Greek Giant

“….Lean on meWhen you’re not strongAnd I’ll be your friendI’ll help you carry on…”

-Bill Withers, “Lean on Me”

That’s what the Giants did last night against the Houston Astros and riding a four-game losing streak. They leaned on yet another superb pitching performance by Anthony Desclafani, who together with Camilo Doval, shut out the Astros 2-0 at Space Rocket Field in Houston. That 2-0 win was all Anthony.

Disco is Back, Baby!

“It looked like he (Anthony Desclafani) didn’t even break a sweat. He was very good tonight.”

-Dusty Baker

“DeSclafani was attacking everybody. It was just first pitch strike after first pitch strike … incredibly efficient. We needed that. It was big for the club. A big morale boost for sure.”

-Gabe Kapler

That shutout was also the first time all year the defending World Series Champions were blanked. No small accomplishment indeed. Desclafani went eight innings and struck out three throwing 109 pitches (70 for strikes), each with a purpose, each with his heart and soul written all over them. He used a combination of a rising fastball that rarely topped 93 MPH and a variety of offspeed pitches, notably a strong slider, which may be the difference in his arsenal this year. Desclafani was also excellent with his command around and off the zone.

For those of you new to the notion of command by a pitcher let me explain it this way: The ability for a pitcher to throw any pitch anywhere he wants it. This includes outside the strike zone so aggressive hitters like Mauricio Dubon chase them helplessly, especially when they are behind in the count. When a pitcher can locate his pitches in the strike zone (the difference between fastball down the middle and one on the outside corner, for example) and when he can get ahead in the count, he maintains the upper hand in an at bat. That’s pretty much what Desclafani did all night in the game.

Desclafani was so good last night that at one point he retired 16 of the last 17 Astro batters. He allowed zero walks and only three hits, which means a grand total of four base runners since the Giants made an error. All that against what may be the best hitting team in the Bigs. We’re talking about a team, the Astros, that is smart and powerful, aggressive and patient. They make pitchers work. They punish mistakes and they know how to manufacture runs when they need to. In short, this Houston club, especially when Jose Altuve returns, may win the World Series again. They are that good.

All of which makes Desclafani’s performance even more remarkable. The new Giant ace now has an ERA of 2.13 and earned his third win of the season against one loss.

The Giant Runs

The Giants did not exactly tear the cover off the ball but scoring two runs the way Desclafani pitched was enough to get the desperately-needed win. The first giant run was manufactured, courtesy of an infield single by Thairo Estrada, a stolen base by the dynamic Giant and then a bloop single from Joc Pederson in the top of the first inning.

Just like that, by making things happen and putting the ball in play, the Giants had a run and started the game off well off Astro Starter Hunter Brown, who was not too shabby himself. He was pulled after 4 1/3 innings however because he simply allowed too many walks: five to be exact. That was the difference between the starters.

The Giants second run came off an opposite field double off the Big Orange Monster (the left field wall in Houston) by Blake Sabol with two runners on. It was a beautiful piece of hitting and came in the top of the fourth inning after Joc Pederson and Michael Conforto walked with one out. Pederson read the play well and scored, not an obvious run since that wall is so short and the left fielder for Houston played the bounce perfectly.

Thairo Estrada Is En Fuego

That’s “on fire” for those of you keeping score at home. Yes, that’s right. According to ESPN Thario Estrada has hit in fifteen of his last eighteen games and is fourth in the Big Leagues with a .342 Batting average. He is tenth with nine stolen bases.

“Everything I did during the offseason has worked out. The great start I’ve had is due to what I did during the offseason. I just hope to continue it and keep it up.”

-Thairo Estrada

Today’s Game

The three-game series in Houston ends today with a cool pitching matchup. It’s Logan Webb against Framber Valdez. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM, Jeff Bagwell time.