Greek Giant

“Super exciting, obviously. My brain doesn’t really know if it’s excitement or nervousness, but we’re just ‘go with the flow and try to throw strikes and see what happens.’ It’s all I was thinking.”

-Hayden Birdsong

The Future Looks Bright for Birdsong

In the history of Major League Baseball there have been 30 players with the name “Hayden.” Two of them started yesterday’s 4-3 Giants win over the Cubs. They were the two starting pitchers as a matter of fact. For the Cubs Hayden Wesneski was making his first start since mid-May. For the Giants Hayden Birdsong, the 22 years-young hurler, was making his Major League debut. Neither pitcher would get a decision in this exciting and back-and-forth game that saw the teams combine for four home runs. Birdsong would pitch 4 2/3 innings allowing three runs (from a seeing eye single, a homer by Suzuki and another single) on six hits and three walks while striking out five. He acquitted himself well and was able to pitch out of trouble after pitching himself into trouble His fastball is legit, hitting 97-98 MPH and ending up in and out of the zone, high and low to make batters very comfortable. I really love his raw talent. His slider is big and heavy and he also has a change up that he can locate for called strikes, as he did against several Cub hitters last night. It was a gamble made by necessity to promote Birdsong after such a brief stint in the Minor Leagues.

Birdsong was drafted in the sixth round of the 2022 MLB Draft, 196th overall, as a reliever out of Eastern Illinois. The sixth round! Not the first or the second! Only three players drafted in the first round that year have made The Show so far. That tells you how highly the Giants evaluate him. He has pitched just 169 2/3 innings in the minor leagues, which makes him the Giants pitcher with the least professional experience to debut since Tim Lincecum (62 2/3 minor-league innings) when he was promoted in 2007. Even MadBum had pitched more in the Minors when he was called up to the big club. For more on Birdsong’s rise to the Big Leagues I recommend this fine piece by Grant Brisbee.

Birdsong, between butterflies and throwing 97 pitches in less than five innings, would tire and that would be fine as the Giants bullpen pitched a shutout the rest of the way thanks to fine defense by the Giants infield, in particular Matt Chapman. Jackson, Miller, Tyler Rogers and Doval would pitch the rest of the way with Camilo getting the save despite making a throwing error on a pick-off attempt. Doval would record the final out of the game thanks to a fantastic play by Brett Wisely who speared a smash with his back hand on a short hop and made a perfect throw to first to end the game and give the San Francisco Baseball Club Limited their third win in a row.

Speaking of pick-offs, Tyler Rogers was able to thwart a double steal after the Cubs had put runners on first and second in the top of the eighth inning. He stepped off the rubber just as both Cubs runners were on the move. Rogers waited a moment before tossing to Matt Chapman who was running in to cover third base. He had a ton of infield to cover and caught Rogers’s toss in flight and made the tag on Ian Happ for the third out of the inning and then tumbled over the dejected Cub as the Giants averted disaster and walked off the field.

Patrick Bailey also picked off a Cub in the top of the sixth with a throw from his knees. It was beautiful. That play ended the inning.

Back-to-Back and Another from Matos

In the top of the third the Cubs broke through with a single to score a run and get on the board first. But in the bottom of the second inning Michael Conforto hit a booming two-run homer to right that scored Patrick Bailey who had walked. Then David Villar hit another towering home run to dad center off a high fastball from Wesneski that was right down the middle. It was an impressive stroke of hitting and it gave the Giants a 3-1 lead. The Cubs answered in the fourth when Pete Crow Armstrong scored from first on a single to center hit by Miguel Amaya. Yes, you read that correctly, he scored from first base on a single, one of the rarest plays in baseball. Mr. Crow Armstrong is super fast, one of the speediest players in the business and since he was running on the play Ramos had no chance to throw him out at home as the single was fielded fairly deep into center and the Cub runner was correctly waved into score easily. It was stunning.

Suzuki’s homer in the top of the fifth inning tied the game at three before Luis Matos homered to left in the bottom half of the inning to give the Giants the lead that they would hold onto the rest of the way. Matos had two of the Giants six hits. In fact the bottom third of the order drove in all the runs for San Francisco. You will not that the Cubs were not able to get two shut down innings as the Giants answered in the bottom of the second and fifth after Cub runs in the top of the inning. That was huge.

“It feels good to hit a home run. I went in there and I was looking for something to hit. He threw me a sinker. I let it go. But then he threw me the curveball and that’s what I hit.”

-Luis Matos

The Highlights

Today’s Game

The Giants play for a sweep this afternoon agains the Cubs. Game time is 12:45 PM with Jordan Hicks pitching for San Francisco and Shota Imanaga on the mound for Chicago.