Greek Giant

I want to begin this post by saying though I disagree with Bob Melvin’s decision to bring the infield in with one out and runners on second and third in the top of the sixth in a game with the Giants leading 2-1, I can see why he did it. I don’t agree with it and it cost the Giants two runs when Gabriel Moreno singled up the middle just past a drawn-in Thairo Estrada to put the DBacks ahead for good. The play before was more meaningful. With Pederson on second after a double and Gabriel Moreno on first after an infield single deep in the hole that Nick Ahmed could not corral, Walker hit a fly to right center deep enough to advance Joc Pederson. But on the play Moreno was also tagging going to second and just beating the relay throw that was cutoff by Matt Chapman. In fact, no, he did not beat the relay. Thairo Estrada made a bad tag way too high on the body and Moreno was ruled safe twice, by the ump and again by the review crew after it was challenged by Bob Melvin.

That was a key play in the game and a play the Giants must make. Instead the DBacks took the lead with the infield in after Yaz hit a two-rum homer, his first of the year, in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Yaz homer was a majestic, very high drive just over the wall in left and was actually predicted, more or less, by Jon Miller on the pitch before. It was fun and a reminder of Yaz’s power when he is going right. It was hit off a change-up by Arizona starting pitcher Slade Ceccone. I will get to him later.

So let’s get back to that top of the sixth inning and count the ways the Giants defense once again failed them, this time with a little help from the Manager:

  1. Nick Ahmed fails to come up with a ball deep in the hole that could have been turned into an out at second perhaps.
  2. Estrada’s tag on Moreno’s play at second from a perfect relay throw by Matt Chapman was too high on the body (too much to the first base side of second base)
  3. Bob Melvin gambles and fails when he decides to pay the infield in. On the play that drove in two runs, the Giants might get the out and stop the second run from scoring if they are playing normal depth.

By my calculation if the Giants play solid defense and make the plays they give up zero runs in the inning and head into the fateful ninth with a 2-1 lead. There are a few would, could shoulda’s here but you get my drift.

Now about that ninth inning… It went badly for the Giants. First, the DBacks scored two insurance runs, crucial runs that were the difference in the game, thanks to a horrible call by the home plate umpire. But first let’s get to the sequence. After a Gabriel Moreno single to lead off the inning the next batter bunts for a sacrifice. Matt Chapman, Johnny on the Spot was there and fired an acrobatic throw to Tyler Fitzgerald covering second. Unfortunately the throw was a little wide and went off the glove of Fitz who was attempting a backhand grab. He missed it and was charged with an error. That play has to be made. The ball goes into center and there are runners on first and third with nobody out. Then with Kevin Newman up in a 1-2 count with runners on first and third and nobody out Avila throws a wicked curve in the dirt and the batter strikes out, exactly what the Giants need.

But Wait!

The home plate umpire ruled it was a foul tip, which replays clearly showed it was not. Bob Melvin would later argue the play and get ejected. On the very next pitch Newman lines a single to left, a run scores and Mccarthy advances to third from first, a notable play in itself and indicative of how aggressively the DBacks run the bases and how athletic their team is overall. The next batter drove in McCarthy who tagged on a deep fly to center. Again, that extra base mattered.

In fact I would say the difference in this game was bad umpiring, aggressive base-running by Arizona and poor defensive play by the Giants in the infield. Throw in a weak Giants hitting attack, getting only five hits for the whole game and only two hits in the first four innings against a pitcher, Slade Ceccone who was making his first start of the year. Slade would baffle the Giants with change ups and curves and an occasional 97 tailing fastball. He looked damn good but the Giants should do better against a young pitcher like him. They did not.

In the bottom of the ninth the Giants scratched a run with two outs when Estrada drove in Chapman with a single. But it was too little too late on a day when the bats could not make up for the defensive deficiencies. In a way this game was a very good dissection of the flaws on this Giants squad: too many veterans past their prime. Too many hitters over-matched but a guy not exactly named Cy Young, too many miscues in the field, and so on.

The DBacks showed us what an aggressive, talented and athletic team looks like and how those ingredients can eek out a win against a team that is not perfect defensively.

It’s a shame because Giants starter Jordan Hicks deserved better going five innings and allowing only one hit to go with those two questionable runs. He did however walk four and struggle with his command while throwing 96 pitches. His was an inefficient day but a good outing nonetheless.

The result is a series split against a tough Arizona squad and a record for the Giants of 10-13.

Tonight’s Game

The Giants take on the Mets tonight at 6:45 PM. It will be Quintana against Winn.