Greek Giant

Kyle Harrison Becomes the Stopper

The Stopper is one of my favorite phenomena in Major League Baseball. A stopper is a starting pitcher who stops losing streaks. Last night Kyle Harrison did just that with a seven-innings, four hits, zero runs effort in which he was in control for most of the game. The Giants won 5-0 to put an end to a brutal four-game losing streak that felt like forty games, quite frankly.

The rare shutout in Rockies Field meant the Giants could get back on track in an impressive, feel-good game. Harrison had a very effective fastball and it seems to be a theme with the Giants starters this season: Challenge more hitters with fastballs, particularly up in the zone, a la Madison Bumgarner or Matt Cain. I read somewhere in the game comments on TWG that Harrison could be a left-handed Matt Cain. It’s a comparison that I like because neither Harrison nor Cain had the 99 MPH heater but both throw/threw a heavy ball with movement and excellent location changes to keep hitters off balance. That made their fastballs play much hotter and that’s all it takes. Combined with an effective change-up Harrison’s heater feels much swifter when you are in the batter’s box. In fact Harrison, last night only had two walks and two strikeouts. But he generated many weak outs against an admittedly very weak Rockies team.

The Giants played very good defense. There was a tremendous play by Thairo Estrada in the ninth to rob a hit on a ball up the middle in which the Giants second baseman ranged far to his right on the shortstop side of the diamond, leaped and turned to make a strong and accurate throw to record the out. It was sensational and I was hooting and hollering seeing it in replay.

The Giants Runs

For my money the biggest moment of the game came in the top of the fourth inning with two outs, runners on second and third and a 1-2 count to LaMonte Wade Jr. I have railed for years against the Analytics philosophy of swinging for the fences on every pitch, including with two strikes. It’s simply bad baseball and a violation of the fundamental principle of hitting: NEVER STRIKE OUT LOOKING. With two strikes the baseball basics dictate to shorten your swing, try to prepare for any pitch and simply put the ball in play. That’s exactly what LaMonte Wade Jr. did when he lined a single to right center off Ty Blach, the former Giant. The pitch that became the hit was an inside, belly-high fastball in a lefty-lefty matchup. Wade had choked up a bit on the bat the way Hunter Pence and Pete Rose used to do it.

He was ready for the heat and he hit it to drive in two runs and give the Giants a 4-0 lead after two runs scored earlier in the inning on infield hits and a few lucky breaks for the boys in orange and black. Wade’s piece of hitting was exceptional and shows why he’s having a fine year and is arguably the Giants MVP at this point of the season.

Who says the Giants don’t ready TWG!

Oh, did I tell you Wade Jr. also leads the Major Leagues in On Base Percentage with an OBS of .485 though he has not had enough at bats to qualify for the league race?

As I mentioned the Giants scratched together a run on a swinging bunt to third by Nick Ahmed and a ground out by Thairo Estrada before Wade’s big hit in the top of the fourth inning. The Giants pushed across an insurance run on a Conforto single in the top of the 7th inning. In this game the Giants played small ball by getting the infield hits, RBI singles and taking the extra bases. It is the rare occasion when such tactics lead to victory in Denver but when your pitcher puts up zeroes that’s all it takes.

Ryan Walker pitched a shutout in the eighth to preserve the lead then Camilo Doval, after allowing two runners, would pitch a shutout in the ninth to preserve the win. He entered the game in a non-save situation but he needed the work after not pitching in the past five days. It was the right move.

Tonight’s Game

Game two of the series is tonight in Denver with Jordan Hicks (2-1, 1.89) facing Peter Lambert (2-1, 5.66) at 6:40 PM.