A struggling Alex Cobb, who’s allowed 14 runs and 7 home runs in his last three starts, against an Atlanta Braves offense that normalizes superlatives.
A San Francisco Giants lineup with swings so holey they’d make their canonized namesake proud against MLB’s K-leader Spencer Strider (217 strikeouts over 139.1 IP).
This whole weekend series feels akin to a harbor seal going up against an orca whale. Prepare to not only be eaten but played with.
But the Braves aren’t the Nationals which means the Giants might find a way to stumble around and win one. The seal could find a way to slip a flipper in and bonk the whale’s nose like they did against the Rangers and Rays. Scratch out a capital-Weird W to avoid the series sweep. Blind squirrel. Broken clock. Even the worst teams in baseball win a third of their games, and the Giants aren’t the worst team in baseball…
Life has been rough on Cobb as of late, but he’s a professional and competitor who likes to pitch mad. Logan Webb (pitching Saturday) is coming off a dominant performance against the other best offense in baseball, it’s not insane to think that the bats could break out with a crooked number or two, and it’s not completely insane to think that both good pitching and good hitting could happen in the same game.
To be clear, this is not hope. As Bryan Murphy pointed out in his series preview, It’s an understanding that the probabilities—no matter how unbalanced—allow for various possibilities. Expectations are so low with this series that fans can watch with a sense of freedom, follow along at a cool distance with little skin in the game. We’re open to surprise but not banking on it. The Braves can’t hurt us because we’re already numb. We don’t feel anything anymore! Take that! A legitimate strategy for the Giants might be to just play dead and pray that the Braves gnaw at them for a bit, then wander off and forfeit from lack of interest.
A win could happen, and it’s funny how much time I’ve spent rationalizing my emotional headspace because a win for the Giants most definitely didn’t happen on Friday. And out of courtesy or cruelty, the Braves didn’t wait around for an inning or two to let us fans wonder if this game might be one in which the seal wiggles free.
Ronald Acuña Jr. ripped the first pitch Cobb delivered into right field for a single that left his bat at 113 MPH. This wasn’t a surprise—Atlanta tears the seams off the ball more than any other team in baseball. In the first inning, 5 exit velocities registered above 100 MPH. If you don’t think that Statcast mumbo-jumbo matters think about how Matt Olson’s ground ball to Brandon Crawford could’ve easily initiated an inning-ending double play that kept 2 subsequent runs from scoring—except for the fact that it left the bat at 110 MPH and seemed to only gain speed skittering across Truist Park’s notoriously fast infield.
Brandon Crawford explains what happened on the potential double-play ball in the first inning against the Braves pic.twitter.com/iK5Q4nOwwZ— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 19, 2023
The hot contact with a hairy-hop forced the sure-handed Crawford to bobble the ball and settle for just the out at second. It’s a play that Crawford is obviously disappointed he didn’t make and feels he could’ve made but it does no good to pile on here, having to stand in front of that thing and stop it was enough punishment.
Acuña scored on the forceout. Marcell Ozuna singled Olson to second and Sean Murphy singled him in.
A 2-run hole is deep enough with how this team is hitting. I don’t blame you if you tuned out after that, choosing to clean the oven or finally get to reading Middlemarch or do anything really to distract you from the inevitable because you know every hurricane starts with a raindrop.
What’s worse is that the hurricane never came and San Francisco still drowned in a puddle.
Cobb actually pitched well. After the four singles in the 1st and another run on a triple-double combo from Michael Harris III and Austin Riley in the 2nd, he settled in with three scoreless frames. He would’ve got out of the 6th unscathed if not for another misplay by an infielder on a potential double-play ball.
Davis couldn’t get off a clean transfer from glove to hand, allowing Acuña to beat out the relay throw to first and extend the inning. Cobb was lifted for Scott Alexander and steamed from the dugout as Michael Harris slapped a grounder up the middle for his 4th hit and Atlanta’s 4th run of the game.
I know I spent a lot of time at the top of this recap explaining to you why and how I primed myself to not be derailed by a Brave win. I knew it was coming, but it still got to me. In a game where the pitching kept the MLB home run leaders in the park, allowing only 3 extra base hits, with Cobb inducing two ground balls that could’ve prevented 3 runs from scoring if not for hiccups on defense, San Francisco did well to cool the hottest offense on the planet. Without knowing the final result, as a fan you take that outcome.
If only there was an ounce of offense produced on the other side of the ball. Alas, Spencer Strider pitched 7 innings of shutout baseball, allowing 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 10. San Francisco’s second hit and only real-ish scoring opportunity came in the 8th inning against reliever Joe Jimenez. But a lead-off HBP and single fell flat after a strikeout and two lineouts. Reminder: this is the problem.
The outcome felt predetermined. The Giants saved everyone some time and stuck the knife in themselves early on, but baseball still found a way to twist it.
Man, I love this game.