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Kyle Harrison returns home and lovingly burns it to the ground

The local kid melted everybody’s face off. No one has faces anymore.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at San Francisco Giants Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Harrison made his first Major League start in Philadelphia last week, but last night was his debut. A Bay Area kid taking the mound in front of friends and families, toeing the rubber like those pitchers he idolized as a kid. Coming into baseball consciousness as Tim Lincecum let his hair down, as Matt Cain became perfect, and Madison Bumgarner shot snot-rockets and pitched as if he was breaking a horse.

Who knows who Harrison will be in 5 years or next season or September for that matter—what we do know is that none of those names above introduced himself to the San Francisco community like he did last night. It was dominant. Historical. Worthy of so many exclamation points. Most importantly, it was exactly what San Francisco needed, so let’s revel in it. Splash around in the sights and sounds. Kyle Harrison has landed.

Last night’s pitching line: 6.1 IP, 3 H 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K on 91 pitches.

His palette is deliberately limited, relying heavily on his mid-90s fastball that plays like 100 off his slurve. He’s got a change-up too, a harder slider in his back pocket, but Harrison’s stuff clicks because of how well he hides his pitches through his wind-up and lower release point.

Once again, he recorded the first five outs of the day by way of the K but dropped the frivolous home run baggage that weighed down his debut in Philly. At 22 years old, he became the youngest Giants pitcher since 1974 to have 7 strikeouts through the first three innings of a game and the youngest since Bumgarner in 2011 to record double-digit strikeouts.

He didn’t allow a hit until one out in the 3rd and didn’t allow a runner to reach second until one out in the 5th. With runners at the corners, he fanned TJ Hopkins with a center-cut fastball for his 10th K of the evening. His first and 11th came against Noelvi Marte with two 95 MPH four-seamers. Nine of his 11 strikeouts were swinging. 8 delivered by way of the fastball. He got Elly de la Cruz and Spencer Steer back-to-back in the 4th with shoe-lace slurves—a weapon that adrenaline probably flattened and neutralized in his first start.

The day didn’t quite have the ending written up in fairy tales. With a 4-0 lead, Harrison went out for the 7th, retired the lead-off man but surrendered a double to Christian Encarnacion-Strand (another Bay Area local). Lefty TJ Friedl just missed yanking a 2-run homer into the cove that realllllyyyy would’ve soured the mood, and settled for a walk. Applause carried Harrison off the mound, but responsible for the runners on base, his night wasn’t done, and it looked like his clean sheet might be sullied when Nick Martini pulled a single to right off Ryan Walker.

Encarnacion-Strand stuttered at the start but still chose to challenge the arm of Luis Matos who calmly delivered a firm and accurate one-hop throw home to cut him down at the plate. Another burst of rapturous applause. Harrison pumped his fists from the dugout railing. Walker, relief washed across his face, pointed in appreciation towards right—no one wanted to be that guy and ruin Harrison’s night. It had already happened to a certain degree in Philly with Camilo Doval’s blown save. It kind of felt like the Giants as a team needed Harrison’s first win to be without blemish. Matos’s assist made it a franchise effort.

With Harrison’s book closed, the Reds scratched a run off Tyler Rogers in the 8th but never really threatened San Francisco’s lead.

Riding the desperately needed good vibes of Harrison’s performance, the San Francisco Giants opened their series against the Cincinnati Reds with a win—something they haven’t done since they visited Anaheim six series ago. They haven’t won consecutive games in nearly four weeks. And the win came against a young southpaw—a bit similar to Harrison—that frustrated them to no end in their last outing against Cincy.

There’s nothing particularly spectacular about Andrew Abbott’s velocity or pitch-shapes. He’s effective because he nibbles and plays his change-up off a low-90s fastball while hiding his breaking pitches fairly well. The deception is there which might explain how he threw 8 1-hit innings against San Francisco back in July, which might also explain both J.D. Davis and Paul DeJong whiffing identically delicious 94 MPH fastballs: 2-strike four-seamers kitty-corner to down the middle, ripe and ready to be elevated with a runner on third and less than two outs. They were thinking offspeed, didn’t recognize the heat until it was too late and it jumped on them.

But Abbott’s 1st—escaping a bases loaded jam with three strikeouts—went like his 1.21 ERA June, but his third went like his 5.75 August. Workload might be catching up with the rookie, or just the league. What makes the bigs the bigs is the adjustments players make from at-bat to at-bat and pitch-to-pitch. Those elevated fastballs that flew past Davis and DeJong in the 1st caught a whole lot of lumber in the 3rd. Davis’s single left his bat at 105 MPH and set up Patrick Bailey’s RBI double. With a runner on third and less than 2-outs, DeJong got his second chance and delivered a sac fly to deep right.

The K-total was still there, but the Giants made the necessary adjustments against the lefty. They matched their hit total with their first hitter of the game and broke their scoreless streak two batters later with Wilmer Flores’s double. A runner on first with one out and 85 pitches thrown, Abbott’s night was done, giving up 3 runs on 5 hits with 3 BBs and 6 K. From the San Francisco perspective, a welcome improvement.

Wade Meckler drove in a security run with two outs in the 6th. It was his 2nd RBI of the season and by hustling down to second, he nabbed his first extra base hit of his career. Doval secured his 35th save on six pitches. With Arizona and Chicago losing yesterday, the Giants are now a half-game out of the third Wild Card spot, a full game behind the second spot and a full game ahead of the Reds.

You think Kyle Harrison could pitch again today?