Greek Giant

In a pitcher’s duel when the runs are scarce the importance of every pitch and every play is magnified to the tenth power. With two outs and runners on second and third in the top of the fifth inning in a 1-1 game Alex Bregman hit a slow chopper between shortstop and third that had “trouble for the Giants” written all over it. And trouble it was as Matt Chapman raced into to field the hopper with his bare throwing hand just in front of shortstop Brett Wisely. It looked like it was going to be a great play but sadly, Chapman’s throw veered into the runner and past first baseman Wilmer Flores, two runs scored and the Giants were shut down the rest of the way. The game ended 3-1 and the Giants lost wearing their almost invincible creamsickle softball uniforms.

But the pitching! Yes, Jordan Hicks deserved better. He pitched 4 2/3 innings allowing five hits, three earned runs (I will get to that in a minute) and one walk while striking out five Astros. Now, the Chapman play was scored a hit and an error but that’s nonsense and the second night in a row the official scorer gets it wrong on a key play. Replays showed clearly that if Chapman’s throw is accurate Bregman is out by a step and the Giants leave the inning with a tie game. Instead Hicks was pulled after throwing only 72 pitches in another fine performance for him.

The big question is why did Bob Melvin feel compelled to yank his starter after only 72 pitches. It seemed that Hicks could have pitched two more innings easily. I was going to go out on a limb that the directive is from the front office because Jordan is approaching his career high for innings and this is his first full year as a starter but the truth is Hicks had been feeling ill the past few days and Bob Melvin did not want to push things. At any rate it did not hurt the Giants in this game because Sean Hjelle, Taylor Rogers and Luke Jackson put up zeroes on the scoreboard in their 4 1/3 innings of work.

The key for the Giants was being shut down by Houston pitching, in particular by the starter Ronel Blanco, who was brilliant. Apart from Brett Wisely’s homer off an inside cut fastball that neither cut or fasted in the bottom of the third inning, Blanco was dominant. He mixed speeds and locations and threw many different pitches effectively to limit the Giants to three hits and one walk against eight strikeouts in his six innings of work. In fact the Astros bullpen took over from their and not only shut out the Giants hitting attack, they also held San Francisco hitless. It was an impressive combination of pitching by Blanco and his relief help in the form of Scott, Abreu and Pressley. The Astros had some issues with Pressley of late so this type of shutdown performance is good news for them and bad news for their opponents.

There is not too much to say here other than Brett Wisely’s homer was beautiful. Mauricio Dubon, the former Giant, hit two doubles and scored two runs to hurt his old team. The Giants struck out twelve times in this game and had only three hits! That won’t cut it. The boys in orange and black clearly miss LaMonte Wade Jr. and Luis Matos and Marco Luciano, says Greek Giant.

Injury Notes

Matt Chapman returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore hamstring. Alex Cobb pitched off a mound without difficulty and reportedly feels “great.” Blake Snell (left groin strain) will throw off a mound Wednesday.  Marco Luciano (right hamstring strain) is close to beginning a rehab assignment, per Giants sources.

Today’s Game

The final and rubber game of the series takes place today at 12:45 PM with a pitching matchup of Framber Valdez (5-3, 3.53) versus Logan Webb (5-5, 2.92).