by Dr Lefty
For a recap of a game that featured the 2018 debuts of guys nicknamed “Shark” and “Mac,” there was only one way to go for today’s theme, right?
(I’ve got a bit of a “knife” riff going, anyway.)
I was at an all-day meeting in Oakland at the UC mother ship yesterday, followed by dinner with friends. I drove back to Davis, and because I had a coworker in the car and we were chatting, I wasn’t listening to the game. I dropped her off at her house and quickly flipped on the radio. The top of the sixth was beginning, and when I heard Dave Flemming say “Giants 7, Angels 0,” I almost drove off the road. Well, to be more precise, I almost pulled over to check my phone for the box score to see what had happened. But I knew already. Mac had hit one.
Oh, yeah. He hit one.
Holy shit Mac Williamson.
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) April 21, 2018
It was the hardest-hit ball by a Giant this season and one of the hardest hit in MLB so far this year.
The skipper liked it.
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 21, 2018
Tim Flannery REALLY liked it.
That’s balance, strength,thought and relentless work. This coach loves it. Never give in. pic.twitter.com/AhKJudvsuj
— Tim Flannery (@TimFlannery2) April 21, 2018
When I got home, right as the sixth inning ended, Mr. Lefty said “You missed the most entertaining Giants game of the year.” (I don’t know about that–the McCutchen walk-off against the Dodgers was pretty good–but it’s up there.) Besides the homers (including an oppo by Hundley and this three-run kill shot by McCutchen), he especially enjoyed the back-to-back bunt singles by the Kelbster and the Gorkster between the two homers. The six-run top of the fifth was the Giants’ biggest inning since August 2016, and it represented more than 10% of their run total for the season so far.
Welcome back, Shark
I wasn’t sure whether to be excited or nervous that Jeff Samardzija was returning to the rotation. The last time I saw him, he was getting beat up at Scottsdale Stadium, and he’d been pounded in A-ball in his one rehab start. Ready to face Trout, Upton, Pujols, and Ohtani? Surrrrrrrre, what could possibly be the problem with that?
Despite a shaky ending to his five innings, Shark walked off the mound having put up a zero for his outing and earning his first win of the season.
When you nearly give up a grand slam but instead you're still pitching a shutout pic.twitter.com/IvP8EX7IMP
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 21, 2018
Allllll good. Andrew Baggarly described Shark’s outing this way.
Samardzija couldn’t let his football mentality go full bore in his first start. He knew he was still building arm strength after a pectoral strain robbed him of velocity late in the spring and sent him to the disabled list for the first time in his career. He only threw 62 pitches in his lone minor league rehab start.
So he consciously dialed back his tempo and made sure to stay over his back leg a bit longer so he could locate a 92-94 mph fastball that is still lacking its finishing kick. He also used his offspeed stuff earlier in the game than he ordinarily would, sinking the ball and pushing back the dinner bell before he’d let his four-seamer eat.
The other thing about Samardzija is that he brings a competitive edge to the mound (just ask Mike Morse about Shark’s “edge”). However, he failed to impress one guy.
Bumgarner celebrated Shark’s shutout return by giving him grief for giving up a hit to Ohtani. “Any hit to a rookie, Bum doesn’t like.” #sfgiants
— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) April 21, 2018
Signs of Life?
The Giants won their first two games of the season and matched it the next week with two straight wins at home (the second game against the Mariners and the first game against the Dodgers, even if they were 72 hours apart). Beyond that, they haven’t put a good stretch of baseball together yet. They haven’t won a series. This weekend would be a good start. How about winning three or four in a row, or five out of seven, or eight out of ten?
Sound ridiculous? It’s not, and here’s why. The starting pitching has been fantastic. Since clearly-not-ready-yet Beede’s start in San Diego on Sunday, here’s what the Giants’ rotation has done: four games, 25 innings pitched, three runs. That’s an ERA of barely over 1. And that’s without their ace and with Samardzija still working his way back into game shape. That’s also all on the road against teams with hitters named “Goldschmidt” or “Trout.”
Despite the teeth-gnashing frustration of watching them lose a series in Arizona when they got some great pitching, maybe there are a few slivers of hope. Belt hit two homers this week. Longoria seems to have heated up. McCutchen is still not setting the world on fire, but he’s leading the team in RBIs. And Mac is here.
The Giants’ team ERA is now fourth in the NL and--whoa, what’s up with the Phillies and the Braves?! Anyway, when you’re getting pitching like this, it can carry a team. The Giants do have some actual quality hitters on their team.
Derek Holland has made three starts this season. He’s been in and out of the rotation, the guy getting pushed back when there’s a rainout or when a guy returns from the DL. The Giants are 0-3 in his starts, and in all three, he’s given up two runs in the first inning, putting a struggling offense into an early hole. Nonetheless, he hasn’t been terrible. The ERA of 4.60 isn’t very good, but it’s still a small sample size with him. The WHIP (1.09), average against (.220), and the strikeouts (more than one per inning) suggest that some things are working well for him. With Bum still out for more than a month, he’s going to need to contribute. So we’ll see how he fares tonight.
Giants at Angels, 6:07 p.m., Angels Stadium of Anaheim
Derek Holland (0-2, 4.60 ERA) vs. Garrett Richards (2-0, 3.60 ERA)
Looks like it will be a gorgeous spring day for UC Davis Picnic Day today. (No, we’re not going to it. Since our kids are grown, our annual tradition is to flee town for the day.) But I’ll update the post with the lineup if I’m at a computer later on.
And we’ll let Bobby Darin take us out.