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Nothing to see here

Logan Webb pitched into the 7th but the Giants didn’t score any runs and they’ve lost four straight and things are not looking good

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

A loss to Chicago Cubs and wins for the D-Backs, Reds, and Phillies—what felt spiritual on Sunday feels physical on Monday. The end for these San Francisco Giants feels imminent.

I agree with what Bryan Murphy wrote in his series preview: if they can win this series, they’ll still be in the category of “competing for the Wild Card.” But that’s a-mighty big If—and based on what we saw today and the past three games in San Diego, it’s not going to happen.

Right now, baseball is really really dang hard for this team, and its making people salty.

Starter Justin Steele is a simple man. He throws his fastball in fastball counts and his slider to keep hitters honest. He doesn’t rely on the swing-and-miss but control that generates weak contact and keeps the ball on the ground.

Monday’s performance against the Giants was undoubtedly the best outing of the southpaw’s career, authoring 8 scoreless innings while allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks without a runner reaching second base.

J.D. Davis’s lead-off walk in the 8th was San Francisco’s first base runner since the 2nd and was immediately wiped from the base path when Casey Schmitt grounded into a 5-4-3 double play on the next pitch. Steele broke his career high strikeout total with his 11th K to close out the 7th and set a new one with his 12th, coming on his 107th pitch of the day to fan Mike Yastrzemski and close out the 8th.

Logan Webb and Steele are cut from the same cloth. Not reliant on power but thrive with finesse, nibbling at the corners and attacking the zone. While Webb has the edge on Steele with ground ball and walk-rate, Steele has a significant advantage over Webb in terms of subduing loud contact. The Giants put 4 hard hit balls in play against Steele and only one of them—Paul DeJong’s 2-out 8th inning single—went for a hit. His home run total is nearly half of Webb’s while the Giant’s right-hander’s Hard-Hit % is bottomed out in the 6th percentile, down from 41st percentile last season and 48th in 2021.

Webb’s generally solid year has carried this massive gorilla on its back. Opposing hitters have done a good job of staying balanced on offerings and have gotten in the habit of stinging him in late innings. His slider’s HH% has skyrocketed from 24% in ‘22 to 44% this season. Part of that is the feel for the pitch and part of it is the league adapting. Webb has ebbed to its flow by upping the usage of his marquee change-up (31% to 40%) and his sinker (32% to 35%) while demoting the slider to the supporting cast (32% to 20%). He threw his change-up 64% of the time against Chicago.

The other significant difference between the two arms: Steele’s average run support per game (before today’s start) comes in at 6.2 runs, nearly double that of Webb’s.

That trend didn’t change much in the Cubs’ 5-0 win over San Francisco. Webb tried to keep things close for as long as he could—allowing only a solo shot to Seiya Suzuki in the 2nd—before things unraveled in the 7th. Cody Bellinger singled to start the inning and avoided a double play off the bat of Dansby Swanson by running on the pitch. Suzuki then doubled in Bellinger, and two batters later Yan Gomes singled in Suzuki for Chicago’s third run, chasing Webb off the mound.

Chicago would add two more superfluous runs in the 8th against Tristan Beck with the help of a fielding error by Thairo Estrada at second.

Webb’s final line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB and 4 K. Another quality start, another loss, and another restless night spent pacing his hotel room, muttering to himself: that’s just part of baseball…that’s just part of baseball.