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Padres feast as Beck serves

Tristan Beck didn’t have it. Giants lose 7-3.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

At least, the game started with a bit of fun.

Wilmer Flores pulled a no-doubter off San Diego Padres starter Michael Wacha in the 1st which, for a brief moment, maintained the good vibes of yesterday’s 7-2 win. The homer was Flores’s 20th of the season, setting a personal season high, as well as being the first of the 2023 San Francisco Giants to reach the milestone.

And with the arrival of Kyle Harrison (slated to pitch Saturday) and Tristen Beck’s recent success against the Braves in his first career start (4.1 IP - 3 H, 3 ER, 5K on 8/27), San Francisco was starting to feel cautiously optimistic about having somewhat of a starting rotation again.

Beck made his debut on April 20th and since then has been an innings eater. It’s a thankless role on a club, often inserted into situations after the damage has been done. Containment over the more heroic prevention. I think that has clouded my vision when it comes to Beck—he’s the pitcher that seems to always be pitching when the Giants are down or stretched thin.

Going back through his game logs though, Beck has actually been solid on the mound. Yes, he has been susceptible to rough outings. Serving, rather than pitching. We saw that against the Rays who tagged him for 10 hits and 5 runs over 3 innings. The snowball effect is harder to prevent in your first season in the Majors. Mid-game adjustments are our key, and Beck is still getting acquainted with the league. He’s had an impressive string of appearances and his Statcast-y numbers read more positive than negative, especially when it comes to his expected stats and avoiding hard-contact.

Those numbers took a hit though in his second start of the career.

Beck took the mound in front of I assume a gathering of friends and family who trekked down the 15 from Corona to see him pitch. There was not much cutting to the parents in the stands on the broadcast though, no gleeful toe-bouncing from pals and relatives as it was in Kyle Harrison’s return home because there wasn’t much chance too—it was clear from the start that Beck was serving rather than pitching.

Fernando Tatis Jr. countered Flores’s 1st inning home run with one of his own, jumping on a first pitch slider that he just pushed over the pulled in right field wall. The difference between their home runs is that El Nino’s came with a runner on base, and it was immediately followed by another.

Juan Soto launched a 2-strike sweeper over the centerfield wall the very next at-bat. Within 10 pitches, San Diego had 3-runs. The three lead-off hits were barreled and four of the six balls in play left the bat faster than 95 MPH.

Beck typically pairs his fastball with a hard slider, then throws his sweeper 20 percent of the time. Against San Diego, he doubled his sweeper rate while relegating his straight slider from 35% down to 12%. The new mix was ineffective to say the least — so much so that Mike Krukow wondered aloud in the 2nd if Beck was tipping his pitches. San Diego hitters just seemed to know what was coming.

Hitters had pretty much eliminated the biting slider after Fernando Tatis drove it over the right field wall in the first inning. The only other time he threw the pitch in the zone, Luis Campusano went with its natural movement and singled in the Padres 5th run. And the sweeper in the early innings dragged and came in flat like a curve—throw a pitch with an identity crisis down the middle to a Major Leaguer and it will not end well.

More than anything, it was execution. Beck did not deliver compelling pitches in 2-strike counts when he had leverage. The curveball to Trent Grisham in the 2nd was low but in an 0-2 count, that pitch shouldn’t touch the zone. It did, and the outfielder dug it out to drive in the Padres’ 4th run. The last pitch Beck threw was again in an 0-2 count to recent call-up Matthew Batten and again it was a lazy sweeper that hung over the middle of the plate. Batten nearly lined it over the left field wall, settling for an RBI double and a 6-1 lead.

The Pads took 25 swings against Beck and only one came up empty. They scored 6 runs on 9 hits over the young righty’s 2.2 innings of work. This one was a dud from the get-go, but it could’ve been less of a dud if he had executed in those high-leverage counts. In the 3rd, he got a ground ball to second that coulda shoulda woulda been an inning-ending double play, but Thairo Estrada booted it and miraculously recovered to still get the lead-runner. Still the missed opportunity led to 2 more runs for the Padres.

With a big lead, Michael Wacha and his change-up looked comfortable across 6 innings against San Francisco bats. Whatever opportunities the offense pieced together were subdued or muffled into a single run tally.

In the 4th, Brandon Crawford just missed a 2-RBI double that would’ve put the Giants within 3 of the lead, but Grisham tracked it down in the gap in right center, forcing the Giants to settle for a sacrifice fly.

In the 6th, with two runners on, Estrada’s bizarre day continued when he was rung up on a strike-3 call that made me audibly gasp as I sat alone in the dark in front of my TV. Home Plate umpire Lance Barrett had been pretty pitcher friendly all night, but this one took the cake while also shifting all of the momentum back to Wacha.

Crawford would single in the next at-bat—their only hit with runners-in-scoring-position—but was struck too hard to score Mike Yastrzemski. Wade Meckler worked the count full with the bases loaded. He got a fastball above the zone that could’ve been ball four but knowing the amorphous blob that is Barrett’s strike-zone, Meckler had to protect. He popped up the pitch and Wacha walked off the mound allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6 over 6 innings pitched.

San Diego scored their 7th run when a grounder skipped through Estrada’s legs with 2-outs in the 6th. Still, the Giants were able to bring the tying run to the plate after reliever Scott Barlow allowed two singles to Estrada and Crawford then hit Blake Sabol and LaMonte Wade Jr. for the Giants’ third run.

With the bases loaded, Wilmer Flores stepped up to the plate, representing the tying run. By that point, the first inning was long ago. As good as he’s been, Flores couldn’t connect for number 21, instead grounding into a double play to end the game.

What does this outing mean for the Giants’ rotation hopes and dreams? Is Tristan Beck a guy they can trust to set the tone of every 5th game, especially in this fingernail race for Wild Card spots?

I think he’s got the “stuff” for it and doesn’t hurt himself by handing out free bases. His low strikeout tendencies is worrisome for a starter. He’s got the ingredients but the recipe is off. Location miscues obviously bit him in this one, and he became predictable with his offspeed. Does he need to use his fastball more in those late counts? All I know is Beck needs time in the kitchen, and if San Francisco was out of contention, he and Keaton Winn would be getting it. Both are wild cards, and the team needs some level of certainty to earn a Wild Card.

At this point in the season, the Giants won’t survive on promise, they need results and they needed them yesterday.