense to make the plays.
He mostly avoided trouble, but when he found himself in it he maneuvered through and around it adeptly. A second-inning leadoff double by Seth Brown had the A’s flirting with a lead, but Cobb then struck out the next three batters. A one-out hit-by-pitch in the sixth led to a stolen base when Casey Schmitt forgot to catch Patrick Bailey’s stellar throw, and a walk put a second runner on base with one out. But Cobb barely took notice.
He finished the day with six scoreless innings, allowing just five runners to reach base, and striking out a season-high nine. That led to a fairly staggering statistic.
Alex Cobb struck out nine in six shutout innings. He hasn't allowed a run at Oracle Park since May 16 and he became the first pitcher in franchise history to allow two-or-fewer runs over a span of six home starts.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 26, 2023
It was, unfortunately, just Cobb’s third start at home in his last 10 appearances, but take a look at those six games being referenced:
7/25 vs. Oakland: 6 innings, 3 hits, 1 walk, 0 runs, 9 strikeouts
7/5 vs. Seattle: 6 innings, 6 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs, 7 strikeouts
6/3 vs. Baltimore: 7.2 innings, 5 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs, 7 strikeouts
5/16 vs. Philadelphia: 3.1 innings, 5 hits, 5 walks, 2 runs, 3 strikeouts
5/6 vs. Milwaukee: 7 innings, 5 hits, 2 walks, 0 runs, 5 strikeouts
4/24 vs. St. Louis: 9 innings, 6 hits, 1 walk, 0 runs, 4 strikeouts
Most importantly, the Giants won all six of those games, and have now won 14 of Cobb’s 19 starts ... including 11 of his last 13. It’s giving 2021 Logan Webb vibes.
The Giants, however, were giving him a good ol’ fashioned Caining, with the offense that had scored nine combined runs in their last six games finding an energy drink from neither the worst team in baseball nor a pitcher with a 6.75 ERA. Luis Matos ripped a one-out double in the first inning, but the Giants next 11 hitters would then be retired.
Until the fifth inning, when Wilmer Flores — the hottest hitter on the team by a mile — led off with a walk (one of two he would draw on the day) against aforementioned 6.75 ERA pitcher Ken Waldichuk (a quite good prospect, I should note). Bailey singled, and then the Giants were finally beneficiaries of the A’s being a bad team. Brett Wisely laid down a very poor bunt to Waldichuk, who fired the ball to third, but missed outside.
The bases were loaded with no outs, and Austin Slater was due up.
Slater, who has a .328/.397/.508 slash line against left-handed pitchers this year.
Against Waldichuk, who has allowed righties to hit .308/.401/.515 against him this year.
Slater struck out on three pitches, which is how you know thing are going badly for the Giants.
But picking him up was Schmitt, whose awful raw numbers lately have not painted an entirely accurate picture of his at-bats. He managed to put a ball juuuuuuuust deep enough into right field to score Flores, giving the Giants the only run that it looked like they would need.
I was ready to run with the bleak but happy headline When one run is finally enough, after the Giants had scored exactly one run in each of their last three games, all losses.
But one run was not actually enough, as the A’s mounted an eighth-inning rally against Tyler Rogers in old school fashion: a single with a .130 expected batting average, a sacrifice bunt, and a two-out single.
Two runs would need to be enough, and the best way to score a run is to get a hit with runners in scoring position, which the Giants had somehow not been able to do since Wednesday.
Until the bottom half of the inning, that is. LaMonte Wade Jr. lined a one-out single, and was replaced at first by Matos after a fielder’s choice. A four-pitch walk to J.D. Davis moved Matos into scoring position which, if we’re being honest, really just made us all think the impending scoreless inning would be that much more frustrating.
But alas. Here to save us from the pessimism creeping in is Mike Yastrzemski.
Yastrzemski, making his first plate appearance of the game, after replacing Joc Pederson for baserunning and defensive purposes.
Yastrzemski, with just two extra-base hits since the fourth of July.
Yastrzemski, with just a .175 batting average against lefties this year, being countered by the A’s turning to southpaw Sam Moll.
Moll, who is allowing just a .191 batting average to lefties this season.
Yaz doubled, of course.
The smoooothest head first slide you'll see all season pic.twitter.com/dBeZuxuP7j— SFGiants (@SFGiants) July 26, 2023
That took us to Doval, and for the first time in a week, you felt good about the Giants chances of winning a game. The Giants are 14-5 when Cobb pitches. They’re 39-7 when Doval pitches.
So you do the math.