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The Fountain of Youth

The kids just keep coming

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants were piling up franchise moments and historical feats in Wednesday’s 8 - 3 win over the Oakland Athletics.

They won two consecutive games in a row against a team with a sub .500 record since the Colorado series going into the All-Star Break—cheeky, but I clearly still haven’t got over the Washington sweep.

The most notable moment: 21-year old Marco Luciano made his Major League Debut, a journey he’s been on since he was drafted as a 16 year old out of the Dominican Republic. Luciano became the youngest Giant to play shortstop since Royce Clayton in 1991. San Francisco hadn’t started two players under 22 years old in a lineup since 1982.

Though Luciano didn’t quite play a week in Sacramento and may have been out of desperation more than anything, the call-up felt like more affirmation of the farm system’s turnaround. Luciano was one of four Giants on the diamond that were teammates in Single-A San Jose in 2021 (which is both not that long ago, and a really long time ago).

There were no major fireworks for Luciano in his debut. He went 0 for 2 with a deep flyout to right that may have just missed clanging off the tin atop the Willie Mays Wall and a tapper back to the pitcher before being pitch-hit for Joc Pederson in the 7th.

He showed some nice range up the middle and an accurate arm from multiple release points, while initiating two tailor-made double plays with Casey Schmitt at second. Not a middle infield we’re likely to see much of in the future as Schmitt’s natural position is at third, but a smooth, comfortable rapport was there.

The Giants have won the debut game of each homegrown rookie so far this season: Casey Schmitt (May 9th vs Washington), Patrick Bailey (May 19th vs Miami), Luis Matos (June 14th vs St. Louis) and now Luciano.

This is meaningful.

Now for the more cherry-picked feats:

J.D. Davis back-spun a fastball from A’s Freddy Tarnok to the arcade in right to give San Francisco a 2-run lead in the 1st inning. The last time the Giants scored multiple runs in the 1st inning was during that series in their 5-3 win—13 games ago. It was Davis’s 13th home run, tied with Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto for the team lead.

The last time the Giants scored runs in both the 1st and 2nd innings was on May 12th vs Diamondbacks, 63 games ago, which is a lot of Baseball Reference box scores to click through, thoroughly traumatizing my laggy 2017 Samsung Chromebook.

With two outs in the 2nd, Casey Schmitt split the gap in left-center with a *fingers-crossed* slump-lifting double that easily scored Mike Yastrzemski from first. The line-drive left the bat at 108 MPH and reminded us of any era long ago when Schmitt raked—might be feeling a little extra heat with the Luciano debut and middle-infield trade talks.

Obviously, there’s a ton of ways to accumulate runs and scoring in both the 1st and 2nd innings is not the only route to becoming a successful ball club. San Francisco has had one of the best records in baseball since mid-May. The lineup is made up of patient hitters who have bought into the disciplined approach to the plate. Less see the ball, hit the ball and more see the ball, get to know the ball, understand the ball on a deeper level, than hit the ball.

While that drought of 1st inning crooked numbers and add-on runs isn’t the whole story, it certainly has ramifications like affecting how comfortable a starting pitcher feels on the mound, or how batters approach their time in the box, or how Gabe Kapler manages all of them. Stressful pitches take more of a toll on the arm than less-stressful ones. At-bats when down are more nerve-wracking than ones with a lead.

I guess the irony is that even with that rare 3-run lead, the A’s still evened up the score against Jakob Junis in the 4th. Early runs help, but again, they are not a silver bullet.

After scoreless 2.2 innings from starter Ryan Walker and a quick patch job from Scott Alexander to close out the 3rd, Junis took the mound for the 4th. Overall the numbers have improved after a disastrous June for Junis (Junis’s June), but he’s still been a bit see-sawy in 5 appearances this month, which is the story of his season so far: Tough April, gorgeous May, dumpster fire June, rebounding July.

Junis didn’t have a great mix of pitches with his secondary pitches getting him into trouble and his slider got slippery at a less-than-ideal time in Wednesday’s outing.

He got All-Star Brent Rooker to pop-it-up, then JJ Bleday doubled, and fanned Jordan Diaz on it. But with two outs, he couldn’t find the zone on four straight pitches to Ramon Laureano before pinch hitter Jace Peterson singled to center fielder Luis Matos.

Bleday scored easily but instead of casually dumping the ball to second to keep Peterson at first, Matos forced a throw to third. Laureano was safe easily and ended up blocking Davis from making a play on the ball which skipped to the dugout, allowing Laureano to score and Peterson to scramble all the way to third. The error by Matos directly led to the A’s second run and indirectly to their third when Shea Langeliers slapped a single to right to bring home Peterson and knot the game at 3 runs.

Alex Wood took over in the 5th and continued his consistent streak of inconsistency—a bit of a maddening bug going around with some of these cusp starters. Over 3 innings, he allowed just 1 hit and was on the bump to collect the win when Austin Slater pulled his 8th career pinch hit home run just over the right field wall in the 6th.

Camilo Doval looked as unreadable as ever as he prepared for the 9th, but four two-out hits (3 2B and 1B) and 3-runs saw the save situation vanish and Doval’s services no longer required.

After extensive research and observation of Doval’s mannerisms, I’ve gathered that I think he’s happy if he’s standing and unhappy if he’s sitting—but he also hates superfluous movement. A bubble gum bubble might mean something too, just not sure what.